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Corporate Risk Hotspots In 2013

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By Bill Trueman CEO of risk prevention consultancy Riskskill, a division of UKFraud.

As a corporate risk prevention consultancy, we decided to open the New Year with a list of what we believe are the 8 biggest corporate risk hotpots faced by management in 2013. These are:corporate-risk-hotspots

1. Fraud. With fraud set to reach increasingly higher levels in tighter economic conditions, businesses face a battle with those who are determined to defraud them. In 2013, supply chain fraud will be a major growth area, as squeezed suppliers face temptation to cheat, often using IT systems to cover their tracks. This type of fraud can range from simple ‘weights and measures’ issues through to credit based fraud and professionally planned attacks. As a result, procurement fraud will reach record levels this year, where company purchasers, face a range of temptations, including bribes from suppliers. Generally, internal fraud is running at its highest level, with the UK government’s National Fraud Authority (NFA) likely to report continued growth in its annual survey of fraud. For the last 3 years it has reported estimated fraud losses that are roughly doubling each year.

2. Cyber Crime Attacks. Such intrusions will remain a concern in 2013. Daily automated attacks on bank and retailer systems runs into the millions. Businesses are especially exposed where they trade on-line, as the customers are faceless and there is comparatively little time to check the efficacy of the client’s details, and great opportunities for cheats. Controls over ‘apps’, such as payments through mobile and NFC (Near Field Communication) devices are also on-going risks that are growing as these technologies evolve. Technically skilled fraudsters and self-styled cyber-warriors’ love such conditions and it is a constant race for ‘switched on’ payment processors to find the ‘security holes’ before such people actually cause havoc.

High quality and large amounts of customer data reaches criminal hands every time that we see a high-profile data-security breach, and it gets harder for us all to tell the good guys from the bad guys. 2013 will therefore see an increasingly greater emphasis placed upon PCI DSS and other data-security and integrity issues. There will also be continuing government interest in talking about this subject with fears of major attacks on the country’s infrastructure.

3. Social and Other Media Related Risks. The huge rise in different types of mobile device platforms along with the corresponding growth of social media now poses a huge reputational challenge for businesses. Within minutes, organisations can be the victim of blistering customer backlashes which might or might not be justified. Many corporations are making a start by attempting to formally control how their own employees release company or workplace information through social media. The number of reported dismissals and legal cases for irresponsibly through social media is soaring, and beyond this there are increasing risks in ‘getting it wrong’ with ‘social-communications’. 2013 will see a significant rise in the ownership of social media policy by corporate communications management, and many more high profile ‘media’ cases.

4. Silo Mentality. Borne out of the desire to conduct business correctly, increasingly complicated silo structures have grown up in the business world, with the corporate tsars of compliance ‘vying for power’ with those running policy, risk and traditional management functions such as IT and finance. It is possible that key decisions on fraud policy, for example, will fall between these silos, that finds managers that are only partially responsible for an issue, and a whole gaggle of people who all feel that something is ‘their bag’. An without cross-function internal teams working closely with non-execs to allocate and refine wisdom, roles and responsibilities there is often ‘trouble in store’.

5. Big Data-Compromise Risks. As a result of corporate compliance and customer contact drives, organisations now hold increasingly huge volumes of data such as customer files. This development does pose its own data breach risks, as more criminals seek to steal data to use it for financial gain whether through buying goods on someone else’s account, taking over bank or card details, or simply selling lists to mail/market to. However, the evolution of the ‘big data’ culture will also deliver huge benefits in 2013. Recent improvements in business intelligence and data analytics technology have delivered significant benefits for those working to manage big data projects along with those focussed on the risk and compliance issues raised.
Companies can now monitor hundreds of millions of transactions continuously for patterns of potential fraud, cyber-attacks or money laundering. Often this is happening at speeds many times faster than even a year ago. It also allows marketing professionals to make more incisive assessments of customer behaviour and therein to tailor and fine tune campaigns accordingly.Bill-Trueman

6. Credit Risk Losses v Profitable Lending. Banks and other organisations, such as retailers, are under pressure from shareholders, the media and wider stakeholders to avoid bad-debts on one hand, whilst increasing profitable business lending on the other.
There is a potential risk of a lose, lose situation developing where once again such pressure leads to bad financial products and the risks of mis-selling and bad debts from over-stretched customers.
To take retail as an example, store-finance schemes and other ‘loyalty’ lending products face mounting credit exposures and losses through debt defaults, and write-offs.

7. Legal Claims. Whenever there is a downturn in the economy, people seek-out legal redress from anywhere that they can find it. The insurance industry and local authorities are tired of the ‘slips and trips’ type scenarios and is fighting the continual rise in these cases. However, many other organisations seriously underestimate how big the potential legal risks can be. They are likely to face even greater pressure on this front though in 2013, as the TV ad style accident and PPI lawyers start to look for the next big thing.

8. Environmental, CSR and Sustainability Risks
Often the investment in ‘environmentally friendly’ and wider ‘social responsibility’ issues and other ‘sustainability initiatives’ will be finely calculated parts of a wider ‘corporate score-card’. In more difficult economic times, these broader social and ‘green’ initiatives can suffer; the financial commitment made in the good times can also damage the longer-term investment, security and stability of businesses when things are tighter. So there is a longer term balancing of the risks required – i.e. the corporate social responsibility commitments flagged on the company’s website need to be measured against the real-life, long-term trading conditions. As reputation ‘can be all’, corporates need to make sure that long-term CSR commitments aren’t ultimately suspended or frozen with the risk of damaging their hard won reputations.

From our research and experience of many businesses, Riskskill can see that most organisations are needlessly at risk in a number of areas. Often the potential and consequential losses will be a major threat to businesses performance. To put them right and protect our businesses, we need to make sure that our processes, procedures and systems are clear, tight, ordered and well managed. Whilst the risks can usually be identified quickly and effective plans drawn up, it usually takes a little help and some wider corporate consensus to get things done. External risk management specialists, free of internal politics and silo rivalries, can help organisations appreciate quickly the level of risk they are running and plan accordingly. Strong internal risk management teams can also help combat the risks. However, the first step necessary for many corporations in 2013 is to recognise the risks they run and the need for change itself. Until they do, our role, as Riskskill, is to help people by continuing to highlight the risks most likely to be faced.

 

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19 1

Organizations in the Middle East have had to take immediate actions in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as shifting to remote and virtual work, implementing new ways of working and redirecting the workforce on critical activities. According to Deloitte’s 10th annual 2020 Middle East Human Capital Trends report, “The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” organizations now need to think about how to sustain these actions by embedding them into their organizational culture.

“COVID-19 has created a clarifying moment for work and the workforce. Organizations that expand their focus on worker well-being, from programs adjacent to work to designing well-being into the work itself, will help their workers not only feel their best but perform at their best. Doing so will strengthen the tie between well-being and organizational outcomes, drive meaningful work, and foster a greater sense of belonging overall,” said Ghassan Turqieh, Consulting Partner, Human Capital, Deloitte Middle East.

According to the Deloitte report, many organizations in the Middle East made quick arrangements to engage with employees in the wake of the pandemic through frequent communications, multiple webinars where senior leaders addressed employee concerns, virtual employee events, manager check-ins, periodic calls and other targeted interactions with the workforce.

The report also discussed how UAE and KSA governments have reexamined work policies and practices, amended regulations and introduced COVID-19 initiatives to support companies and the workforce in the public and private sectors. Flexible and remote working, team-building and engagement activities, well-ness programs, recognition awards and modern workspaces are among the many things that are now adding to the employee experience.

Key findings from the Deloitte global report include:

  • Only 17% of respondents are making significant investments in reskilling to support their AI strategy with only 12% using AI primarily to replace workers;
  • 27% of respondents have clear policies and practices to manage the ethical challenges resulting from the future of work despite 85% of respondents saying the future of work raises ethical challenges;
  • Three-quarters of leaders are expecting to source new skills and capabilities through reskilling, but only 45% are rewarding workers for the development of new skills; and
  • Only 45% of respondents are prepared or very prepared to take advantage of the alternative workforce to access key capabilities despite gig workers being likely to comprise 43% of the U.S. workforce this year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Worker well-being is a top priority today, and similarly to the rest of the world, companies in the Middle East are focusing their efforts to redesign work around well-being by understanding workforce well-being needs,” said Rania Abu Shukur, Director, Human Capital, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East.

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One in five insurance customers saw an improvement in customer service over lockdown, research shows

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SAS research reveals that insurers improved their customer experience during lockdown

One in five insurance customers noted an improvement in their customer experience over lockdown, according to research conducted by SAS, the leader in analytics. This far outweighed the 11% of customers who felt it had deteriorated over the same period.

This is positive news for insurers during such challenging times, with 59% of customers also saying that they would pay more to buy or use products and services from any company that provided them with a good customer experience over lockdown.

The improvement in customer experience also coincides with a rise in the number of digital customers. Since the pandemic started, the number of insurance customers using a digital service or app has grown by 10%. Three-fifths (60%) of new users plan to continue using these digital services moving forward.

However, while the number of digital users grew over lockdown, half of the insurance customer base has not yet chosen to move to digital insurance apps or services.

Paul Ridge, Head of Insurance at SAS UK & Ireland, said:

“It’s impressive that there was a net improvement in customer experience during lockdown, despite the challenges the industry was facing with a transition to remote working and increased claims for things like cancelled holidays. While many were forced to wait on customer help lines for long periods, part of the improvement may be explained by even a small (10%) increase in the number of digital users.

“However, it’s clear that a huge number of customers are still yet to make the move online. It’s vital that insurers provide the most accurate, timely and relevant offerings to customers, and this is best achieved by having additional insight into online customer journeys so they can understand them better. Using analytics and AI, insurers can seize this opportunity to digitalise their customer experience and offer a more personalised approach.”

Meanwhile, for insurers that fail to offer a consistently satisfactory customer experience, the price could be severe. A third (33%) of customers claimed that they would ditch a company after just one poor experience. This number jumps to 90% for between one and five poor examples of customer service.

For more insight into how other industries across EMEA performed during lockdown, download the full report: Experience 2030: Has COVID-19 created a new kind of customer? 

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The power of superstar firms amid the pandemic: should regulators intervene?

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The power of superstar firms amid the pandemic: should regulators intervene? 3

By Professor Anton Korinek, Darden School of Business and Research Associate at the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute. Gosia Glinska, associate director of research impact, Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Darden School of Business

Recent news that Apple hit a market cap of USD2 trillion highlights an extraordinary success story: A once struggling computer-maker on the verge of bankruptcy innovates its way to becoming the most valuable publicly traded company in the United States.

Apple’s 13-figure valuation is indicative of a larger trend that is not entirely benign — the rise of a handful of superstar firms that dominate the economy. Over the past three decades, advances in information technology, mainly the Internet, have supercharged the superstar phenomenon, allowing a small number of entrepreneurs and firms to serve a large market and reap outsize rewards. And COVID-19 has greatly accelerated the phenomenon by pushing us all into a more virtual world.

Apple — along with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Netflix — is a case in point. The combined market value of those six companies exceeds USD7 trillion, which accounts for more than a quarter of the entire S&P 500 index. Even amid the pandemic’s economic wreckage, these megacompanies continue to prosper. The combined share price for Apple and its five peers was up more than 43 percent this year, while the rest of the companies in the S&P 500 collectively lost about 4 percent.[1]

Superstar firms can be found in almost every sector of the economy, including tech, management, finance, sports and the music industry. They command increasing market power, which has consequences for technological, social and economic progress. It is, therefore, critical to understand how their advantages arose in the first place.

THE FORCES BEHIND THE SUPERSTAR PHENOMENON

The “economics of superstars” was first studied by the late University of Chicago economist Sherwin Rosen. Forty years ago, Rosen argued that certain new technologies would significantly enhance the productivity of talented workers, enabling superstars in any industry to greatly expand the scope of their market, while reducing market opportunities for everyone else.[2] Digital innovations, including advances in the collection, processing and transmission of information, is what Rosen envisioned would lead to the superstar phenomenon.

Digital technologies are information goods, which are different from the traditional, physical goods in the economy. What it means is that fundamentally different economic considerations apply. Unlike physical goods — a loaf of bread or a car — information goods have two key properties: They are non-rival and excludable. Non-rival means that something can be used without being used up. Excludability means that an owner of digital innovation can prevent others from using it, by protecting it with patents, for example. These two fundamental properties of information goods are what give rise to the superstar phenomenon.

In a working paper I co-authored with Professor Ding Xuan Ng at Johns Hopkins University[3], we described superstars as arising from digital innovations that require upfront fixed costs that allow firms to reduce the marginal costs of serving additional customers.[4] For example, once an online travel agency has programmed its website at a fixed cost, it can easily displace thousands of traditional travel agents without much additional effort, scaling at near-zero cost.

Because a firm can exclude others from using its digital innovation, it automatically gains market power. The innovator then uses that power to charge a mark-up and earn a monopoly rent — basically, a price superstars charge in excess of what it costs them to provide the good — which we call the ‘superstar profit share’.

THE POLICYMAKER’S DILEMMA

In a vibrant free market economy, businesses compete for customers by innovating and improving their offerings while keeping prices low; otherwise, they are displaced by more innovative rivals entering the market. Unfortunately, the increasing monopolization of the economy by technology superstars is weakening the competitive environment around the world.

Monopoly power is the main inefficiency from the emergence of superstar firms, because superstars can exclude others from using the innovation that they have developed.

So, what policy measures can be employed to mitigate the inefficiencies arising from the superstar phenomenon?

We do have antitrust policies designed to promote competition and hence economic efficiency. Authorities could take a drastic measure and break up monopolies. Or they could tax all those excess profits megacompanies make.

Another policy to consider involves giving consumers control rights over their data. Right now, only companies have that data, and they are selling it. If you free it up and don’t allow them to sell it anymore, it reduces their monopoly profits. And if you give consumers more freedom over their data, they could, for example, share it with the latest start-up and create a more competitive landscape.

However, such policy remedies can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they reduce monopoly rents. On the other hand, they can also reduce innovation.

Innovation requires investments in R&D, which represent a significant sunk cost that only large firms can afford. Government regulations can easily backfire, discouraging large firms from making long-term R&D investments.

What, then, is the best policy intervention? Professor Ding Xuan Ng and I believe that basic research should be public. Digital innovations should be financed by public investments and should be provided as free public goods to all. This would make the superstar phenomenon disappear, and the effects of digital innovation would simply show up as productivity increases.[5]

We live in a brave new world that is increasingly based on information. Because the information economy is different from the traditional economy, antitrust policy should be revamped to reflect that. Instead of worrying about the economy being eaten up by these gigantic monopolies, policymakers need to focus on the question ‘What specific actions can we pursue to make the economy more competitive and efficient?’

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