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8 biggest threats to business clients

What risks were businesses most concerned about in 2016? The Travelers Risk Index reveals the top 8 concerns among businesses. (Photo: Shutterstock)
What risks were businesses most concerned about in 2016? The Travelers Risk Index reveals the top 8 concerns among businesses. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Businesses and consumers agree that cyber risk is a top concern, says the 2016 Travelers Risk Index. According to Travelers Cos., 19 percent 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.

Related: Top 10 global business risks, according to the Allianz Risk Barometer 2017

Travelers worked with Hart Research Associates to survey 1,202 business owners and decision makers, including 493 small businesses (2 to 49 employees), 453 midsized 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 percent in 2015 to 41 percent this year. Specifically, large businesses dropped from 52 percent to 44 percent, and midsized businesses went from 47 percent to 43 percent. Small business perception held steady at 36 percent.

Related: The future of insurance: A look at the risk landscape of 2025

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

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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 percent of respondents said they worry a great deal or some about financial issues. That number has declined from 49 percent in 2015.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

7. Laws and regulations

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

Related: Why workers' compensation treatment guidelines matter

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 percent of businesses, while generally complying with the ACA worries 37 percent.

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


(Photo: Shutterstock)

6. Broad economic uncertainty

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


(Photo: Shutterstock)

5. Attracting and retaining talent

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

Related: 4 ways the insurance industry can win the war for talent

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

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


(Photo: Shutterstock)

4. Legal liability

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

Specifically, professional mistakes, including errors and omissions (39 percent), 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 percent).

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


(Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Cyber, computer, technology risks/data breaches

Although overall concern about cyber risks declined from last year to third place across all businesses (58 percent in 2015 to 54 percent 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 percent of large firms.

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

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


(Photo: Shutterstock)

2. Increasing employee benefit costs

Employee benefits are keeping businesses up at night. According to the survey, 21 percent of businesses worry a great deal about increasing employee benefit costs, and 56 percent 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 percent of large businesses and 70 percent of midsized businesses. Despite such a large number of businesses being concerned about rising benefit costs, 21 percent said they feel unprepared to mitigate the risk.


(Photo: Shutterstock)

1. Medical cost inflation

A total of 59 percent of respondents said they worry a great deal or some about medical cost inflation, with 25 percent saying they worry about it a great deal. Medical cost inflation continues to be number one, only falling one percentage point from 60 percent in 2015.

However, results vary by business size, says Travelers. Only 50 percent of small businesses (2 to 49 employees) cite medical cost inflation as a major concern, compared with 52 percent of large businesses (1,000+ employees) and 70 percent of midsized 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 percent worry a great deal about medical cost inflation, 31 percent feel unprepared to manage the risk.

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