Economic instability, cyber and technology risks topped business executives’ lists of concerns worldwide, according to a survey by CNA Hardy.
The carrier polled 1,500 business leaders based in the UK, France, Germany, the US, Canada, Singapore, South Korea and Australia.
It found that in every region aside from Continental Europe, economic risk was businesses’ main concern as Brexit paralysed decision-making in the UK and trade wars distorted patterns of commerce in Asia.
North American and European business leaders were more confident in their economies than counterparts elsewhere, the report found, but regardless of their perceived level of risk, businesses in every region were prioritising international expansion to fuel growth.
CNA Hardy CEO Dave Brosnan said: “While this bullish approach is positive from a business perspective, growth should be treated with caution.
“Increasingly protectionist economic policy could undermine companies’ international growth ambitions. Executing a global growth strategy is much harder against political and economic headwinds.”
After economic instability, cyber and technology risks were at the forefront of business leaders’ concerns, the report said.
The research said three quarters of business leaders were prioritising technology spending to support growth. This increasing reliance on technology, however, brought with it additional risk.
Brosnan said: “Greater dependence inevitably paves the way for greater cyber exposure and other technology-related risks. It is an inescapable but vicious circle.”
The report found half of companies with turnover of more than $1.3bn said the risk was likely to increase, compared to 36 percent of small and 45 percent of mid-sized businesses. Brosnan said SMEs were under the “false impression” that they were less vulnerable to the risk than they were.
“Insurers need to do more to highlight the risk of cyber to businesses of all sizes,” he said.
The carrier pointed out that the top three risks as identified by businesses were global and interconnected, and said companies needed “more than the traditional financial and legal skills” in their top teams to cope.
Businesses also needed to be more proactive in preventing losses and mitigating risk, CNA Hardy said.
Brosnan added: “Large losses today are caused by the same drivers as twenty years ago: fire and flood. If businesses cannot master these more obvious risks, inevitably they will struggle when faced with more complex, global and interconnected risks.
“Leadership, culture and strategy are key as insurers get better at understanding and responding to these risks and communicating what needs to change.
“Risk management is as much about service and support as it is about balance sheet risk transfer, and for that to work effectively there has to be better dialogue between clients and the industry.”