Mining industry leaders must plan for these top risks

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What's on the minds of 400 of the world's top business executives? And what lessons are there for mining leaders?

We live in increasingly uncertain times.

From the fallout of Brexit to the election of an unpredictable US President, to the changes technology is bringing to the ways we can do business, there are myriad disruptive factors to which we must all adapt.

So, what’s on the minds of 400 of the world’s top business executives? What’s keeping them up at night? What are the challenges and opportunities they see from the current situation? ATKearney recently released its 2017 Views from the C-Suite report, looking into those questions.

Its survey revealed two key themes — and we’ve already touched on them.

1. Technology is a double-edged sword

The executives interviewed see technology as a complicating factor for doing business. On one hand there are efficiencies, innovations, improvements and competitive advantages to gain — there can be great gains from cloud computing, ‘big data’ and predictive analysis, and mobile technology.

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On the other hand, a great deal of risk comes with technology, too. Cyber-security is particularly front-of-mind, following high-profile recent hacks. Some 85 per cent of executives believe cyber attacks will become more frequent and costly.

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2. Political risk is the all too “visible hand”

There are heightened tensions about political risk to business, following the rise of populist candidates and causes across Europe and in America. Brexit and its effect on European stability and the election of Donald Trump in the United States have helped make the geopolitical environment a major concern for executives across sectors.

There was a strong feeling amongst those surveyed that the populist and extremist trend was set to continue in democracies the world over. That has implications for trade, as protectionist policies are adopted. There was also a majority view that President Trump’s policies would do more harm to the US — the world’s largest economy — than good.

Coming a close second to geopolitical uncertainty in executives’ concerns was worsening regulatory and tax policies, making it harder to do business.

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On the positive side of the ledger, the C-suite sees a diverse range of opportunities in the external environment, too. The global economy has shifted from being seen as a challenge in last year’s report, to an opportunity in this year’s, as global macroeconomic performance improves.

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A strong majority of the global C-suite believes, however, that business strategies based on globalization are still viable. In order to succeed, almost all executives say that they are shifting their supply chains and international footprints. A majority are also paying more attention to government policies and engaging more in government relations in the current global environment.

So, what can mining industry executives do?

If 400 executives across sectors are concerned about, and making preparations for, the disruptive pace of change in both technology and geopolitics, it makes sense that Australia’s mining executives should be doing exactly the same.

Here are four key business implications from this period of uncertainty that every business leader should be looking at closely.

  • Improve cyber-security defences and protocols
  • Actively monitor political risks
  • Assess your globalisation strategy to see if it’s fit for purpose in the changing climate
  • Use strategic foresight tools — particularly scenario planning — to assess future risks and stay ahead of the curve.

The full report is a fascinating insight into the thinking of executives across the world. It’s worth your time. You can read it here.

Dan Hatch
Mining People International