RiskMap 2020 Special Edition: Top 5 Risks

Video update door Control Risks  [5:49]


The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting almost every measurable human activity. The way we work – whether we remain at home, have returned to offices and factories or have been there all along– feels dramatically different. The way we live – with our kitchens transformed into classrooms and offices – is filled with new rhythms and habits.

In addition to the countless lives lost or damaged, the fabric of business and society is being rewoven into a new pattern.

The disruption to our very sense of time is profound but little discussed – so much else is more urgent. For some, the pandemic brought time to a standstill. For others, the clocks went into overdrive. And for just about everyone, the question of what happened yesterday, last week or last month has become a distorted guessing game.

Time and risk are fellow travellers. Typically, they travel in the same direction. The distant, unknowable future usually holds the greatest risk; our comfort zone is the short term, where nothing hides out of sight.

The pandemic has stood that principle on its head. Now, the greatest risk resides in the short term, which remains full of unknowns. The “new normal” has become a cliché for the world we are feeling our way towards. It’s a phrase loaded – falsely, perhaps – with suggestions of a return to something familiar or at least predictable.

There is some comfort to be taken in this landscape of uncertainty. Broadly speaking, we do not believe the pandemic has created substantial new categories of risk. However, putting pressing public health concerns aside momentarily, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified and accelerated most of the risks and trends that pre-dated the disease.

Put another way, we are, for the time being, stuck with the same risks we’ve always had, but more so.

The same is true for Control Risks Top 5 Risks for 2020, as initially released in December 2019. Each of them remains acutely valid, and even more vivid. This is not hubris or “We told you so”. We certainly did not forecast the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, the only change to our Top 5 Risks for 2020 is the order in which we rank them, with the political and economic impacts of the pandemic pushing the risks previously ranked in fourth and fifth place to the fore.

  1. Leaders without strategies bungle the recovery. ...
  2. Economic paralysis meets political weakness. ...
  3. The drivers of activism are being supercharged. ...
  4. COVID-19 and the US campaign trail. ...
  5. Cybersecurity: the stakes have never been higher.
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