5 minute read 18 May 2021
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Greek execs put innovation and customers at the center of strategy

Riding a wave of confidence about their pandemic performance, Greek companies plan to make bold moves to drive organic growth.

In brief
  • Having already survived a decade of economic crisis, Greek companies are more resilient and feel more confident about their performance during the pandemic.
  • Portfolio reviews and corporate strategy put innovation and customers at the center of growth intentions.
  • Those pursuing M&A are looking to shore up supply chains and drive convergence, and would prefer to pursue targets within Europe.

After 10 years of being disrupted because of the country’s economic crisis, many Greek companies see the pandemic crisis as an opportunity to leap ahead.

According to the latest EY Global Capital Confidence Barometer (pdf), every Greek company experienced revenue and profitability declines as a result of the pandemic. And while more than half of Greek executives think it will take until 2022 or longer for revenue and profit to return to pre-pandemic levels, more than three-quarters believe their company has overperformed in operational stability relative to their peers.

In fact, across the range of metrics — from operational stability, to identifying and responding to risks in real time, to engaging with communities, to innovating new products and services — Greek respondents express a clear feeling of confidence. Because Greek companies had already endured a decade in which they constantly had to build resilience to survive, it would appear they felt more prepared — or at least resilient — when faced with another crisis.

Pandemic performance

76%

of Greek respondents believe their company has overperformed in regard to operational stability relative to their competitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Geopolitical tensions are shaping portfolio reviews and corporate strategies

Yet, as confident as Greek companies are about their performance during the pandemic, they recognize that external risks remain. Greece sits at a crossroads between Europe and the Middle East and Africa. As a result, Greek companies are sensitive to geopolitical risk.

In addition to the pandemic, 2020 was a year of elevated geopolitical tension, with political risk and uncertainties surrounding policy decisions and events having a negative impact on the investment decisions of 70% of Greek companies. However, while just over half indicated they had stopped a planned strategic investment as a result of geopolitical challenges, 48% indicate that their delay is a pause rather than a full-blown retreat.

Fueled by the macroeconomic outlook and geopolitical tensions between major markets, which Greek executives continue to see as the greatest external threats to the growth of their business, 77% indicate they conducted a comprehensive strategic and portfolio review in 2020. Greek executives see opportunities through their portfolio reviews to actively put innovation and their customers at the very center of their strategic plans for growth.

Corporate strategy

77%

of Greek respondents conducted a comprehensive strategic and portfolio review in 2020.

Pre-pandemic, Greek companies were lagging their peers in other countries in terms of digital transformation, following a decade-long crisis. The pandemic forced them to measure the acceleration of their digitalization efforts in days and weeks rather than years. Seeing the positive impact this has had on their business, and the opportunities it has created, Greek executives recognize two key strategic imperatives for growth: investing in the digitization of customer journeys and business processes, and attracting and retaining customers.

First, however, Greek companies will need to overcome change management issues and internal inertia before they can fully seize the upside of the pandemic disruption.

M&A less of a priority in the year ahead

Although Greek executives are confident in their performance during the pandemic, with only 30% of Greek companies intending to pursue M&A in the next 12 months, they clearly expect most of their growth to come from within. That said, companies that are considering M&A see a clear opportunity to gain speed to market in a dynamic environment.

Greece actively pursue

Some Greek companies with an M&A appetite say their focus will be on acquisitions that will increase operational capabilities, such as efficiency of production or improving the distribution chain, as they look to respond to regulatory and trade challenges and shore up their supply chains. Others indicate a preference for deals that increase sector convergence or fuel growth in an adjacent business field.

Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of Greek executives planning deals say they will be primarily considering cross-border targets. However, their overwhelming expectation that much of their growth over the next three years will come from Europe, combined with the fact that their top five investment destinations are all within the European Union (and the UK), suggest that their cross-border activity will be restricted to within the region.

Greek companies are making bold moves to seize opportunities

As Greek companies look to leapfrog from being the disrupted to becoming the disruptors, they acknowledge they’ll need to transform their current operating models. In doing so, 86% of Greek executives expect they will need to redefine their role in the ecosystem for clarity. An equal percentage are open to partnering with competitors to create new ecosystem solutions. Meanwhile, 71% anticipate that a successful ecosystem-driven transformation will require divestment of nonperforming assets.

Greek executives know all too well that disruptive forces will remain ever present once the pandemic crisis fades. Already, they are planning to make bold moves and act fast to take advantage of opportunities. They’re also looking to build-out their ecosystems beyond the usual suspects, which may mean cooperating with competitors. However, to truly position themselves to become leaders rather than laggards, they will need to get off the M&A sidelines.

One of the biggest lessons companies learned from the global financial crisis is that those that acquired in a time of crisis outperformed those that retreated and retrenched. Making the bold moves inevitably means making M&A a strategic priority.

Summary

The EY Global Capital Confidence Barometer (pdf) gauges corporate confidence in the economic outlook and identifies boardroom trends and practices in the way companies manage their Capital Agendas.

About this article

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.