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Board members across all industries perceive a much riskier environment in 2018 relative to 2017, according to the results of the sixth annual ‘Executive Perspectives on Top Risks Survey’ conducted by global consulting firm Protiviti and the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Initiative in the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management.

The survey report, ‘Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018’, assesses the concerns of 728 board members and executives globally. The results indicate that growing concerns around disruptive innovation significantly outpace fears of economic uncertainty and regulatory scrutiny, which have consistently been the top risk issues of board members and executives over the past several years. Threats related to cybersecurity are a top risk area for business leaders as well, particularly in light of recent cyberattacks such as WannaCry, along with those affecting major organizations like Equifax.

“Disruption and digital transformation are taking place across all industries and threatening core business models,” said Pat Scott, an executive vice president with Protiviti. “It’s clear from our latest survey that there has been a major shift in the top concerns for organizations. Digitalization-related risks have supplanted overall economic conditions and regulatory scrutiny atop the list of risk issues for board members and executives who are worried that new technologies and their impact on established business models could outpace their organizations’ ability to keep up and remain competitive.”

“It’s no longer a question of if digital will upend your business, but when,” said Jim DeLoach, a Protiviti managing director. “While a number of organizations already have digital strategies in place, digital transformation needs to become entrenched as a core part of the organization to ensure that companies are able to embrace disruptive change in the current business environment. This risk plus heightened concerns regarding resistance to change create a formidable challenge to executives and directors. Leaders know that failure to keep up with the rapid pace of change can place an organization in the position of becoming captive to events rather than charting its own course.”

The top 10 risks for 2018

The top 10 risks identified in the Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018 report are:

  • Rapid speed of disruptive innovations and/or new technologies may outpace our organization’s ability to compete and/or manage the risk appropriately, without making significant changes to our business model.
  • Resistance to change may restrict our organization from making necessary adjustments to the business model and core operations.
  • Our organization may not be sufficiently prepared to manage cyber threats.
  • Regulatory changes and regulatory scrutiny may heighten.
  • Our organization’s culture may not sufficiently encourage the timely identification and escalation of risk issues.
  • Our organization’s succession challenges and ability to attract and retain top talent may limit our ability to achieve operational targets.
  • Ensuring privacy/identity management and information security/system protection may require significant resources for us.
  • Economic conditions in the markets we currently serve may significantly restrict growth opportunities.
  • Inability to utilize data analytics and big data to achieve market intelligence and increase productivity and efficiency may significantly affect our management of core operations and strategic plans.
  • Our existing operations may not be able to meet performance expectations related to quality, time to market, cost and innovation, as well as our competitors, especially new competitors that are ‘born digital’ and with a low cost base for their operations.

“In light of the shifting risk landscape, it’s particularly interesting to observe an increasing concern among survey respondents that their organization’s culture may not sufficiently encourage the timely identification and escalation of risk issues to senior management and the board,” said Dr. Mark Beasley, Deloitte Professor of Enterprise Risk Management and director of NC State’s ERM Initiative. “As boards of directors and senior executives seek to improve their understanding of emerging risk issues, they may need to re-evaluate how their organization’s culture might be impacting the robustness and transparency of their risk identification and risk reporting efforts,” added Beasley.

The Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018 survey was conducted in the fall of 2017, and respondents represent both US-based and non-US-based organizations across public and private sectors. The survey report also provides detailed insights broken out by size and type of company, respondent role and industry.

Download the report here.

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