Australian C-suite executives are far more concerned than their global counterparts about adapting to new business models able but have no intention of investing long term in the digital capabilities required to build new business models.

This is what you discover when you review two separate studies by Protiviti, one assessing these likely risks to business this year and the other asking C-Suite executives to project forward to 2030.

For this year the number one concern for Australian execs was pandemic-related policies and regulation and their impact on business performance and adapting to the new business models created by these pricing signals placed second in Australia.

These results are contained in the ninth annual Protiviti Top Risks Survey.  Australia is the outlier, with C-suite executives globally ranking the adaption concern 28th and US executives only placing it 20th in their list of current anxieties.

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

When asked about the longer-term risks out to 2030, Australia’s business leaders, demonstrated their well-earned hobbit-like detachment from global realities. The No.1 risk identified globally for 2030 is was the need for new skills or significant efforts to upskill existing employees to leverage digital technologies.

Australian executives were much less concerned about the need for new tech skills, which did not make Australia’s Top 10 risks. This is despite their immediate concerns about the impact of business models!


The No.1 risk identified by Australia’s Business leaders for 2030 is the threat of substitute products and services. But while this was ranked No.1 in Australia, it placed only 8th among executives globally and 6th in the US.

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executives may feel that their organisational structure is not able to adapt, meaning their business and processes are outdated or that they are actually thinking ahead for the future and already in the process of changing their organisational structure and/or their processes.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 has been largely aligned with their peers in the APAC region.

Garran Duncan, Managing Director, Protiviti

“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 Duncan.

Despite the geographical disparities in responses, the authors of the report says there was unanimity when it came to the issue that most concerned executives in the eight geographic regions.


Respondents cited 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.

COVID Impact

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

The second biggest issue globally for 2021 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 cybersecurity – 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 Duncan.

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

…but in 2030

Taking a longer view, by 2030 Australian executives fear that their businesses will still be feeling the effects of COVID-19 in a decade’s time, according to a major global survey released overnight.

Some of those effects – such as remote working and the shift to online shopping – will continue to present risks as well as opportunities for Australian businesses, according to more than 1,000 executives interviewed for the ninth annual Protiviti Top Risks Survey.

Worries about shifts in consumer behaviour linked to COVID ranked No.2 in Australia among the 36 risks identified in the survey – although executives globally are not so worried about the lingering effects of the pandemic. They ranked the same issue 12th overall, a result mirrored among US-based executives.

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

Duncan said that considering Australia’s effective response to the pandemic – particularly compared to the US – the local survey results were surprising. “The supply chain of many Australian companies was seriously compromised by the pandemic, and we believe that ultimately affected the way Australian executives voted,”  Duncan said.

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