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A view from EU - Directors and Officers Liability Survey 2023

By Louise Dennerståhl | June 22, 2023

A European overview of the Directors’ and Officers’ annual survey results 2023. Is climate a top risk for EU?
Financial, Executive and Professional Risks (FINEX)
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Every year WTW undertakes a global survey finding out what the top risks for directors and officers are.

The survey is answered by many companies across the world which makes the survey truly unique and a fountain of knowledge for directors and officers in their company leading roles.

The survey showcases the results both on a global as well as a regional level and, in some cases, also on a country level (depending on the number of responses in the country). In terms of overall responses, Europe (excluding GB) stood for 37% of the answers in the survey, which makes Europe the region with the highest number of answers compared with GB (24%) and North America (9%).

A view from the EU

From a European perspective, it gives European directors the chance to see and understand what is at the top of the minds of their counterparts in Europe while at the same time allowing them to see what other regions are concerned about when it comes to risks for directors.

The top three business operation risks globally for directors are economic risks (63%) closely followed by cyber risks (62 %) and regulatory/legislative change (61%). The next cluster of risks consist of geo-political risks (46%), risks arising from COVID-19 and lockdown measures (42%), which is a tie with risks from technological advances (42%).

Top three business operation risks

63% Economic risks

62% Cyber risks

61% Regulatory/legislative change

Surprisingly, climate risks comes in seventh (39%) followed by diversity, equity, and inclusion (31%).

The concern over economic risks remains the top concern although the percentage of those concerned has decreased from 2022 (71%).

Regulatory/legislative change is new in number three, which is not surprising given the increased focus on ESG and other regulatory demands.

Business operation risks globally

Looking at the business operation risks that directors worry about globally, there are interesting comparisons to draw between the regions. In Europe 70% of the European directors are most concerned about economic risks, compared to 43% in Great Britain, 55% in North America and only 35% in Australasia. The second biggest risk the European directors worry about is regulatory/legislative risk, at 69%, followed by cyber risks (64%). The next cluster consists of geo-political risks which is a concern to 47%, followed by risks arising from COVID-19 and lockdown measures (42%) and technological advances (e.g. AI) and climate risks (both at 40%).

It is surprising to note that concern over climate risks is down significantly in Europe from 52% to 40%. Less surprising is that Brexit lands at 6%, indicating that this is not a concern for European directors.

For the first time, the survey also broke down economic risk into three perils- inflation, recession and job market - with the European directors citing inflation as the biggest economic risk (70%), closely followed by recession (69%) and the job market losses (59%).

Louise Dennerståhl, Head of FINEX (Financial & Executive Risks) Europe (ex GB) at WTW, said:

“The trends we are seeing in Europe are consistent with global trends where economic uncertainty and cyber issues continue to be key concerns for Directors. With a strong focus in Europe, particularly in EU, on regulatory legislative changes, it is not surprising that the regulatory risk is among the top risks in Europe. The European regulator is implementing a new sustainability directive with strong emphasis on ESG including, but not only, focused on climate risks. The regulators are also focusing on improving customer protection and hindering market abuse.

As Directors are operating in uncertain times, this survey provides valuable insights into the risks that company leaders must manage. The survey shows variation between geographical areas and it also shows the differences at how risks are rated at companies of various size. Regardless of that, it is important for directors, whether they work at large or small companies, to be mindful of the risk environment they are operating in.”

Author

Head of FINEX Europe (excluding GB)

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