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Reputation pitfalls top risk concerns in social media age

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Businesses around the world ranked damage to their reputation or brand, magnified by social media, as their top risk management concern, according to Aon P.L.C.’s 2017 Global Risk Management Survey.

Rory Moloney, CEO of Aon Global Risk Consulting, said the speed of social media technology amplifies any issues a company may be facing and spreads them around the world.

“It’s just getting quicker and quicker,” he said. “I think the issue is that information is distributed so quickly now — internationally, across all demographics — inviting comment and opinion from people as it goes.”

Reputational events often arrive with little or no warning, forcing organizations to respond quickly and effectively in real-time, the report said, adding that it’s important for companies to have a comprehensive reputation risk control strategy in place to preserve the consumer’s trust.

Conducted in the fourth quarter of 2016, the biannual survey polled nearly 2,000 respondents at public and private companies worldwide.

Other top concerns included economic slowdown, increasing competition and regulatory or legislative changes, the survey found.

“The majority of the top risks identified in the survey are nothing new to risk managers,” the report said. “However, a closer examination has revealed many new driving factors that are now transforming the traditional risks, adding new urgency and complexity to old challenges.”

Cyber crime made a big leap to the No. 5 spot globally from No. 9, Aon said, and is the top concern among North American businesses, where the frequency of cyber breaches is increasing and incident response plans have become more complex due to regulation and mandatory disclosure obligations.

The high-profile attacks on domain registration services provider Dyn Inc. and email leaks related to the Democratic National Committee “inevitably” elevated cyber risk to the fifth position, the report said.

Cyber crimes, the report said, “have evolved from stealing personal information and credit cards to staging coordinated attacks on critical infrastructures.”

The survey also asked participants to indicate what their top concerns might be by 2020, and an economic slowdown or slow recovery made it to the No. 1 spot, followed by increasing competition and failure to innovate or meet customer needs.

Disruptive technologies and innovation are an emerging risk that participants ranked at No. 20 this year. In 2020, Aon said the respondents predicted it to be the No. 10 issue globally, No. 2 for the technology industry and No. 3 for the telecommunications and broadcasting industries.

New technologies, such as drones, driverless cars and advanced robotics have increased awareness of the impact of innovation among businesses.

Risk management department staffing levels have remained static, with 75% of respondents saying that they maintain one to five employees. Respondents also indicated that they feel risk management is still undervalued within their organizations.

The survey said that captive insurers continue to be a popular way for clients to finance risk and that there is considerable interest in forming new captive or protected cell companies in the next five years, especially in North America, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.