Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

Top ten business threats revealed

School of sharks circling in the sea

The 2017 top-ten list of concerns held by business leaders around the world reveal a changing perception of threat.

The nature of threat to businesses is changing, yet despite the increasingly global nature of trade, different regions and countries still take some very different views on what lurks beneath.

Whereas UK businesses are worrying most this year about the onset of fiscal crises and the growing asset bubble, business leaders on a global level are now generally more concerned about non-economic risks.

These views, drawn from a global survey of business leaders, show a changing mood from previous years, as business leaders ponder the potential impact of various perceived threats to their well-being.

The findings are from the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Executive Opinion Survey. Canvassing the views of 12,400 executives across 136 countries, it sought to identify the global risks of highest concern for doing business. The survey was conducted between February and June this year.

Regional fears

At a wider global level, despite some expected economic recovery and rising business confidence, unemployment and potential fiscal crises rank as the top two concerns. National growth strategies and the sustainability of investment also remain under close scrutiny.

Meanwhile, unemployment came out as the top concern in Europe, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It was second in Latin America, and third place in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Fear of fiscal crises captured the top spot in Eurasia and MENA, ranking in the top five in all other regions.

National governance concerns have entered the top three in the global rankings. This is now a major issue in particular for some advanced economies. It continues to rank first in Latin America, rising to second position in Europe and South Asia, and remaining third in sub-Saharan Africa. Social instability made the top five in Latin America and Eurasia.

The ever-expanding reach of cyber-attack by organised criminal groups, and the rise of state-affiliated attacks on critical infrastructure and government assets, has seen this threat rank as the highest concern in North America and East Asia, reaching the top five now in Europe.

Local threats for local people

The UK’s woes stem from a combination of high stock markets and government and personal debt levels, together with uncertainty surrounding Brexit and already fragile economic growth. Also, following a number of high-profile cyber-attacks this year, UK bosses remain concerned about cyber-security and the threat that cyber risk poses to doing business in the UK.

Business leaders in other European countries such as Germany and Switzerland, and also those in the US, express high concern about cyber and terrorist attacks.

Cyber threat ranks number one in Japan, second in Singapore and third in Australia. In China, it is now fourth, having ranked outside the top ten in last year’s survey. Leaders in Singapore, India and Japan are majorly concerned about terrorism, whilst the threat of natural disaster loom large for businesses in China and Japan.

Concerns about developing fiscal crises are high in Russia, India and Japan. The risk of asset bubbles is besieging firms in Singapore and Australia. Poland, Russia and Turkey also revealed a high level of concern about interstate conflict.

Businesses in France, Spain and Italy rank national governance failures, unemployment and social instability amongst their top global risks, as do those in Brazil and Mexico.

On the positive side…

There is almost one ray of sunshine. The threat of an energy price-shock appears to have dissipated slightly. Although still high in MENA, sub-Saharan Africa, Eurasia and East Asia, key oil exporting countries within those and other regions have allowed other fears to rise above this.

Global corporate fear rankings 2017 (2016 position in brackets)

  1. Unemployment or underemployment (1)

  2. Fiscal crises (3)

  3. Failure of national governance (4)

  4. Energy price shock (2)

  5. Profound social instability (5)

  6. Failure of financial mechanism or institution (6)

  7. Failure of critical infrastructure (7)

  8. Major cyber-attacks (11)

  9. Inter-state regional conflict (10)

  10. Terrorist attacks (8)

Source: World Economic Forum

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