Risk Managers Rank Global Risks
Damage to brand and reputation is the No. 1 risk facing companies today, according to Aon’s 2015 Global Risk Management Survey.
“There’s a lot behind that which is driving that [ranking],” said Theresa Bourdon, group managing director, Aon Global Risk Consulting.
One of those factors is cyber risk, which for the first time in the survey’s history, since 2007, jumped into the top 10 risks, coming in at No. 9. It had been 18 in the last survey, which is taken every two years.
“If you talk to our clients, that’s no surprise,” she said. “The frequency is very low for these cyber events but it is obviously increasing.”
And, just as obviously, there is a correlation between cyber events and brand. Just look at Target, which is still struggling to regain its footing after the personal information of about 110 million of its customers was stolen in 2013.
According to U.S. Reputation Leaders Network, Target’s reputation saw its biggest drop after the cyber attack – and it was the largest drop of any U.S. company from 2013 to 2014, according to an article in “The Street.”
The remaining top 10 risks are: economic slowdown/slow recovery; regulatory/legislative changes; increasing competition; failure to attract or retain key talent; failure to innovate/meet customer needs; business interruption; third party liability; and property damage.
Other key movement in the rankings were the inclusion of property damage, which moved up to No. 10, from 17 in 2013; and third party liability, which had been 13 but moved up to 8.
One risk that dropped off as a top 10 risk was commodity price risk. It had been 8 in 2013, and moved down to 11 in the 2015 survey.
Bourdon said that one risk that remains top of mind for risk managers is regulatory and legislative issues. “It’s consistently a top 3 risk,” she said, noting that it was projected to remain so when risk managers were asked to project their top risks three years from now.
“Organizations are really challenged to respond to the pace at which regulations are coming,” she said. “There is a strong need for governance and a compliance framework.”
That risk, also, she said, relates to the reputational and brand damage that a company can suffer.
As for cyber, one surprising finding of the study — which surveyed 1,400 risk decision-makers in 28 industry sectors in 60 countries — was that 82 percent of the respondents said their companies were ready for a cyber attack, Bourdon said.
At the same time, 58 percent of the respondents said their companies have not done an internal assessment of their cyber risk exposure.
“Realistically speaking, this is relatively new territory that everybody is trying to get their arms around, organizations, insurance companies and those of us who are risk advisers,” she said.
“The goal for the industry as you look at these risks today and in the future is, how are we going to innovate and support these risks.”
Cyber, in particular, needs solutions, she said. “There is not enough insurance out there for the demand.”
Risk managers understand they need more data and analytics to “help them navigate this world” of increasingly complex risks, she said.
More risk managers, Bourdon said, are looking at their organizations holistically and not just focusing on insurance purchasing.
“It’s a much bigger and challenging role than it ever used to be and if you are using the same tools and techniques you were using 10 years ago, then you are not leading your organization down the right path.”
Risks of Celebrity Sponsors
While the use of celebrities or sports figures may generate publicity around a product or service for a company, not all of it is good publicity.
You only have to open up a copy of the newspaper to read about scandals engulfing stars such as Bill Cosby, Brian Williams or Tom Brady with the New England Patriots’ and the “Deflate-gate” saga.
Sponsors have reacted by withdrawing their support, most notably in the NFL, where domestic violence allegations hanging over the sport prompted Procter and Gamble to pull the plug on a deal to supply players with pink mouthguards during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and cancel all on-field marketing.
The risks for any sponsor associated with this type of negative publicity are infinite, said experts, often resulting in the cancellation of lucrative advertising and marketing contracts, ultimately costing the company millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Worse still, the sponsor may be forced to pull its product from the market altogether, with the end result that millions of dollars are wiped off its share value.
Lori Shaw, executive director of Aon Risk Solutions’ entertainment practice, said the main risk of hiring a celebrity to endorse a product is the unexpected or disgraceful behavior of that individual, or unforeseen events such as death.
“The first step is to analyze the potential risks; discuss ‘what if’ scenarios; outline the financial consequences; and to be aware of the risks that can be avoided, those that can be transferred contractually to the celebrity or talent, those that can be transferred to insurance and the risks that must be retained,” she said.
Shaw said that companies need to take a holistic approach to their branding and marketing activities in order to assess the potential impact of any adverse publicity on their balance sheet.
Nir Kossovsky, CEO of Steel City Re, a corporate reputation measurement and risk management specialist, said there are two instances when a company should walk away from a sponsorship.
“The first is if the costs of a parallel communication strategy coupled with the direct costs of sponsorship outweigh the value of the expected gain.
“The second is if, on objective reflection, there is a compelling case that the average stakeholder will hold management culpable for an adverse event no matter what the management says to the contrary.”
To mitigate against these risks, corporations are increasingly turning to specialized insurance plans and writing clauses into their contracts allowing them to cancel a deal if the celebrity is considered to have acted in an inappropriate manner that may damage the company’s brand.
Pathogens, Allergens and Globalization – Oh My!
In 2014, a particular brand of cumin was used by dozens of food manufacturers to produce everything from spice mixes, hummus and bread crumbs to seasoned beef, poultry and pork products.
Yet, unbeknownst to these manufacturers, a potentially deadly contaminant was lurking…
What followed was the largest allergy-related recall since the U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act became law in 2006. Retailers pulled 600,000 pounds of meat off the market, as well as hundreds of other products. As of May 2015, reports of peanut contaminated cumin were still being posted by FDA.
Food manufacturing executives have long known that a product contamination event is a looming risk to their business. While pathogens remain a threat, the dramatic increase in food allergen recalls coupled with distant, global supply chains creates an even more unpredictable and perilous exposure.
Recently peanut, an allergen in cumin, has joined the increasing list of unlikely contaminants, taking its place among a growing list that includes melamine, mineral oil, Sudan red and others.
“I have seen bacterial contaminations that are more damaging to a company’s finances than if a fire burnt down the entire plant.”
— Nicky Alexandru, global head of Crisis Management at AIG
“An event such as the cumin contamination has a domino effect in the supply chain,” said Nicky Alexandru, global head of Crisis Management at AIG, which was the first company to provide contaminated product coverage almost 30 years ago. “With an ingredient like the cumin being used in hundreds of products, the third party damages add up quickly and may bankrupt the supplier. This leaves manufacturers with no ability to recoup their losses.”
“The result is that a single contaminated ingredient may cause damage on a global scale,” added Robert Nevin, vice president at Lexington Insurance Company, an AIG company.
Quality and food safety professionals are able to drive product safety in their own manufacturing operations utilizing processes like kill steps and foreign material detection. But such measures are ineffective against an unexpected contaminant. “Food and beverage manufacturers are constantly challenged to anticipate and foresee unlikely sources of potential contamination leading to product recall,” said Alexandru. “They understandably have more control over their own manufacturing environment but can’t always predict a distant supply chain failure.”
And while companies of various sizes are impacted by a contamination, small to medium size manufacturers are at particular risk. With less of a capital cushion, many of these companies could be forced out of business.
Historically, manufacturing executives were hindered in their risk mitigation efforts by a perceived inability to quantify the exposure. After all, one can’t manage what one can’t measure. But AIG has developed a new approach to calculate the monetary exposure for the individual analysis of the three major elements of a product contamination event: product recall and replacement, restoring a safe manufacturing environment and loss of market. With this more precise cost calculation in hand, risk managers and brokers can pursue more successful risk mitigation and management strategies.
Product Recall and Replacement
Whether the contamination is a microorganism or an allergen, the immediate steps are always the same. The affected products are identified, recalled and destroyed. New product has to be manufactured and shipped to fill the void created by the recall.
The recall and replacement element can be estimated using company data or models, such as NOVI. Most companies can estimate the maximum amount of product available in the stream of commerce at any point in time. NOVI, a free online tool provided by AIG, estimates the recall exposures associated with a contamination event.
Restore a Safe Manufacturing Environment
Once the recall is underway, concurrent resources are focused on removing the contamination from the manufacturing process, and restarting production.
“Unfortunately, this phase often results in shell-shocked managers,” said Nevin. “Most contingency planning focuses on the costs associated with the recall but fail to adequately plan for cleanup and downtime.”
“The losses associated with this phase can be similar to a fire or other property loss that causes the operation to shut down. The consequential financial loss is the same whether the plant is shut down due to a fire or a pathogen contamination.” added Alexandru. “And then you have to factor in the clean-up costs.”
Locating the source of pathogen contamination can make disinfecting a plant after a contamination event more difficult. A single microorganism living in a pipe or in a crevice can create an ongoing contamination.
“I have seen microbial contaminations that are more damaging to a company’s finances than if a fire burnt down the entire plant,” observed Alexandru.
Handling an allergen contamination can be more straightforward because it may be restricted to a single batch. That is, unless there is ingredient used across multiple batches and products that contains an unknown allergen, like peanut residual in cumin.
Supply chain investigation and testing associated with identifying a cross-contaminated ingredient is complicated, costly and time consuming. Again, the supplier can be rendered bankrupt leaving them unable to provide financial reimbursement to client manufacturers.
“Until companies recognize the true magnitude of the financial risk and account for each of three components of a contamination, they can’t effectively protect their balance sheet. Businesses can end up buying too little or no coverage at all, and before they know it, their business is gone.”
— Robert Nevin, vice president at Lexington Insurance, an AIG company
Loss of Market
While the manufacturer is focused on recall and cleanup, the world of commerce continues without them. Customers shift to new suppliers or brands, often resulting in permanent damage to the manufacturer’s market share.
For manufacturers providing private label products to large retailers or grocers, the loss of a single client can be catastrophic.
“Often the customer will deem continuing the relationship as too risky and will switch to another supplier, or redistribute the business to existing suppliers” said Alexandru. “The manufacturer simply cannot find a replacement client; after all, there are a limited number of national retailers.”
On the consumer front, buyers may decide to switch brands based on the negative publicity or simply shift allegiance to another product. Given the competitiveness of the food business, it’s very difficult and costly to get consumers to come back.
“It’s a sad fact that by the time a manufacturer completes a recall, cleans up the plant and gets the product back on the shelf, some people may be hesitant to buy it.” said Nevin.
A complicating factor not always planned for by small and mid-sized companies, is publicity.
The recent incident surrounding a serious ice cream contamination forced both regulatory agencies and the manufacturer to be aggressive in remedial actions. The details of this incident and other contamination events were swiftly and highly publicized. This can be as damaging as the contamination itself and may exacerbate any or all of the three elements discussed above.
Estimating the Financial Risk May Save Your Company
“In our experience, most companies retain product contamination losses within their own balance sheet.” Nevin said. “But in reality, they rarely do a thorough evaluation of the financial risk and sometimes the company simply cannot absorb the financial consequences of a contamination. Potential for loss is much greater when factoring in all three components of a contamination event.”
This brief video provides a concise overview of the three elements of the product contamination event and the NOVI tool and benefits:
“Until companies recognize the true magnitude of the financial risk and account for each of three components of a contamination, they can’t effectively protect their balance sheet,” he said. “Businesses can end up buying too little or no coverage at all, and before they know it, their business is gone.”
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Lexington Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.