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CEOs see online threat
January 28, 1999: 11:17 a.m. ET

Survey of top business leaders shows online start-ups are feared
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DAVOS, Switzerland (CNNfn) - Forget all the hype about the dreaded Y2K bug, today's business leaders say the biggest threat could be from non-traditional competitors using the Internet to hawk their wares.
     In the latest survey of 800 global bosses, released Thursday at the World Economic Forum here, 50 percent of the respondents see risks to their business coming from new competitors using avenues such as the Internet and e-commerce.
     By comparison, hardly any of the respondents said their companies are unprepared to deal with the Year 2000 problem.
     The explosion in e-commerce, and the growing popularity of firms such as is sparking a wave of interest, with many bosses brushing up their computer skills to keep pace with the new developments.
     CEOs, notorious for being unable to operate their desktop technology, are catching up with the times. Some 30 percent of the 800 bosses in PriceWaterhouseCooper's annual survey said their Internet skills were "good to excellent".
     "We have concerns about CEOs who are leading companies into the next decade, and who need staff to help them with their computer," said Bill Dauphinais, PWC partner in charge of brand marketing and communications. "CEOs have to be out there, buying things over the Internet, otherwise how can they visualize the future?" added Dauphinais.
     These bosses think they can benefit from the new medium, with one-fifth of them budgeting for a 20 percent increase in revenue from e-commerce over the next five years. One-third of the respondents currently generate no revenue from e-commerce.
     Roughly half the CEOs thought they could reach customers more efficiently through the Internet, and only slightly fewer thought the new technology would bring additional customers.
     "What we are seeing in the global e-business arena is not merely evolution, but revolution: a new way of doing business, driven by new technologies including the Internet, resulting in new value propositions in many industries," said James Schiro, PWC chief executive.
     As far as the millennium is concerned, CEOs are putting on a brave front. Almost unanimously they were confident the bug would not be a major problem for their companies.
     Many experts have feared the world's computers and vast database networks will crash next year when the calendar rolls over to the new millennium.
     In the United States, many of the Fortune 500 companies have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure their systems will be able to recognize the '00' digit as the year 2000 and not the year 1900.
Growth expected to continue

     The survey also showed that 8 out of every 10 CEO's are upbeat about the growth of their companies over the next three years, with Asian CEO's slightly less optimistic than their counterparts in North America and Europe.
     On a personal level, many things have stayed the same while stress and a minimal personal life are still the main problems confronting business leaders.
     "The biggest challenge now is the same as 15 to 20 years ago," according to Schiro, "and those are: the speed at which decisions are taken, and the stresses on family life."
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