Risk managers identify technology, supply chain and regulatory as the “big three” risks currently causing their organisations the greatest concern, according to a survey of 500 companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa conducted for global insurer ACE’s Emerging Risks Barometer 2015. People risk sits just outside the top-three, while geopolitical risk completes the top-five emerging risk categories.

Technology risk

Technology plays a role in almost every business’s strategic planning, whether in the development of new services or products or as an enabler of operational effectiveness. When it comes to technology risk management, however, our research suggests that companies may not be focusing on the right areas, due to a lack of knowledge about the most likely sources of threat.

Which of the following risk categories are currently causing you greatest concern as a business?
  • 43% Technology risk (including cyber security)
  • 31% Supply chain, finance and logistics risk
  • 27% Regulatory and compliance risk
  • 26% People risk (including risks to people such as personal accidents and disease, risks caused by people such as fraud and labour disputes, and talent risks)
  • 25% Geopolitical risk (including regime change, asset confiscation, trade credit risk, currency restrictions, protectionism)
  • 21% Reputational risk
  • 18% Management liability risk (including directors & officers liability)
  • 15% Environmental liability risk (such as pollution or failure to understand/comply with local regulation)
  • 15% Natural catastrophe risk
  • 14% Terrorism and political violence risk

Supply chain risk

As in our 2013 Barometer, supply chain risk remains a major concern. As companies expand into new markets using ever more complex networks of suppliers and partners the supply chain is at once an enabler of growth and a key source of risk.

In recent years, we have seen major disruptions to supply chains, caused by events such as Hurricane Sandy which prompted the most extreme fuel shortages since the 1970s and 2014’s widespread flooding in India and Pakistan, which caused US$12 billion in losses. After responding admirably to these and other catastrophes, risk managers say they have achieved a better handle on business interruption risk.

Today, businesses are better prepared and therefore less concerned about interruption caused by natural disasters. Instead, they are focusing more on issues that can harm their corporate reputations. Our respondents rank unethical labour practices as their biggest supply chain worry. Yet  61%  admit they cannot always vouch for the ethical and trading standards of every company in their supply chain.

EMERGING RISKS BAROMETER 2015 

Which of the following risks currently consume the most time and resources in your organisation? 
Technology risk 47%
Supply chain, finance and logistics risk 32%
Regulatory and compliance risk 29%
People risk 28%
Geopolitical risk 25%
Reputational risk 23%
Management liability risk (including directors & officers liability) 14%
Environmental liability risk 12%
Terrorism and political violence risk 12%
Natural catastrophe risk 11%
(Don’t know / Not applicable: 2%)

Regulatory and compliance risk

27% of respondents say regulatory and compliance risk is among their greatest concerns. The category also comes third in the list of risks with the potential to cause significant financial impact over the next two years, cited by 27% of respondents, and third in the list of risks consuming the most time and resources (29%).

Which of these risk categories do you expect will have the most significant financial impact on your business in the next two years? 
Technology risk 47%
Supply chain, finance and logistics risk 31%
Regulatory and compliance risk 27%
Geopolitical risk 26%
People risk 25%
Reputational risk 22%%
Management liability risk 17%
Natural catastrophe risk 11%
Terrorism and political violence risk 11%
Environmental liability risk 10%
(Don’t know / Not applicable: 2%)

While highly regulated sectors such as financial services and energy face the most extreme regulatory challenges, no company is immune. As businesses pursue growth on a global scale, they face a patchwork of regulatory regimes, across markets and jurisdictions.

Other risk to watch

The rise of people risk

People risk only narrowly missed out on a place in our Big Three Risks. over a quarter (26%) say this risk, including risks to people, risks caused by people and talent risks is among their greatest concerns.

34% say their greatest concern in relation to people risk is time lost to labour disputes. In recent years, we have seen substantial labour action in the UK and Germany as well as in supplier nations such as China. At the same time 75% of respondents say recent global events, such as political unrest in Ukraine and the Middle East are causing them to review their travel and security policies.

Geopolitical risk to grow in importance?

Regime change, asset confiscation, protectionism and other geopolitical risks also pose a real threat for business. Respondents today are largely confident in their ability to manage this risk, but only 30% say they are very confident. As a quarter (26%) also believe geopolitical risk will have a significant financial impact over the next two years, we could expect the risk to appear higher in the future, especially as companies continue to expand overseas.

Respondents are primarily concerned about foreign governments cancelling operating licences, concessions or contracts. The majority (68%) believe foreign governments are already making it more difficult for them to plan ahead.

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