8 Biggest Threats to Businesses

Cyber risk is a top concern, according to the 2016 Travelers Risk Survey, but it isn't companies' No. 1 concern.

Businesses and consumers agree that cyber risk is a top concern, says the 2016 Travelers Risk Index. According to Travelers Cos., 19% of businesses surveyed cited they “worry a great deal” about cyber, computer and technology risks and data breaches.

However, cyber risks aren’t business leaders’ number one threat. Other risks on businesses’ radars include medical cost inflation, increasing employee benefit costs and a changing workforce.

Travelers worked with Hart Research Associates to survey 1,202 business owners and decision-makers, including 493 small businesses (2 to 49 employees), 453 midsize businesses (50 to 999 employees) and 256 large businesses (1,000-plus employees).

Overall, businesses are less anxious about the changing risk environment. According the the survey, businesses who viewed the environment as “more risky” dropped from 44% in 2015 to 41% this year. Specifically, large businesses dropped from 52% to 44%, and midsize businesses went from 47% to 43%. Small business perception held steady at 36%.

Here are the top 8 concerns for businesses, according to the 2016 Travelers Risk Index:

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8. Financial issues

Thirteen percent of respondents said they worry a great deal about financial issues, including access to capital and cash flow risks. In total, 43% of respondents said they worry a great deal or some about financial issues. That number has declined from 49% in 2015.

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7. Laws and regulations

Of those surveyed, 17% said they worry a great deal about understanding and complying with U.S. laws and regulations, and in total 45% say they worry about it a great deal or some. Like most threats on this list, that number is down, from 51% in 2015.

Among the top compliance risks worrying business leaders are those associated with the continued rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The costs and expenses related to ACA compliance worry 42% of businesses, while generally complying with the ACA worries 37%.

Concern about compliance with OSHA requirements and proposed cyber security legislation ranks slightly lower (33% and 31%, respectively). Small businesses report less concern about each of these risks, compared with midsize and large businesses.

 

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6. Broad economic uncertainty

Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they worry a great deal or some about broad economic uncertainty. More specifically, 14% said they worry about it a great deal. This dropped slightly from 2015, when 51% of respondents said they worry about it a great deal or some.

 

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5. Attracting and retaining talent

Attracting and retaining talent is another big concern among businesses surveyed, with 15% saying they worry about it a great deal and half saying they worry about it a great deal or some.

According to the survey, the greatest concern is retaining the workers whose skills and experience businesses value (43% of all businesses worry about this). Attracting and hiring new qualified workers is a close second (39%), followed by concerns about the cost and time involved in training new workers (37%).

Business size is a factor in retention. Midsize and large businesses express the most concern, at 50% and 48%, respectively, and small businesses the least at 31%.

 

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4. Legal liability

Businesses’ concern about legal liability dropped from 2015 when 56% of respondents said they worry a great deal or some about the risk of being sued. In 2016, 51% of respondents said they worry a great deal or some about legal liability, and 15% said they worry about it a great deal.

Specifically, professional mistakes, including errors and omissions (39%), rank among the top legal liability risks for all businesses, followed closely by employee lawsuits alleging discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination and other employment-related claims (36%).

Other legal liability concerns include driving accidents caused by employees (30% of all companies worry about this), and faulty products or products that harm customers (24%). As is the case for many types of risks, says Travelers, midsize and large businesses are more likely than small businesses to worry about specific legal liability risks.

 

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3. Cyber, computer, technology risks/data breaches

Although overall concern about cyber risks declined from last year to third place across all businesses (58% in 2015 to 54% in 2016), cyber threats remain the primary concern for large businesses. Sixty-one percent of these business leaders list cyber issues as the primary risk they face. This is driven by increases in external data breaches or cyber attacks, reported by 23% of large firms.

At 39%, small businesses ranked cyber risk in fifth place among their worries. Midsize businesses listed it third, with 61% worrying some or a great deal about the threat. Among small businesses, 89% said they have not experienced a breach or attack; 80% of midsized businesses reported no breaches.

Businesses worry more about malicious or criminal cyber attacks (56%) than they do about human error (23%) or system malfunction (22%).

 

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2. Increasing employee benefit costs

Employee benefits are keeping businesses up at night. According to the survey, 21% of businesses worry a great deal about increasing employee benefit costs, and 56% worry about it a great deal or some. This number has not changed from 2015.

Forty-three percent of small businesses worry about rising benefit costs, compared with 49% of large businesses and 70% of midsize businesses. Despite such a large number of businesses being concerned about rising benefit costs, 21% said they feel unprepared to mitigate the risk.

 

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1. Medical cost inflation

A total of 59% of respondents said they worry a great deal or some about medical cost inflation, with 25% saying they worry about it a great deal. Medical cost inflation continues to be No. 1, falling only one percentage point from 60% in 2015.

However, results vary by business size, says Travelers. Only 50% of small businesses (2 to 49 employees) cite medical cost inflation as a major concern, compared with 52% of large businesses (1,000+ employees) and 70% of midsize businesses (50 to 999 employees).

Like increasing employee benefit costs, medical cost inflation is a risk many businesses do not feel prepared to deal with. According to the survey, while 59% worry a great deal about medical cost inflation, 31% feel unprepared to manage the risk.

 

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