Industry Pulse

Bombings, Shootings, Vehicular Homicide. Yet People Believe the World is Less Risky.

Travelers examined how executives perceive risk. Many think the world is getting less risky.
By: | December 14, 2017 • 4 min read

In the last year alone, violence broke out in hundreds of cities across the world, from Las Vegas to Myanmar, Sutherland Springs to Mogadishu. Hurricanes and wildfires tore through neighborhoods in August, September and October, leaving residential and corporate destruction in their wake.

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Yet survey results show that many American business owners and executives don’t believe that the world is getting more risky.

“We saw that both consumers and businesses are feeling more optimistic about their risk outlook,” said Pat Gee, a senior vice president with Travelers.

“This may mean that there is decreasing concern about economic uncertainty due to a gradually-improving economy over the past several years.”

Every year, Travelers surveys business owners and executives on their overall perception of risk in the world. This year, 37 percent of respondents said the world is getting riskier, down from last year’s 41 percent.

In 2014, when Travelers first began the annual survey, 48 percent believed the world was getting riskier.

But while perceptions of an increasingly risky world declined each year, business owners and execs still have concerns for the future.

Pat Gee, senior vice president, Travelers

Medical cost inflation tops that list, with 61 percent of respondents answering they worry some or a great deal that it affects their business.

This, said Gee, isn’t a surprising result; it is consistent with what business owners and executives have said since Travelers first conducted the survey.

Cyber threats followed next at 56 percent, then legal liability, retaining a talented workforce and complying with government laws.

When it comes to talent, business leaders in midsized and larger companies are most concerned with finding qualified workers and keeping them in a competitive labor market. The risk of having an aging workforce coupled with an influx of new and younger workers led many to cite this as the riskiest emerging trend, more likely to be a future business risk than an opportunity.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that the changing future workforce posed a great risk to their business in the next five years.

Others named emerging trends including e-business, social media and increased connectivity. Business owners believe increased use of digital platforms and the ability to connect with anyone at any time will contribute the most opportunity in the next five years.

But increased use of digital platforms opens businesses to cyber threats, too.

“Cyber risks continue to be a worry for businesses overall. Yet according to our Risk Index, only 22 percent of businesses have a cyber-breach response plan,” said Gee.

“Cyber criminals are getting smarter and more creative about how to steal information from companies,” he added.

“Business leaders need to consider not only what they can do to avoid these incidents, but also the available safety nets for the company should a cyber event occur.”

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that the changing future workforce posed a great risk to their business in the next five years.

The best practice, Gee added, would be to require regular password updates for employees. These passwords should be complex in nature.

“Employees with unsophisticated passwords leave their computers and accounts — and therefore, the company — vulnerable to attack.”

Other risks measured by Travelers include distracted driving, workplace harassment, emerging technologies, extreme weather and employee safety. The study also broke down business owners’ and executives’ perceived risks by industry, from health care to banking, real estate to manufacturing.

Cyber remained a reoccurring top risk in all industries.

Consumer Concerns

In addition to surveying executives, Travelers asked consumers about their perception of world risks.

Much like businesses, some consumers feel that the world is getting less risky. Fifty-two percent of consumer respondents said the world is getting riskier, compared to last year’s 56 percent.

But consumers, too, had their own list of concerns.

Finances ranked highest. Sixty-four percent of respondents said not having enough money to pay expenses, live without debt or be able to retire was their biggest concern.

Cyber threats, identity theft, personal safety concerns and travel risks also were among the top five named by consumers.

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Of note, the survey found a disparity in how millennials and non-millennials view the practice of distracted driving.

Forty percent of millennials worry about getting into an automobile accident due to their own cell phone distractions, while 27 percent of non-millennials worry about their own cell phone use while driving.

“No matter the perception, the epidemic of distracted driving affects us all,” said Gee.

“We’re encouraging all businesses to consider implementing a distracted driving policy, but especially businesses with employees that drive as part of their job duties.”

Travelers launched an educational initiative called “Every Second Matters” to combat distracted driving.

“To be effective, business leaders should make it clear to employees that safety comes first, and they should not make or answer any work-related communications while driving,”    added Gee.

The survey report, “2017 Travelers Risk Index,” is available to view online. The full report dives deeper into the concerns raised by both consumers and business executives.  &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.

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R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.

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R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]