Risk management survey shows that climate change is now a top concern for banks

Published: Friday, 25 June 2021 08:04

For the first time since the survey’s inception over a decade ago, climate change tops the list of long-term risks for banks, according to the 11th EY and Institute of International Finance (IIF) bank risk management survey. Entitled ‘Resilient banking: capturing opportunities and managing risks over the long term’, the survey of 88 financial institutions across 33 countries provides a window into the changes in risk management seen globally during the past decade, and the major risks anticipated over the next 10 years.

More than nine in ten (91 percent) of surveyed bank chief risk officers (CROs) view climate change as the top emerging risk over the next five years. Only about half (52 percent) of CROs said the same in 2019. In the near-term, almost half (49 percent) of CROs now view climate change as a top risk requiring their urgent attention over the next 12 months. In 2019, only 17 percent took that view. Beyond climate change, the most important emerging risk according to CRO respondents is the length and depth of the global economic recovery (83 percent).

Mark Watson, EY Americas Financial Services Organization Board Matters Deputy Leader, says: “In the past year, we saw climate change rapidly ascend to the top of banks’ long-term risk agendas for the first time. Bank boards and senior management must remain resilient across a broader set of dimensions as the world adapts to a post COVID-19 world, and it’s clear that now includes climate-related risks, as well as other environmental, social and governance matters.”

The survey finds that banks in practice are still maturing in their ability to assess physical and transitional risk exposures: just over half (54 percent) have a preliminary understanding of their climate change risk exposure and more than a quarter (28 percent) have a somewhat complete understanding.

In the near-term, banks believe credit risk will be the No. 1 concern over the next 12 months – according to 98 percent of CROs – amid the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Cybersecurity is perceived to be the second most urgent risk (80 percent).

Additional key survey findings include:

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