CEOs optimism rises, but execs worried about competition

CEOs 3-year outlook 'optimistic': KPMG survey

Chief executives are feeling more confident about the economy and the prospects for their company, but there's a common concern growing in C-level suites around the world, auditing firm KPMG reports.

Slightly more than three-quarters of the 1,200 CEOs of companies around the world surveyed by KPMG said they expect to increase hiring in the next three years. Just over half said they would increase payrolls by 6 to 10 percent.

A little more than half of the 400 U.S. CEOS surveyed said they were more optimistic about the economy in the next three years, but the professional services firm noted an uptick in concern around competitive pressure, KPMG International chairman John Veihmeyer said Monday.

"The surprising thing is how strongly this concern about competition in the marketplace is escalating right now," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

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Among their highest concerns were: the potential of losing customers, whether their products will be relevant three years from now and investment in products and services that will maintain market share.

"Make no mistake. This is still a really challenging economy to realize growth in," he said. "While people are confident the world is getting better, growth is hard to come by in a lot of sectors."

To realize that growth, executives say they are looking to expand to new markets and ramp up mergers and acquisitions, he said.

The report also found that optimism is higher outside the United States. Nearly 70 percent of CEOs in Europe and 66 percent of chief executives in Asia said their confidence in the economy was up in 2015.

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Veihmeyer said its important to remember that executives in Europe were fairly despondent last year.

"The optimism in the U.S. has been up for a couple of years. I think what we're seeing in those percentages is just a bigger jump outside the U.S.," he said.

While 52 percent of U.S. CEOs were more confident that economic growth would pick up, just 19 percent were feeling better about their company's prospects. Forty-six percent thought their firm's fortunes would be unchanged in the near term.

The survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.