Political Risk and Technology are Front of Mind for Global Business Executives

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Global executives expect economic and financial volatility will be higher in the next 12 months than it was in the past year, according to the 2017 Views from the C-Suite published by A.T. Kearney's Global Business Policy Council. More than 90% of the C-suite executives and board members surveyed are making or are considering making changes in their supply chains and international footprints due to the current political and economic environment. However, volatility brings both opportunities and challenges from a business perspective. See the full study at www.atkearney.com/VCS.

On the "challenges" side, a number of issues are of special concern to business leaders. Rising political risk is at the top of their list. A close second is worsening tax and regulatory policies--the second year in row that global executives have identified this as a top challenge. Relatedly, roughly three-quarters of executives believe that populist and protectionist policies will gain strength in democracies around the world over the next year. Executives believe that trade is the most likely feature of globalization under threat from rising populism and protectionism.

For the second consecutive year, the C-suite survey maintained a focus on the role of technology on both the "opportunities" and "challenges" sides. Executives emphasize the importance of technology in their biggest operational focus over the next 12 months. The principal operating risk they identify is cybersecurity, with 43% of executives pointing to this as their biggest concern; and 85% of global executives believe cyberattacks will become more frequent and costly over the next 12 months. And while 33% of those surveyed view technology adoption as a top challenge, 38% see it as a top opportunity. In addition, 78% of executives believe technological advancements will lead to increased global productivity growth in the coming year.

"The degree to which technology and political risk dominate this year's results is striking. Technology continues to represent both opportunity and challenge," says Erik Peterson, managing director of the Global Business Policy Council and co-author of the study. "At the same time, global executives are paying much more attention to government actions and identifying risks stemming from geopolitical tensions and domestic regulatory and tax policy changes."

Fully 69% of global C-suite executives reported that government policies have a greater influence on their companies' overall decision making. And almost all executives say they are placing greater importance on employing strategic foresight techniques to manage risk. Business leaders are thus "adapting to disruption" in the current global environment.

"These results suggest that the all-too-visible hand of political risk is increasingly driving economic outcomes and business decisions," says coauthor Paul Laudicina, Chairman of A.T. Kearney's Global Business Policy Council and Partner and Chairman Emeritus, A.T. Kearney. "I would advise business leaders worried about the future to take action to manage risk. The high level of uncertainty in the global operating environment means that increased agility and a heightened awareness of both risks and opportunities are keys to success."

The Global Business Policy Council offers concrete recommendations for businesses wondering how best to thrive in the current global operating environment:

    --  Improve cybersecurity defenses and protocols. While many aspects of
        technology adoption and disruption provide business opportunities and
        challenges, executives' most crucial priority over the next year should
        be improving cybersecurity. Recent cyber-attacks have demonstrated
        shifting and growing (both in scope and scale) threats. And as the
        C-suite is only too aware, such attacks are likely to increase in the
        next 12 months. Delaying investments to bolster cyber defenses could
        therefore prove to be very costly. Just as important--if not more so--is
        the imperative for executives to invest in cybersecurity training for
        all employees, and then to model good cyber behavior across the
        business, including in the C-suite.
    --  Actively monitor political risks. The global C-suite is clearly attuned
        to the heightened risk that geopolitics and domestic policy and
        regulatory developments pose to their businesses. But effectively
        managing these political risks requires more than just awareness.
        Executives should invest in active political risk monitoring and
        government relations capabilities in key markets, with the goal of
        avoiding potentially surprising policy developments and helping to shape
        business-friendly government policies.
    --  Use strategic foresight to stay ahead of the curve. Many of the global
        trends and developments identified in this year's survey had their
        antecedents a year or more ago. Those executives who were able to
        correctly spot these emerging trends before their peers are now far
        better positioned to succeed in the current global operating
        environment. Incorporating strategic foresight methodologies into a
        company's strategic planning process will enable executives to stake out
        differentiated, market-winning strategic positions.
    --  Assess globalization strategy. Global executives agree on the need to
        shift their globalization strategies in the current environment, but not
        on the way in which they should shift. The appropriate strategy will
        depend on how geopolitical tensions and anti-globalization trends affect
        each company's unique international footprint, supply chain, and
        business model. Executives will need to carefully consider their options
        in order to mitigate current and future risks in this new era of

About the Global Business Policy Council
The Global Business Policy Council is a specialized foresight and strategic analysis unit within A.T. Kearney. Since its first CEO Retreat in 1992, the Council has been a strategic service for the world's top executives, government officials, and business-minded thought leaders. Through exclusive global forums, public-facing thought leadership, and advisory services, the Council helps to decipher sweeping geopolitical, economic, social, and technological changes and their effects on the global business environment. The Council consistently ranks near the top of the University of Pennsylvania's list of best private sector think tanks, and currently holds the 4th spot globally.

To learn more about the Global Business Policy Council, please visit www.atkearney.com/gbpc.

To learn more about A.T. Kearney, please visit www.atkearney.com.

About Views from the C-Suite
The 2017 Views from the C-Suite study uses primary data from a proprietary survey administered to 400 senior executives of the world's leading corporations. The survey was conducted in April 2017. Respondents include C-level executives and board members. About 27 percent of respondents are CEOs and about 18 percent are board members; the remaining 55 percent are other C-level executives. All companies participating in the survey have annual revenues of $500 million or more.

The participating companies are headquartered in 23 different countries in all regions of the world. For the purposes of reporting survey results, respondents are aggregated into three regions: Americas, Asia (which also includes a few respondents from Africa), and Europe. About 40 percent of respondents are based in the Americas, and about 30 percent each are at corporations headquartered in Asia and in Europe.

Survey respondents also represent a wide array of sectors, which we have grouped into three mega-sectors: industry (primary goods, aerospace and defense, infrastructure and construction, telecommunications and utilities, heavy industry, and light industry), services (transportation, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, wholesale and retail, financial services, and nonfinancial services), and information technology (including hardware, software, and IT-related services). Executives at service-sector firms account for 47 percent of the survey respondents, 28 percent work at industry-sector firms, and 19 percent at IT firms.

For past editions of Views from the C-Suite, please go to: https://www.atkearney.com/VCS

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