EIOPA: Peer review assessing how National Competent Authorities (NCAs) supervise and determine whether an insurer’s set­ting of key functions fulfils the legal requirements of Solvency II

The main task of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) is to

  • enhance supervisory convergence,
  • strengthen consumer protection
  • and preserve financial stability.

In the context of enhancing supervisory convergence and in accordance with its mandate, EIOPA regularly conducts peer reviews, working closely with national competent authorities (NCAs), with the aim of strengthening both the convergence of supervisory practices across Europe and the capacity of NCAs to conduct high-quality and effective supervision.

In line with its mandate, the outcome of peer reviews, including identified best practices, are to be made public with the agreement of the NCAs that have been subject to the review.

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES

Enhancing the governance system of insurers is one of the major goals of Solvency II (SII). The four key functions (risk management, actuarial, compliance and internal audit) as required under the SII regulation are an essential part of the system of governance. These key functions are expected to be operationally independent to ensure an effective and robust internal control environment within an insurer and support high quality of decision making by the management. At the same time it is also important that these governance requirements are not overly burdensome for small and medium-sized insurers. Therefore SII allows NCAs to apply the principle of proportionality in relation to compliance with key function holder requirements for those insurers.

Under SII, insurers may combine key functions in one holder. However, such combinations have to be justified by the principle of proportionality and insurers need to properly address the underlying conflicts of interest. Holding a key function should generally not be combined with administrative, management or supervisory body (AMSB) membership or with operational tasks because of their controlling objective. Thus, these combinations should rather occur in exceptional cases, taking into account a risk-based approach and the manner in which the insurer avoids and manages any potential conflict of interest.

This peer review assesses how NCAs supervise and determine whether an insurer’s setting of key functions fulfils the legal requirements of SII with a particular emphasis on proportionality. The peer review examines practices regarding:

  • combining key functions under one holder;
  • combining key functions with AMSB membership or with carrying out operational tasks;
  • subordination of one key function under another key function;
  • split of one key function among several holders;
  • assessment of the fitness of key function holders; and
  • outsourcing of key functions.

The period examined under the scope of this peer review was 2016 but also covered supervisory practices executed before 2016 in the preparatory stage of SII. The peer review was conducted among NCAs from the European Economic Area (EEA) on the basis of EIOPA’s Methodology for conducting Peer Reviews (Methodology).

Detailed information was gathered in the course of the review. All NCAs completed an initial questionnaire. This was followed by fieldwork comprising visits to 8 NCAs and 30 conference calls.

MAIN FINDINGS

The review showed that NCAs in general apply the principle of proportionality and that they have adopted similar approaches.

SUMMARY RESULTS OF THE COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS

  • Supervisory framework: Approximately half of NCAs use written supervisory guidance for the application of the principle of proportionality. Larger NCAs in particular use written supervisory guidance in order to ensure consistency of their supervisory practice among their supervisory staff.
  • Approach of NCAs: Most NCAs have a similar approach. NCAs assess the insurers’ choice of key function holders at the time of initial notification regarding the key function holder’s appointment. If any concerns are noted at this stage, for example regarding combinations or fitness, NCAs generally challenge and discuss these issues with the insurer, rather than issuing formal administrative decisions.
  • Combining key functions in one holder: This occurs in almost all countries. The most frequent combinations are between risk management and actuarial functions and between risk management and compliance functions. Combinations are most commonly used by smaller insurers but are also seen in large insurers. EIOPA has identified the need to draw the attention of NCAs to the need to challenge combinations more strongly, especially when they occur in bigger, more complex insurers, and to ensure that adequate mitigation measures are in place to warrant a robust system of governance.
  • Holding the internal audit function and other key functions: The combination of the internal audit function with other key functions occurs in 15 countries, although the frequency of such combinations is relatively low. Moreover, there were cases of the internal audit function holder also carrying out operational tasks which could lead to conflicts of interest and compromise the operational independence of the internal audit function. It is important to emphasise that the legal exemption of Article 271 of the Commission Delegated Regulation EU (2015/35) does not apply to the combination with operational tasks.
  • Combining a key function holder with AMSB membership: Most NCAs follow a similar and comprehensive approach regarding the combination of key function holder and AMSB member. In this regard, NCAs accept such cases only if deemed justified under the principle of proportionality. This peer review shows that two NCAs request or support combinations of AMSB member and the risk management function holder regardless of the principle of proportionality in order to strengthen the knowledge and expertise regarding risk management within the AMSB.
  • Combining key function holders (excluding internal audit function holder) with operational tasks: In nearly all countries combinations of risk management, actuarial and compliance key function holders with operational tasks occur, but such combinations generally occur rarely or occasionally. However, several NCAs do not have a full market overview of such combinations with operative tasks. Adequate mitigating measures are essential to reduce potential conflicts of interest when key function holders also carry out operational tasks. The most common combinations are the compliance function holder with legal director and the risk management function holder with finance director.
  • Splitting a key function between two holders: About half of the NCAs reported cases where more than one individual is responsible for a particular key function (‘split of key function holder’). The most common split concerns the actuarial function (split between life and non-life business). NCAs should monitor such splits in order to maintain appropriate responsibility and accountability among key function holders.
  • Subordination of a key function holder to another key function holder or head of operational department: This is observed in half of the countries reviewed. An organisational subordination can be accepted, but there needs to be a direct ‘unfiltered’ reporting line from the subordinated key function holder to the AMSB. In cases of subordination, conflicts of interest have to be mitigated and operational independence needs to be ensured including the mitigating measures concerning the remuneration of the subordinated key function holders.
  • Fitness of key function holders: Most NCAs assess the fitness of the key function holder at the time of initial notification and apply the principle of proportionality. Several NCAs did not systematically assess the key function holders appointed before 2016. These NCAs are advised to do so using a risk-based approach.
  • Outsourcing of key function holders: Most NCAs have observed outsourcing of key function holders. According to the proportionality principle, an AMSB member may also be a designated person responsible for overseeing and monitoring the outsourced key function. Eight NCAs make a distinction between intra-group and extra-group outsourcing and six NCAs do not require a designated person in all cases, which may give rise to operational risks.

BEST PRACTICES

Through this peer review, EIOPA identified four best practices.

  • When NCAs adopt a structured proportionate approach based on the nature, scale and complexity of the business of the insurer regarding their supervisory assessment of key function holders and combination of key function holders at the time of initial notification and on an ongoing basis. The best practice also includes supervisory documentation and consistent and uniform data submission requirements (for example an electronic data submission system for key function holder notification). This best practice has been identified in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
  • When an NCA has a supervisory panel set up internally which discusses and advises supervisors about complex issues regarding the application of the proportionality principle in governance requirements regarding key functions. This best practice has been identified in the Netherlands.
  • When assessing the combination of key function holder with AMSB member, EIOPA considers the following as best practice for NCAs:
    • To publicly disclose the NCA’s expectations that controlling key functions should generally not be combined with operational functions for example with the membership of the AMSB. Where those cases occur, NCAs should clearly communicate their expectation that the undertaking ensures that it is aware of possible conflicts of interest arising from such a combination and manages them effectively.
    • To require from insurers that main responsibilities as a member of the AMSB do not lead to a conflict of interest with the tasks as a key function holder.
    • To assess whether the other AMSB members challenge the key function holder also being an AMSB member.

This best practice has been identified in Lithuania.

  • When NCAs apply a risk-based approach for the ongoing supervision that gives the possibility to ensure the fulfilment of fitness requirements of KFHs at all times by holding meetings with key function holders on a regular scheduled basis as part of an NCA’swork plan (annual review plan). The topics for discussion for those meetings can vary, depending for example on actual events and current topics. This best practice has been identified in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

These best practices provide guidance for a more systematic approach regarding the application of the principle of proportionality as well as for ensuring consistent and effective supervisory practice within NCAs.

EIOPA NCA KFH

Click here to access EIOPA’s full report on its Peer Review

 

The Prudential Regulation Authority’s approach to insurance supervision

UK’s Insurance Supervisory Body PRA just published a very interesting paper describing it’s purpose and it’s working principles. Even if Bexit will exclude PRA from EIOPA associated supervisory bodies, this paper should be considered as being landmark as most of the EIOPA associated bodies didn’t go this way of transparency and methodology yet, despite EIOPA having set a framework at least for some of these issues, crucial for insurers to manage thair risk and capital requirements.

« We, the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), as part of the Bank of England (‘the Bank’), are the UK’s prudential regulator for deposit-takers, insurance companies, and designated investment firms.

This document sets out how we carry out our role in respect of insurers. It is designed to help regulated firms and the market understand how we supervise these institutions, and to aid accountability to the public and Parliament. The document acts as a standing reference that will be revised and reissued in response to significant legislative and other developments which result in changes to our approach.

This document serves three purposes.

  1. First, it aids accountability by describing what we seek to achieve and how we intend to achieve it.
  2. Second, it communicates to regulated insurers what we expect of them, and what they can expect from us in the course of supervision.
  3. Third, it is intended to meet the statutory requirement for us to issue guidance on how we intend to advance our objectives.

It sits alongside our requirements and expectations as published in the PRA Rulebook and our policy publications.

EU withdrawal

Our approach to advancing these objectives will remain the same as the UK withdraws from the EU. Our main focus is on trying to ensure that the transition to our new relationship with the EU is as smooth and orderly as possible in order to minimise risks to our objectives.

Our approach to advancing our objectives

To advance our objectives, our supervisory approach follows three key principles – it is:

  1. judgement-based;
  2. forward-looking; and
  3. focused on key risks.

Across all of these principles, we are committed to applying the principle of proportionality in our supervision of firms.

PRA1

Identifying risks to our objectives

The intensity of our supervisory activity varies across insurers. The level of supervision principally reflects our judgement of an insurer’s potential impact on policyholders and on the stability of the financial system, its proximity to failure (as encapsulated in the Proactive Intervention Framework (PIF), which is described later), its resolvability and our statutory obligations. Other factors that play a part include the type of business carried out by the insurer and the complexity of the insurer’s business and organisation.

Our risk framework

We take a structured approach when forming our judgements. To do this we use a risk assessment framework. The risk assessment framework for insurers is the same as for banks, but is used in a different way, reflecting our additional objective to contribute to securing appropriate policyholder protection, the different risks to which insurers are exposed, and the different way in which insurers fail.

Much of our proposed approach to the supervision of insurers is designed to deliver the supervisory activities which the UK is required to carry out under Solvency II.

The key features of Solvency II are:

  • market-consistent valuation of assets and liabilities;
  • high quality of capital;
  • a forward-looking and risk-based approach to setting capital requirements;
  • minimum governance and effective risk management requirements;
  • a rigorous approach to group supervision;
  • a Ladder of Intervention designed to ensure intervention by us in proportion to the risks that a firm’s financial soundness poses to its policyholders;
  • and strong market discipline through firm disclosures.

Some insurers fall outside the scope of the Solvency II Directive (known as non-Directive firms), mainly due to their size. These firms should make themselves familiar with the requirements for non-Directive firms.

PRA2

Supervisory activity

This section describes how, in practice, we supervise insurers, including information on our highest decision-making body and our approach to authorising new insurers. As part of this, it describes the Proactive Intervention Framework (PIF) and our high-level approach to using our legal powers. For UK insurers, our assessment covers all entities within the consolidated group.

PRA3

Proactive Intervention Framework (PIF)

Supervisors consider an insurer’s proximity to failure when drawing up a supervisory plan. Our judgement about proximity to failure is captured in an insurer’s position within the PIF.

Judgements about an insurer’s proximity to failure are derived from those elements of the supervisory assessment framework that reflect the risks faced by an insurer and its ability to manage them, namely, external context, business risk, management and governance, risk management and controls, capital, and liquidity. The PIF is not sensitive to an insurer’s potential impact or resolvability.

The PIF is designed to ensure that we put into effect our aim to identify and respond to emerging risks at an early stage. There are five PIF stages, each denoting a different proximity to failure, and every insurer sits in a particular stage at each point in time. When an insurer moves to a higher PIF stage (ie as we determine the insurer’s viability has deteriorated), supervisors will review their supervisory actions accordingly. Senior management of insurers will be expected to ensure that they take appropriate remedial action to reduce the likelihood of failure and the authorities will ensure appropriate preparedness for resolution. The intensity of supervisory resources will increase if we assess an insurer has moved closer to breaching Threshold Conditions, posing a risk of failure and harm to policyholders.

An insurer’s PIF stage is reviewed at least annually and in response to relevant, material developments. (…) »

Click here to access PRA’s detailed paper

How the Distinct Roles of Internal Audit and the Finance Function Drive Good Governance

How the Distinct Roles of Internal Audit and the Finance Function Drive Good Governance

Effective governance involves many individuals and departments throughout an organization, including the Board of Directors, executive management, finance, and internal audit, among others. Yet each of these groups has a different set of skills and responsibilities. To successfully identify and manage risk, they must come together to create and maintain a sound system of corporate governance.

The insights shared here by 11 governance experts offer important perspective as to how finance and internal audit collaborate to support corporate governance, despite their distinct and separate missions.

Interviewees provided perceptions and experiences and shared best practices, as well as challenges, that they have encountered on their quest to achieve effective governance. These contributors come from organizations around the world that differ in size, industry, and management configurations. Several experienced governance from within both the finance function and internal audit.

A few shared perceptions include:

  • The Board of Directors is responsible for setting the proper tone for the organization;
  • It is critical to purposefully develop a consistent culture throughout the organization, driven by the CEO and senior management; and
  • Communication and coordination across complementary functions is vital.

Keys To Achieving Good Governance

There are many different definitions of governance. According to The Institute of Internal Auditors (hereafter The IIA), governance is “the combination of processes and structures implemented by the board in order to inform, direct, manage and monitor the activities of the organization toward the achievement of its objectives.

The International Federation of Accountants (hereafter IFAC) uses a slightly different definition which focuses more on the creation of strategic objectives and stakeholder value, “Governance is to create and optimize sustainable organizational success and stakeholder value, balancing the interests of the various stakeholders. It comprises arrangements put in place to ensure that organizations define and achieve intended outcomes.

Both definitions suggest that good governance and the achievement of organizational success are not the responsibility of the Board alone, but rather the outcome of a mosaic of organizational policies, processes, and cross-functional interactions.

When asked to provide the key objectives of governance, interviewees shared a number of different perspectives. Most frequently, good governance was defined as representing the interests of stakeholders by setting appropriate objectives and driving a culture that supports them.

Three LoD

Click here to acces IFAC and IIA’s detailed article

Taking Digital Regulatory Reporting from Concept to Reality

In its Digital Regulatory Reporting (DRR) project, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), in conjunction with the Bank of England, has invited financial institutions to explore ways to work smarter on these activities by delegating much of the hard work to technology. Success in the endeavour, as the FCA put it, “opens up the possibility of a model driven and machine readable regulatory environment that could transform and fundamentally change how the financial services industry understands, interprets and then reports regulatory information.

Part of the project’s work program was a twoweek “TechSprint,” held in November 2017, that was intended to test the feasibility of fully automated regulatory reporting with straightthrough processing of regulatory submissions. Among the anticipated benefits, accruing to financial institutions and regulators alike, are

  • greater accuracy in data submissions
  • and reduced time, cost and overall effort in generating them.

The TechSprint demonstrated that DRR could be accomplished under such controlled testing conditions and provided a proof of concept. Since then the program has held an extended pilot, as well as industry-led roundtable discussions bringing industry experts together, to try to determine whether and how DRR could be scaled up and put into practice in the real world.

The chief aim of the roundtables is to go over issues – legal, technological and regulatory – that could facilitate or impede the introduction of DRR. Participants in the latest and final one, held in London in June and hosted by Wolters Kluwer, seemed intent on contemplating the limitations of the concept: attempting to identify what a system might be able to do by acknowledging what it most likely will not be able to do.

One thorny matter that was highlighted involves a potential conflict between DRR, which participants generally agreed would be most effective following hard and fast rules – ideally by using a standardized model encompassing many supervisory frameworks employed across multiple jurisdictions – and the principles-based supervisory architecture that has evolved since the global financial crisis. If a substantial portion of the reporting process is handed over to machines, will management judgment be forced to take a back seat in matters of risk management, compliance and overall governance? Put another way, how compatible would DRR be with postcrisis supervisory architecture if interpretation of regulations by bankers is deemed a feature of the latter and a bug of the former?

Diapositive1

Click here to access Wolters Kluwers detailed analysis

 

Cybersecurity Risk Management Oversight – A Tool for Board Members

Companies are facing not only increasing cyber threats but also new laws and regulations for managing and reporting on data security and cybersecurity risks.

Boards of directors face an enormous challenge: to oversee how their companies manage cybersecurity risk. As boards tackle this oversight challenge, they have a valuable resource in Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and in the public company auditing profession.

CPAs bring to bear core values—including independence, objectivity, and skepticism—as well as deep expertise in providing independent assurance services in both the financial statement audit and a variety of other subject matters. CPA firms have played a role in assisting companies with information security for decades. In fact, four of the leading 13 information security and cybersecurity consultants are public accounting firms.

This tool provides questions board members charged with cybersecurity risk oversight can use as they engage in discussions about cybersecurity risks and disclosures with management and CPA firms.

The questions are grouped under four key areas:

  1. Understanding how the financial statement auditor considers cybersecurity risk
  2. Understanding the role of management and responsibilities of the financial statement auditor related to cybersecurity disclosures
  3. Understanding management’s approach to cybersecurity risk management
  4. Understanding how CPA firms can assist boards of directors in their oversight of cybersecurity risk management

This publication is not meant to provide an all-inclusive list of questions or to be seen as a checklist; rather, it provides examples of the types of questions board members may ask of management and the financial statement auditor. The dialogue that these questions spark can help clarify the financial statement auditor’s responsibility for cybersecurity risk considerations in the context of the financial statement audit and, if applicable, the audit of internal control over financial reporting (ICFR). This dialogue can be a way to help board members develop their understanding of how the company is managing its cybersecurity risks.

Additionally, this tool may help board members with cybersecurity risk oversight learn more about other incremental offerings from CPA firms. One example is the cybersecurity risk management reporting framework developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The framework enables CPAs to examine and report on management-prepared cybersecurity information, thereby boosting the confidence that stakeholders place on a company’s initiatives.

With this voluntary, market-driven framework, companies can also communicate pertinent information regarding their cybersecurity risk management efforts and educate stakeholders about the systems, processes, and controls that are in place to detect, prevent, and respond to breaches.

AICPA

Click here to access CAQ’s detailed White Paper and Questionnaires

Mastering Risk with “Data-Driven GRC”

Where are organizations heading ?

“Data Driven GRC” represents a consolidation of methodologies, both functional and technological, that dramatically enhance the opportunity to address emerging risk landscapes and, in turn, maximizing the reliability of organizational performance. This paper examines the key opportunities to leverage change—both from a risk and an organizational performance management perspective—to build integrated, data-driven GRC processes that optimize the value of audit and risk management activities, as well as the investments in supporting tools and techniques.

Functional Stakeholders of GRC Processes and Technology

The Institute of Internal Auditors’ (IIA) “Three Lines of Defense in Effective Risk Management and Control” model specifically addresses the “who and what” of risk management and control. It distinguishes and describes three role- and responsibility-driven functions :

  • Those that own and manage risks (management – the “first line”)
  • Those that oversee risks (risk, compliance, financial controls, IT – the “second line”)
  • Those functions that provide independent assurance over risks (internal audit – the “third line”)

The overarching context of these three lines acknowledges the broader role of organizational governance and governing bodies.

Technology Deficiencies in the Three Lines of Defense

Since the emergence of Sarbanes-Oxley, the use of technology in risk and control related processes has truly started to take meaningful shape in many organizations. However, when looking across the risk and control oriented functions in most organizations, technology is still typically used on a departmental or point solution basis.

Third Line (internal audit) use of risk & control technology

For the past decade, surveys of internal auditors have consistently identified the more effective use of technology as among the most pressing issues facing the profession. Specifically, the responses to the surveys also referred to the need for increased use of technology for audit analysis, fraud detection, and continuous auditing. Other surveys also highlight a shortage of sufficient technology and data analysis skills within audit departments.

Much of the driving force for improving the use of technology is based on the desire to make the audit process itself more efficient and more effective, as well as to deliver more tangible value to the rest of the organization.

During the past decade, the role of the internal audit function itself has changed considerably. Internal audit’s traditional focus on cyclical audits and testing internal controls is evolving into one in which internal audit is expected to assess and report on the effectiveness of management’s processes to address risk overall. This often includes providing guidance and consultation to the business on best practices for managing risk and compliance within business process areas and maintaining effective control systems. The use of technology is an increasingly critical component of these best practices and in some cases internal audit is able to champion the implementation of high-impact, high-value technology within the business’s risk management and compliance processes, based on their own experience in using technology for assurance purposes.

There is considerable variation in the extent to which internal audit departments leverage technology. However it is certainly fair to say that for audit to be truly valuable and relevant within the context of organizational strategy, a significant improvement is required across the board. Internal audit as a profession simply is not moving forward at the pace of technology.

Some specific statistics from recent research reveals:

  • Only approximately 40% of internal audit departments use audit and documentation management systems from specialized vendors. The remainder use disorganized tools and processes, typically based on Microsoft Office® & shared folders.
  • Audit programs for specific business process areas and industries are usually developed through a combination of previously used programs and those shared on various audit-related websites. This approach does not address organization-specific risk.
  • Next generation testing techniques, especially data analytics, are overwhelmingly underutilized.

Second Line (risk, compliance, financial controls, IT) use of risk & control technology

Outside of audit, in other areas of risk and compliance, some organizations have acquired specialized departmental software, but the majority use only basic Office tools to maintain inventories of risks, document controls and perform risk assessments. In larger enterprises, it is not unusual to have a variety of different technologies and approaches applied in different operational entities or in different functional areas. This approach is usually more costly and less effective than one based on a common platform. Effective testing methods using technology are usually unavailable or left unconsidered.

In fact, second line of defense functions often rely heavily on inquiry-based methods such as surveying, which are proven ineffective at identifying the actual manifestations of risk in the organization. If analytical software is used in the business for investigations or monitoring transactions, it in many cases involves standard query tools or some form of generic business intelligence (BI) technology. Although good for providing summary level information or high-level trends, BI tools struggle to show the root cause of problems. And while they may have certain capabilities to prevent fraud and errors from occurring, or to flag exceptions, they are not sufficient to effectively trap the typical problem transactions that occur.

First Line (management) use of risk & control technology

While in some cases, first line management have access to better technology for use on specific pain point areas (e.g., continuous transaction monitoring technology used within finance departments), there is a common tendency for management to place far too much reliance on core business systems for effective control. While the large ERP and other system vendors seem to have extensive capabilities for preventing control deficiencies, the reality is that these are extremely extensive and complex systems and internal controls are usually the afterthought of those implementing them, not a core focus. For example, in many cases certain control settings are turned off to enable the ERP system to run more efficiently.

An integrated and collaborative approach to managing risks and monitoring controls in collaboration with the second and third lines of defense, using a common, independent methodology and technology platform, typically proves the most effective in accomplishing management’s key risk mitigation strategies.

DD GRC

 

Click here to access ACL’s White Paper

The Global Risks Report 2018

Last year’s Global Risks Report was published at a time of heightened global uncertainty and strengthening popular discontent with the existing political and economic order. The report called for “fundamental reforms to market capitalism” and a rebuilding of solidarity within and between countries.

One year on, a global economic recovery is under way, offering new opportunities for progress that should not be squandered: the urgency of facing up to systemic challenges has, if anything, intensified amid proliferating indications of uncertainty, instability and fragility. Humanity has become remarkably adept at understanding how to mitigate conventional risks that can be relatively easily isolated and managed with standard riskmanagement approaches. But we are much less competent when it comes to dealing with complex risks in the interconnected systems that underpin our world, such as organizations, economies, societies and the environment. There are signs of strain in many of these systems: our accelerating pace of change is testing the absorptive capacities of institutions, communities and individuals. When risk cascades through a complex system, the danger is not of incremental damage but of “runaway collapse” or an abrupt transition to a new, suboptimal status quo.

In our annual Global Risks Perception Survey, environmental risks have grown in prominence in recent years. This trend has continued this year, with all five risks in the environmental category being ranked higher than average for both likelihood and impact over a 10-year horizon. This follows a year characterized by high-impact hurricanes, extreme temperatures and the first rise in CO2 emissions for four years. We have been pushing our planet to the brink and the damage is becoming increasingly clear. Biodiversity is being lost at mass-extinction rates, agricultural systems are under strain and pollution of the air and sea has become an increasingly pressing threat to human health. A trend towards nation-state unilateralism may make it more difficult to sustain the long-term, multilateral responses that are required to counter global warming and the degradation of the global environment.

Cybersecurity risks are also growing, both in their prevalence and in their disruptive potential. Attacks against businesses have almost doubled in five years, and incidents that would once have been considered extraordinary are becoming more and more commonplace. The financial impact of cybersecurity breaches is rising, and some of the largest costs in 2017 related to ransomware attacks, which accounted for 64% of all malicious emails. Notable examples included the WannaCry attack—which affected 300,000 computers across 150 countries—and NotPetya, which caused quarterly losses of US$300 million for a number of affected businesses. Another growing trend is the use of cyberattacks to target critical infrastructure and strategic industrial sectors, raising fears that, in a worst-case scenario, attackers could trigger a breakdown in the systems that keep societies functioning.

Headline economic indicators suggest the world is finally getting back on track after the global crisis that erupted 10 years ago, but this upbeat picture masks continuing underlying concerns. The global economy faces a mix of long-standing vulnerabilities and newer threats that have emerged or evolved in the years since the crisis. The familiar risks include potentially unsustainable asset prices, with the world now eight years into a bull run; elevated indebtedness, particularly in China; and continuing strains in the global financial system. Among the newer challenges are limited policy firepower in the event of a new crisis; disruptions caused by intensifying patterns of automation and digitalization; and a build-up of mercantilist and protectionist pressures against a backdrop of rising nationalist and populist politics.

The world has moved into a new and unsettling geopolitical phase. Multilateral rules-based approaches have been fraying. Re-establishing the state as the primary locus of power and legitimacy has become an increasingly attractive strategy for many countries, but one that leaves many smaller states squeezed as the geopolitical sands shift. There is currently no sign that norms and institutions exist towards which the world’s major powers might converge. This creates new risks and uncertainties: rising military tensions, economic and commercial disruptions, and destabilizing feedback loops between changing global conditions and countries’ domestic political conditions. International relations now play out in increasingly diverse ways. Beyond conventional military buildups, these include new cyber sources of hard and soft power, reconfigured trade and investment links, proxy conflicts, changing alliance dynamics, and potential flashpoints related to the global commons. Assessing and mitigating risks across all these theatres of potential conflict will require careful horizon scanning and crisis anticipation by both state and nonstate actors.

This year’s Global Risks Report introduces three new series:

  1. Future Shocks,
  2. Hindsight,
  3. Risk Reassessment.

Our aim is to broaden the report’s analytical reach: each of these elements provides a new lens through which to view the increasingly complex world of global risks.

Future Shocks is a warning against complacency and a reminder that risks can crystallize with disorientating speed. In a world of complex and interconnected systems, feedback loops, threshold effects and cascading disruptions can lead to sudden and dramatic breakdowns. We present 10 such potential breakdowns—from democratic collapses to spiralling cyber conflicts—not as predictions, but as food for thought: what are the shocks that could fundamentally upend your world?

In Hindsight we look back at risks we have analysed in previous editions of the Global Risks Report, tracing the evolution of the risks themselves and the global responses to them. Revisiting our past reports in this way allows us to gauge risk-mitigation efforts and highlight lingering risks that might warrant increased attention. This year we focus on antimicrobial resistance, youth unemployment, and “digital wildfires”, which is how we referred in 2013 to phenomena that bear a close resemblance to what is now known as “fake news”.

In Risk Reassessment, selected risk experts share their insights about the implications for decisionmakers in businesses, governments and civil society of developments in our understanding of risk. In this year’s report, Roland Kupers writes about fostering resilience in complex systems, while Michele Wucker calls for organizations to pay more attention to cognitive bias in their risk management processes.

GRR2018 1

GRR2018 2

Click here to access WEF – Marsh’s detailed Global Risk Report 2018