Roundtable: A new age of risk uncertainty


  • Dave Brosnan, chief executive, CNA Hardy
  • Patrick Gage, chief underwriting officer, CNA Hardy
  • Paul Jack, Partner, Lockton
  • Ailsa King, Chief Client Officer, Marsh
  • Steve Boaler, Strategic Risk and Assurance Manager, Eversholt Rail Group
  • Adrian Clements, GM Operational Risk Management, ArcelorMittal
Dave Brosnan

Increasing uncertainty, complexities around cyber and best practice in risk cultivation within an organisation were the key topics of debate during a roundtable held by StrategicRISK and CNA Hardy, held in London at the end of November.

The discussion was centred around the findings of CNA Hardy’s latest risk and confidence survey – ‘taking the pulse of British business’ in the Autumn of 2017.

One of the key findings of the survey was that business confidence levels had plummeted to only 28%, from 71% when the survey was carried out in the Spring of 2017. Participants of the roundtable were quick to point to political and economic factors driving business uncertainty and therefore a dip in confidence levels.

“It’s clear the confidence base of UK-based multinationals has dipped, considerably, but we are encouraged by the fact they are still planning on top-line growth into 2018,” observed CNA Hardy’s chief underwriting officer, Patrick Gage.

Adrian Clements
Election and Brexit double negative

“In spring of 2017, 71% of the base of customers were confident about delivering a more optimistic outlook for the future. That’s dipped now to 28%. So that’s very interesting. What’s dominating this is what we call ‘headline grabbing issues’ around political and economic risk. Since that original survey, we’ve had the difficulty in Brexit negotiations for the UK, and also the UK general election that provided a very inconclusive outcome. What does business hate? Uncertainty. This has definitely driven the way they’re thinking over the next 6-12 months,” said Gage.

One risk manager participating in the discussion said: “With Brexit continually trundling along, there doesn’t seem to be any confidence in where we are going with this and it makes the board uneasy. How can businesses plan properly for the next three or five-year timelines when they’re not sure what’s happening in 18 months? They don’t know what they can control, where they can spend money or what to focus on. For those managing the risk, it’s hard.”

Caught up in a short-term conversation?

Although the challenges surrounding Brexit and other political and economic factors across the UK and Europe should be high up on the agenda, another risk manager warned businesses could be at risk of missing out on opportunities.

“We risk having a problem because people are concentrating so much on one thing that they’re missing everything else. One of the things I’m concerned about is that the UK is looking at Brexit, and the whole world is moving on in a certain direction,” said the risk manager. “My take on confidence is give the best advice you can to the board. I can only advise them, then they have to make the best decision. But my advice is to look for the opportunities out there, even in the next six months. Even though we are living and working in uncertain times, there are still opportunities out there and we should be taking them, otherwise we’ll be too late, and we will have missed them.”
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