COMMENT: New year, old problems

The new year has arrived and with it a host of reports on the state of the world’s preparedness for the most urgent risks of our age. The most anticipated of these comes from the World Economic Forum, ahead of its Davos summit this month. The WEF’s ‘Global Risks Report’ builds on over a decade of data, this year focusing heavily on the immediate risks relating to the recent rapid deterioration in geopolitical and economic conditions and the erosion of multilateral trading agreements. In terms of blind spots, the group is concerned that the vulnerability of networked societies has not been fully appreciated, and that the cyber threat persists worldwide. Long-term, four of the top five most impactful global risks relate to the environment and climate change.

The themes in the WEF’s popular report shift in focus each year between political and economic risks, environmental and technological – largely as readers would expect, I suspect. These are not new risks and organisations have long been considering them and the implications they may have.

Perhaps this is why one no longer hears resilience professionals talk about ‘preparing for the unexpected’. Instead they prepare for the unwanted, the undesirable or the inconvenient, but it would be hard to argue these risks are truly unexpected.

What is lacking is not the ability to forecast or see the threats, but the ability to come to an agreement on what to do about them. This lack of collective action has reached such a point that the WEF refers to it as being at “crisis levels”.

The themes explored in the ‘Global Risks Report’ are reflected in CIR’s own 2019 predictions series; a collection of articles written by resilience professionals on the topics of import in their various sectors, with a focus on the best course of action. This popular series covers a wide range of topics: from cyber insurance and trade credit and political risk to innovation and smart contracts and managing complex global 3D supply chains. Many of these topics are closely aligned with the WEF’s own analysis of the pertinent perils of the day, but with that much needed focus on action.

The new year also brings with it my annual update on the most read stories on the CIR website, which always makes for interesting reading as it acts as something of a barometer; it tells me what is most important to the readership. Top of the pops are the themes of cyber risk and insurance, GDPR, innovation in insurance, technological innovation, operational risk and reputational risk management and contingency planning. We hope to be able to inform and inspire readers on all these topics and more throughout the coming year.

If the coming year does bring anything unexpected, let us hope it takes the form of some kind of agreement relating to the biggest domestic issue of the era: Brexit. Whichever side of the argument you take, sentiment is frayed after the government lost its January vote in Parliament on its proposed deal. Even if the deal had been passed, the UK’s relationship with the EU would still be unclear, and as it is, businesses are left with more questions than they had before.

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