What are the concerns keeping global C-suite executives up at night?

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Board members and C-suite executives around the globe are most concerned in 2021 with risks associated with COVID-19-related government policies and regulations, economic conditions that may restrict growth and market conditions that may continue to impact customer demand, according to a new survey from Protiviti and North Carolina State University.

Amid these near-term headwinds, when asked about top concerns through 2030, business leaders cite challenges that ultimately ladder up to talent.

High ranking risks – including the adoption of technology that requires new or upgraded skills, rapid innovation that threatens business models and the reimagining of creative strategies – point to a need to attract and retain top talent and invest in reskilling and upskilling workforces to ensure agility and resilience in the future.

The annual survey, this year titled “Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2021 and 2030,”
was conducted by global consulting firm Protiviti and North Carolina State University Poole College of Management’s Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Initiative.

The study surveyed over 1,000 (1,081) board members and C-suite executives from organizations in a variety of industries and in all regions around the globe.

The Top 10 Risks for 2021

Survey respondents were asked to rate 36 macroeconomic, strategic and operational risks, including new risks that emerged this year related to the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice. The top 10 risks identified for 2021 are as follows:

1. Pandemic-related policies and regulation impact business performance
2. Economic conditions constrain growth opportunities
3. Pandemic-related market conditions reduce customer demand
4. Adoption of digital technologies require new skills or significant efforts to upskill/reskill existing employees
5. Privacy/identity management and information security
6. Cyber threats
7. Impact of regulatory change and scrutiny on operational resilience, products and services
8. Succession challenges, ability to attract and retain top talent
9. Resistance to change operations and business model
10. Ability to compete with “born digital” and other competitors

Jim DeLoach, a Protiviti managing director and co-author of the report, comments: “More than ever, 2020 demonstrated that organizations can no longer afford a reactive approach to risk management.

“Business leaders must be vigilant in scanning for emerging issues and make actionable plans to adjust their strategies and business models while being authentic in fostering a trust-based, innovative culture and the organizational resilience necessary to successfully navigate disruptive change. Digitally mature companies with an agile workforce were ready when COVID-19 hit and are the ones best positioned to continue to ride the wave of rapid acceleration of digitally driven change through the pandemic and beyond.”

Consistent with the survey’s findings in previous years, data security and cyber threats again rank in the top 10 risks for both 2021 and 2030.

The Top Risks for 2030

New for this year’s survey, respondents also rated the expected impact of the same 36 risks on their organizations in 2030. The risk landscape of 2030 presents a markedly different picture, according to survey respondents who identified the following as the top 10 risks for 2030:

1. Adoption of digital technologies may require new skills or significant efforts to upskill/reskill existing employees
2. Impact of regulatory change and scrutiny on operational resilience, products and services
3. Rapid speed of disruptive innovation outpace our ability to compete
4. Succession challenges, ability to attract and retain top talent
5. Privacy/identity management and information security
6. Substitute products or services arise that affect our business model
7. Sustaining customer loyalty and retention become more difficult as customer preferences and demographic shifts evolve
8. Ability to compete with “born digital” and other competitors
9. Inability to utilize data analytics and “big data” to achieve market intelligence and increase productivity and efficiency
10. Cyber threats

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