(StatePoint) Technology and talent are key drivers of future growth, middle market executives say in a new survey.

Designed to illuminate the intersection of technology and talent, the survey conducted by The Harris Poll for CIT Group Inc., was inspired in part by CIT’s own success in better serving customers by combining digital capabilities with deep professional expertise.

The survey finds that nine of 10 respondents believe they must continuously invest in business technology to remain competitive -- with security and privacy protection, big-data analytics, artificial intelligence, automation and blockchain platforms topping the list of planned investments.

Looking back over the previous 12 months, 68% of survey respondents said technology investment was most responsible for their business growth -- outpacing “offering new products” and “improving their supply chain.”

The survey also highlighted the vital role that skilled employees play in providing customer service, with 90% of respondents agreeing that high-touch service is as important as ever in this technological age.

“Middle market companies are clearly reaping rewards from the digital technologies that are transforming American business,” says David Harnisch, president of Commercial Finance for CIT. “But they also know that having the right talent is critical to success.”

A large majority of those surveyed -- 85% -- believe their current workforce is tech-savvy enough to keep up with the pace of digital transformation, and nearly identical numbers -- 83% -- agree that hiring tech-savvy talent is imperative.

“Business technology is delivering new capabilities all the time,” says Denise Menelly, executive vice president and head of Technology and Operations for CIT. “But technology alone only goes so far. Smart, agile, tech-savvy employees are essential to helping businesses fully realize the benefits of those technological capabilities.”

Along with the potential of sweeping technological change comes concerns, and an increasing awareness of the severe business disruption and reputational damage that can result from cyber-intrusions and data breaches.

Risk of security/data breach was cited by survey respondents as their number one technology concern -- far outpacing such other challenges as integrating new technology with existing systems, having enough tech-savvy employees or facing upstart competitors. Nearly three in four respondents said spending on increased cyber-security and data privacy was their leading technology investment objective over the next 12 months.

At a time when middle market companies are increasingly relying on digital technologies to provide growth opportunities, they are investing their money accordingly.

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