Financial executives rank enterprise risk management (ERM) as their biggest challenge over the next 12 months, according to a report by accounting firm Crowe Chizek and Co. More than 65% of the CFOs and 70% of the audit committee members surveyed cited ERM as their No. 1 concern, overshadowing worries about improving financial reporting and internal controls.

"Executives are realizing that ERM is an important component of governance practices and is a huge challenge for those charged with managing a company's financial health," says Jonathan T. Marks, a partner at Crowe Group LLP, Crowe Chizek's parent. "Many are now looking for guidance on the next steps they should take."

While the continuing mortgage meltdown no doubt plays a role in their concerns, mergers and acquisitions as well as divestiture or restructuring topped the list of changes that would put the most strain on risk management, even more than the weakening United States' economy, says Marks.

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