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Survey Finds Primary Risks For Global Business Leaders In 2024

Jen Goetz

A recent study reveals that a disruptive market and geopolitical risks are testing business agility and resilience.

Economic pressures and persistent inflation unseated the war for talent as the top near-term risk facing business leaders around the world, according to a recent survey from Protiviti and NC State University’s ERM Initiative.

The 12th annual survey, “Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2024 and a Decade Later,” measures the most pressing business risks over the next year as well as the next decade. Beyond the economy and talent market, business leaders are also increasingly concerned about cyber threats in both the near and long-term. The study surveyed more than 1,100 board members and C-suite executives from organizations worldwide in a variety of industries, asking them to rate 36 macroeconomic, strategic and operational risks across one-year (2024) and one-decade (2034) time horizons.

The Top Risks for 2024

There was significant turnover in the top risks over the coming year, with six falling out of this year’s top ten list for 2024 versus last year, including the top near-term risk. Economic conditions and inflationary pressures emerged as the top near-term risk for 2024. Continuing a trend highlighted by the last two years’ surveys, finding and retaining talent while managing culture and workplace evolution remained a major concern. Of the 36 macroeconomic, strategic and operational risks assessed in the survey, the top five risks identified for 2024 are:

  • Economic conditions, including inflationary pressures
  • Ability to attract, develop, and retain top talent, manage shifts in labor expectations, and address succession challenges
  • Cyber threats
  • Third-party risks
  • Heightened regulatory changes and scrutiny

The Top Risks for 2034

Survey respondents also rated the expected impact of the same 36 risks in the next decade, assessing how the risk landscape might shift. The top five risks identified for 2034 are:

  • Cyber threats
  • Ability to attract, develop and retain top talent, manage shifts in labor expectations, and address succession challenges
  • Adoption of digital technologies requiring new skills in short supply
  • Rapid speed of disruptive innovations enabled by new and emerging technologies and/or other market forces
  • Heightened regulatory changes and scrutiny

Although not recorded as a top risk, geopolitical events had a significant ripple effect across the risk landscape. Before the events that took place in the Middle East on October 7, 2023, the survey found that no risk issues were rated at the “Significant Impact” level for 2024, but in the responses gathered following the attacks, many risks increased and four risk issues were rated at the “Significant Impact” level.

Looking out a decade, cybersecurity is the most pressing risk issue, with the risk rating for cyber threats increasing by more than 11% over last year’s survey—by far the largest risk rating increase noted in the survey’s history. Dr. Mark Beasley, professor of Enterprise Risk Management, director of NC State’s ERM Initiative and co-author of the report, said, “While the economy is the top-ranked risk for the coming year, cyber threats jumped to the top of the list when leaders assessed both near- and long-term outlooks, after not being a top-five risk at all last year. This jump reflects the growing recognition of the complex cyber risk landscape that is impacted by the exponential curve of technological advances and how seriously leaders are taking these threats.”

How Business Leaders Can Take Action

The report also outlines the next steps that business leaders should take to address key areas of concern, including:

  • Navigating an uncertain economic environment
  • The cyber issues executives should be thinking about
  • Forging ahead with artificial intelligence capabilities
  • Embracing new talent strategies
  • Understanding and managing the geopolitical risk landscape

The report, along with a global webinar series, an infographic, and a podcast about the survey results, is available for complimentary download here.

Click here for more information about Enterprise Risk Management.

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