Global corporate confidence continued its slow but gradual improvement in August, according to the Worldcom Confidence Index (WCI), which uses a sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) tool to track the sentiments and engagement of C-Suite Executives at over 54,000 leading businesses around the world.

While overall confidence in August was just 0.1% higher than in July, this still represents the 4th consecutive month of global improvement since April when COVID-19 severely impacted global business confidence.

As part of its global research, the WCI also tracks the confidence and concerns of CEOs and CMOs at over 811 major Malaysian enterprises collecting data from their personal (but public) social media and blog postings each month. Based on the information collected and analysed by the advanced AI tool, confidence among senior Malaysian executives dropped slightly from 18.58 in July to 18.55 in August – a decline of -0.4%.

Commenting on this, Niall Dologhan, Principal Counsellor & Director of TQPR (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the Worldcom Group’s partner agency in Malaysia, said, “The change in both global and Malaysian corporate confidence from July to August was quite gentle. I think this highlights that as yet there has been no ‘game-changer’ when it comes to COVID-19 and that business confidence remains very fragile. Senior Malaysian executives particularly lack confidence in two topics over which they have relatively little direct control, specifically ‘Government and Legislative Change’ and ‘How Political Leaders Communicate’. These are issues which have certainly been prominent in Malaysian conversations over the last couple of weeks.”

While Malaysia’s drop in corporate confidence in August was relatively small (just -0.4%) it was still one of the larger falls within the 30 countries whose results are reported individually by the WCI. The only countries with larger falls were Mexico, Portugal, Italy and Poland, all of whom faced particular COVID-19 challenges during the month of August.

The WCI also tracks changes in topic engagement each month. This provides an interesting insight into the corporate world’s shifting priorities. During August the business issues which attracted the most attention from senior executives globally was ‘Upskilling and Reskilling’ and ‘Retaining Talent’. It is worth noting that the ‘Top 10’ issues that leaders focused on in August were the same as in July, which gives a good indication that the attention of executives is solidifying on those topics which are key to recovery. Employee-related topics represented five of the top-seven topics for CEOs and CMOs, indicating the importance leaders are putting on their talent right now.

The key topics of engagement for senior Malaysian business leaders were generally in line with their global counterparts with some minor differences. For example, ‘Cybercrime’, globally was the 11th most discussed topic among senior execs, but only rated 16th in Malaysia. Conversely, during August, Malaysian executives gave a higher priority to ‘Customer Satisfaction’ than global business leaders.

In addition to identifying what topics global execs are engaging with each month, the Worldcom Confidence Index AI tool is able to interpret their postings to identify how ‘confident’ they are in handling these topics. This reveals that during August the topic that executives had the most confidence in managing was ‘Upskilling and Reskilling’. The issue they felt least confident about was ‘Global Trade Agreements and Tariffs’.

Malaysian executives were also confident when it came to the ‘Upskilling and Reskilling’ topic, with their confidence in handling the issue scoring above the global average. However, Malaysian executives had below average confidence on all other topics, scoring particularly badly in their confidence to handle or influence topics related to ‘Sexual Harassment’, ‘Government & Legislative Change’ and the impact on their businesses of ‘Political Leaders Communication’.

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