Australian Executives More Concerned About Business Adaptation Than Global Counterparts

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Australian C-suite executives are far more concerned than their global counterparts that they may not be able to adapt their business models to deal with the “new normal” imposed by COVID-19, according to a major new survey.

The issue ranked No.2 in Australia in the ninth annual Protiviti Top Risks Survey of 2021 – although Australia is the outlier, with C-suite executives globally ranking the same issue 28th and US executives only placing it 20th in their list of current concerns.

The survey canvassed the views of 1,081 board members and C-suite executives from eight regions around the world.

Managing Director Garran Duncan of Protiviti Australia said: “Australian executives may feel that their organisational structure is not able to adapt meaning their business and processes are outdated or that they are actually thinking ahead for the future and already in the process of changing their organisational structure and/or their processes.

“Additionally, the concern around adopting new technologies has soared compared to our global counterparts. This may relate to Australian executives focusing on the new normal and reconfiguring their strategies rather than adopting new ones.”

The Protiviti survey found four other areas in which Australian executives are significantly more concerned than their global counterparts:

  • Issues about the ongoing balance of working from home and the office were ranked 4th in Australia but only 19th globally and 12th in the US.
  • Identifying and implementing growth opportunities through acquisitions or joint ventures was ranked 6th in Australia, but just 23rd globally and 25th in the US.
  • Sustaining customer loyalty and retention placed 7th among Australian executives’ concerns, but 17th globally and 14th in the US.
  • Not being sufficiently prepared to manage an unexpected crisis or external shock ranked 10th in Australia, but only 20th globally and 17th in the US.

“Overall, what is concerning the executives in Australia have been largely aligned with their peers in the APAC region.

“However, Australian executives seem to be more concerned compared to their global counterparts as well as their regional peers regarding growth opportunities through acquisitions and joint ventures and other partnership activities. This may be due to our geographical isolation from the major financial markets,” said Mr Duncan.

Despite the geographical disparities in responses, there was unanimity when it came to the issue that most concerned executives in the eight geographic regions, with respondents citing the impact of Government policies surrounding public health practices, social distancing, return-to-work, crowd limits, and other pandemic-related protocols on the performance of their businesses.

“Executives can see that the impacts of COVID-19 are not going to go away any time soon,” Mr Duncan.

The second biggest issue globally was economic conditions, particularly related to unemployment and government stimuli that may significantly restrict growth opportunities. However, this concern was only ranked 9th by Australian executives.

The third ranked issue globally was cyber security – ensuring identity management and information security/system protection – which ranked 8th in Australia.

“The continuously evolving nature of cyber and privacy risks underscores the need for a secure operating environment in which nimble workforces can regularly refresh technology and skills to keep their customers’ data secure and their operations competitive,” said Mr Duncan.

“If there’s any risk that all organisations across industries and geographies must maintain focus on, it’s cyber security and privacy.

“While the areas that businesses will need to address may change as they transform their business models and increase their resilience, cybersecurity and privacy threats will remain a constant threat for the foreseeable future – and should be at or near the top of all executives’ concerns. These threats have been top risks for quite some time, and they aren’t going away.”

Top 10 issues for 2021 of Australian executives

1 Pandemic-related policies and regulation impact business performance
2 Adapting to the “new Normal”
3 Impact to customer base due to the market conditions imposed by and in response to COVID-19
4 The impact of working from home and the office
5 Regulatory changes and their impact on how products or services will be produced or delivered
6 The difficulty to identify and implement growth opportunities through acquisitions, joint ventures
7 The difficulty in sustaining customer loyalty and retention
8 Cybersecurity
9 Economic conditions constrain growth opportunities
10 Not prepared for a crisis

The “Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2021 and 2030” report from Protiviti and North Carolina State University provides respondent details broken out by company type, size, industry, geographic region and respondent role. The report, along with an infographic and a podcast about the survey results, is available for complimentary download here.

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