Risk management high on CEOs' agendas

Dec 05 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

From having been something you tried to leave until the last minute, risk management is now one of the top concerns for chief executives desperately trying to ride out the economic and financial storm.

Research by The Conference Board has concluded that, while executing their corporate strategy effectively is still a priority, the key concerns these days are managing and securing finance, maintaining confidence and risk management.

An analysis of 190 chief executives, chairmen, and company presidents asked them to rate their greatest concerns from 94 different challenges, comparing responses from the summer to responses taken in October, after the financial meltdown seen on Wall Street.

While "excellence of execution" remained as the top challenge for the second year in a row, nearly half of the executives said they were now most concerned about speed, flexibility and adaptability to change.

This was up from the just under a quarter who cited these as their top concerns back in the summer.

Global economic performance and financial risk, including liquidity, volatility and credit risk, were the fourth and fifth most pressing concerns, despite not having even been in the top 10 in the summer.

Business confidence also jumped into the top 10, catapulted up from 34th in the summer to 9th place now.

Those rating business confidence as being one of their greatest concerns also rose four-fold, from 9.1 per cent in July and August to 36.3 per cent in October.

"The CEO mindset is focused and the atmosphere is intense," said Jonathan Spector, chief executive of The Conference Board.

"Clearly, weakening economic conditions are a growing concern to CEOs worldwide, as they plan their business strategies and financial targets for the coming year," he added.

"Business leaders across the globe are focusing more urgently on execution and immediate bottom-line issues, and leaving the people management systems built up during the tight labour market of the past five years to operate how they are intended," he added.

Worries over the global economic environment were rising among chief executives in both Europe and Asia, the research also found.

More than half of CEOs in Asia were now worried about the global economic climate, up from a fifth in the summer, while in Europe it was now six out of 10, against a quarter before.

In the U.S, concern about the global economy rose from 7 per cent to 21 per cent to become the 16th most pressing issue in the latest survey.

The Conference Board also identified a severe screwing down of salary increases, with compensation budgets being adjusted markedly downwards.

A comparison of two surveys, one in April to May and the other in October, the average salary budget increase for executive merit pay had dropped from 3.7 per cent to 3.5 per cent.