Nationalism a concern for CEOs?

As CEOs gear up for a new year and a new administration under President-elect Donald Trump, how are the latest political and economic trends impacting corporate executives’ outlook for 2017?  Russell Reynolds Associates CEO Clarke Murphy weighed in on businesses’ biggest hopes and fears for the coming year.

“I think confidence is pretty high… looking at the U.S. and politics…I would say optimism in the U.S. is pretty good in boardrooms,” Murphy told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.

Despite an overall optimistic outlook, CEOs do have significant concerns regarding the policies of Trump’s incoming administration.

“Fear is uncertainty, right?  So, politics and performance work together. So companies have to perform no matter what happens, they can be agile, they just want to know what the rules are going to be.”

Here’s what CEOs would like to see from the Trump administration, according to Murphy.

“I think they want to see clarity of what’s going on with the infrastructure investments, they want to see clarity about are there really going to be tariffs or not, they want to see clarity about relationships with very important trading partners, because they are the trading partners, the corporations. So, align politics and performance.”

Trump’s calls for putting America first are also impacting the way businesses operate on a global scale, Murphy said.

“I think if you’re doing business in Brazil, in the EU…in China right now, you’re trying to balance the sense of America first from the political standpoint, but I’ve also got to have operations and relationships with governments everywhere and that’s what they’re trying to work through, the balance.”

This global trend toward nationalism, illustrated by Brexit, Italy’s failed referendum and some of Trump’s rhetoric, is weighing on CEOs’ outlook.

“I was in Italy for the referendum a week ago, as countries around the world become more nationalistic, corporations are global. They perform better when they’re [countries] inclusive.”