Investing in 2017 to move from defense to offense, analyst says

See growth at 3% next year: Economist

U.S. businesses will have to adjust to the Trump administration's economic policies, which could push them into making riskier investments in the face of corporate tax cuts, deregulation and a potential border tax, analyst Charles Kantor told CNBC on Thursday.

Kantor, who is a managing director at Neuberger Berman and head of the firm's Kantor Group, said less hostility toward the private sector is a positive for businesses because it builds confidence and makes investing in business less risky.

But the analyst wondered whether "the current crop of management that's grown up in this very interconnected global economy" will be able to shift their investments from safer plays into more volatile ones given the expectations of eased regulations and more investment activity.

"Are they ready to think about a world where investing in their business just got less risky? Can they move from risk-averse, playing defense, to risk-loving, playing offense?" Kantor asked on "Squawk Box."

A benefit of taking on more risk is the potential for greater returns, which in a pro-growth world could be especially beneficial for those who choose to expose their portfolios to greater risk.

But we can't wholeheartedly count on a pro-growth environment just yet, said Chris Cordaro, chief investment officer at RegentAtlantic Capital.

"There's going to be a lot of volatility, there's going to be a lot of opportunity, but is there going to be real economic growth?" Cordaro said on "Squawk Box." "We've been limping along for seven years. I don't see the big impetus to get us out of this."

He acknowledged that less regulation on businesses and higher interest rates are fair expectations to have for 2017 and beyond, but some other key pieces of the Trump administration's economic agenda could prove more difficult to pass than expected.

"To finally have an administration that is definitely pro-business ahead of everything else is a positive, but what are you going to be able to get done?" Cordaro said.

"You talk about tax policy. I don't know where all the deficit hawks have gone, but they're going to come out of the woodwork once you start realizing you've got to pay for this," he said.

Cordaro's stock pick would be Citi, he said, if only on the expectation of a less regulated financial market.

"Citi is so huge and so inter-tangled and so overburdened by regulation, they're going to be benefactors of that," Cordaro said.

Emerging market opportunities: Pro

Even internationally focused analysts like independent consultant and emerging markets expert Richard Kang are proponents of "playing offense" when it comes to investing in the new year.

"Now is probably not the time to be in broad ETFs," Kang told "Squawk Box," referring to exchange-traded funds, which include a range of assets within specific sectors that serve to diversify risk.

"Now is the time to be more alpha-oriented and stock pick. Probably, focus more on commodities and the consumer and drop everything else," Kang said.