Chase Bank: Business optimism strongest in 11 years

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Belen Garren

Every year since 2011, JPMorgan Chase has taken the pulse of the U.S. economy by asking business leaders across the nation what they anticipate in the year ahead as part of the Business Leaders Outlook survey. This survey gives us valuable insights from the entrepreneurs and business leaders who, like you, make it happen every day through innovation, agility and resilience.

This latest version of this survey, the 2021 JPMorgan Chase Business Leaders Outlook Pulse survey showed business leaders are strongly optimistic across all sectors of the economy as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we have long seen that business leaders are most positive about the areas they know best, we were pleasantly surprised to see an impressive 88 percent nationwide are optimistic about their own company’s prospects, the highest percentage recorded in 11 years of Business Leaders Outlook data.

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Business leaders’ optimism also extends further out to their local economy and the national economy. Approximately three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents are optimistic about the local economy, with a similar percentage optimistic about the national economy. Texas business leaders are slightly more upbeat about their local economy compared to the national average, with 79 percent of them optimistic about its current state.

Business leaders’ hopeful outlook can be seen in their growth plans, with most expecting higher revenues and profits and nearly half expecting to increase investments in capital expenditures in the year ahead. To help implement these growth plans, around 80 percent of business leaders – 81 percent nationwide and 79 percent in Texas – say they anticipate hiring in the next six months, even as they contend with the reality of a tight labor market. 

As they look ahead to future growth, businesses will continue to take the lessons learned from the pandemic and in many cases, stick to the measures and innovations they have implemented over the last 18 months to be more resilient and more competitive.

More than six out of ten business leaders surveyed (61 percent) said their companies developed new products and service lines during the pandemic, with many expecting to keep those innovations for the foreseeable future. Compared to the rest of the country, midsize Texas companies are more likely to have expanded into new geographic markets (46 percent vs. 38 percent nationwide). More Texas companies also said they’ve digitized their accounts payables/receivables processes during the pandemic (46 percent vs. 38 percent all U.S.).

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But even with all the good news for businesses, there is still work to do and pandemic-induced challenges to tackle.

The single largest concern businesses listed for the year ahead is continued supply-chain woes. Sixty two percent of respondents cited supply chain issues as a challenge, followed by uncertain economic conditions (37 percent).

About a third of the survey’s respondents said they have been directly impacted by cyber fraud, most commonly through business email compromise. Among the businesses that have experienced cyber fraud, the most effective mitigation tactics have included enhanced employee training and adopting proactive measure to prevent fraud.

As they enter the second half of 2021, companies should keep in mind considerations like whether recent rising prices, while considered transitory by most economists, will nonetheless cause them to need to adjust their production capacity accordingly, how prepared they are for a potential ransomware attack following recent attacks across key industries and whether their current working model most effectively addresses the key intangibles of corporate culture they would like to maintain.  

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We are now emerging from a challenging environment to a climate of growth and opportunity. Together, we can position Tarrant County for great things ahead.

Belen Garren is the North Texas Region Manager for Chase Commercial Banking. She leads a team of Middle Market banking professionals with domestic and global treasury, credit products, liquidity management, international trade, foreign exchange and capital markets. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Cook Children’s Health Care System, the Board of Directors for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Ballet Theater. 

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