Airmic

Boards are in denial about magnitude of risks

Nik Gowing
Nik Gowing

Nik Gowing warns of existential threat to current world order

Businesses are in denial about the magnitude of risks they are facing and the speed at which they could emerge, according to Nik Gowing, former BBC news presenter, who told conference delegates that Western governments and businesses are facing an unprecedented existential threat.

Citing the election of President Trump in the US, Britain's vote to leave the EU and the outcome of last month's snap general election in the UK, he said: "So many people are getting so much wrong. Even those people who think they're experts. You as risk managers need to analyse how those above you [in the boardroom] can handle this."

Gowing, a visiting professor at King's College London and author of "Think the Unthinkable", argued that businesses and governments are failing to recognise the erosion of their legitimacy among significant sections of the public, and in particular among "angry millennials who feel left behind".

"The conformity which gets executives to the top and qualifies them for the top positions these days in many ways disqualifies them from accepting and embracing the enormity of the new-normal world," he explained.

He added: "Those at the highest level believe they know best and they are not listening to, and don't want to hear from, people who might have a different view. This is the heart of the problem: much of the risk which you might want to put on the agenda those at the top don't really want to know about."