Economic volatility rises in annual business risk monitor
Macroeconomic developments such as inflation, financial market volatility and a looming recession, as well as the impact of the energy crisis are the top risers in this year’s list of global business risks, as the economic and political consequences of the world in the aftermath of Covid-19 and the Ukraine war take hold.
Cyber incidents and business interruption rank as the biggest company concerns for the second year in succession.
The Allianz Risk Barometer is an annual business risk ranking compiled by Allianz Group’s corporate insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), together with other Allianz entities, which incorporates the views of 2,712 risk management experts in 94 countries and territories including CEOs, risk managers, brokers and insurance experts. It is being published for the 12th time.
Such pressing concerns call for immediate action from companies, explaining why both natural catastrophes and climate change drop in the annual rankings, as does pandemic outbreak, as vaccines have brought an end to lockdowns and restrictions. Political risks and violence is another new entry in the top 10 global risks at number 10, while the shortage of skilled workforce rises to eight. Changes in legislation and regulation remains a key risk at number 5, while fire/explosion drops two positions to ninth.
For the Unites States, business interruption tops the list again followed by cyber incidents. For the first time, macroeconomic developments hit the U.S. list in the third spot.
“For the second year in a row the Allianz Risk Barometer shows that companies are most concerned about mounting cyber risks and business interruption. At the same time, they see inflation, an impending recession and the energy crisis as immediate threats to their business,” said AGCS CEO Joachim Mueller.
“Companies – in Europe and in the US in particular – worry about the current ‘permacrisis’ resulting from the consequences of the pandemic and the economic and political impact from ongoing war in Ukraine. It’s a stress test for every company’s resilience.”
In 2023, the top four risks in the Allianz Risk Barometer are broadly consistent across all company sizes globally – large, medium and small – as well as across core European economies and the US (energy crisis excepted). Risk concerns for businesses in Asia Pacific and African countries show some deviation, reflecting the different impact of the ongoing war in Ukraine and its economic and political repercussions.
Digital and disruption dangers
Cyber incidents, such as IT outages, ransomware attacks or data breaches, ranks as the most important risk globally for the second year in succession – the first time this has occurred. It also ranks as the top peril in 19 different countries, among them Canada, France, Japan, India and the UK. It is the risk that small companies (under US$250mn annual revenue) are most worried about.
“For many companies the threat in cyber space is still higher than ever and cyber insurance claims remain at a high level. Large companies have become accustomed to being targeted and those with adequate cyber security are able to repel most attacks more effectively. Increasingly, more small- and mid-size businesses are also being impacted. These tend to underestimate their exposure and need to continuously invest in strengthening their cyber control framework,” said Shanil Williams, AGCS board member and chief underwriting officer corporate, responsible for cyber underwriting.
According to the Allianz Cyber Center of Competence, the frequency of ransomware attacks remains elevated in 2023, while the average cost of a data breach is at an all-time high at $4.35mn and expected to surpass $5mn in 2023. The conflict in Ukraine and wider geopolitical tensions are heightening the risk of a large-scale cyber-attack by state-sponsored actors. In addition, there is also a growing shortage of cyber security professionals, which brings challenges when it comes to improving security.
For businesses in many countries, 2023 is likely to be another year of heightened risks for business interruption (BI) because many business models are vulnerable to sudden shocks and change, which in turn impact profits and revenues. Ranking #2 globally, BI is the number one risk in countries such as Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden and the US.
The scope of disruptive sources is wide. Cyber is the cause of BI companies fear most (45 percent of responses); the second most important cause is the energy crisis (35 percent), followed by natural catastrophes (31 percent). The skyrocketing cost of energy has forced some energy-intensive industries to use energy more efficiently, move production to alternative locations or even consider temporary shutdowns. The resulting shortages threaten to cause supply disruption across a number of critical industries in Europe, including food, agriculture, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, construction and manufacturing, although warm winter conditions in Europe and stabilization of the price of gas is helping to ease the energy situation.
A possible global recession is another likely source of disruption in 2023, with potential for supplier failure and insolvency, which is a particular concern for companies with single or limited critical suppliers. According to Allianz Trade, global business insolvencies are likely to rise significantly in 2023, by 19 percent.
Macroeconomic developments such as inflation or economic and financial market volatility rank as the third top risk for companies globally in 2023 (25 percent), up from #10 in 2022 – the first time this risk has appeared in the top three for a decade. All three major economic areas – the United States (US), China and Europe – are in a crisis mode at the same time, albeit for different reasons, according to Allianz Research, which forecasts recession in Europe and the US in 2023.
Inflation is a particular concern as it is ‘eating’ into the price structure and profitability margins of many companies. Like the real economy, the financial markets are facing a difficult year, as central banks drain excess system-wide liquidity and trading volumes even in historically liquid markets decline.
Risk risers and fallers
The energy crisis is the biggest risk riser in the Allianz Risk Barometer, appearing for the first time at #4, with 22 percent. Some industries, such as chemicals, fertilizers, glass, and aluminum manufacturing, can be reliant on a single source of energy – Russian gas in the case of many European countries – and are therefore vulnerable to disruption to energy supply or price increases.
If such base industries struggle, repercussions can be felt further down the value chain in other sectors. According to Allianz Trade, the energy crisis will remain the largest profitability shock for European countries in particular. At current levels, energy prices would wipe out the profits of most non-financial corporates as pricing power is diminishing amid slowing demand.
Driven by 2022 being another year of turmoil with conflict and civil unrest dominating the news, Political risks and violence is a new entry at #10 (13 percent). Aside from war, companies are also concerned about increasing disruption from strikes, riots and civil commotion activity as the cost-of-living crisis affects many countries.
Despite dropping in the ranking year-on-year, natural catastrophes (19 percent) and climate change (17 percent) remain major concerns for businesses. In a year that included Hurricane Ian, one of the most powerful storms recorded in the US, record-breaking heatwaves, droughts and winter storms around the world, and $100bn+ of insured losses, they still rank in the top seven global risks.