Now available: Risk in Focus 2021

Without question, 2020 was defined by the global coronavirus pandemic (GCP). By March, as the research for Risk in Focus got underway, Europe had become the epicentre of the biggest public health crisis in living memory. This caught most countries and businesses off guard, despite the fact the World Economic Forum and others had already been sounding the alarm on global health security and the probability of a pandemic event.

Not only has the virus had huge public health consequences, social distancing and lockdown measures have had profound economic impacts. The GCP is the most significant and far-reaching event for businesses since at least the global financial crisis of 2008, and is expected to cause a deeper recession, higher rates of unemployment and bigger increases in public debt.

See a short presentation of the report >>

Key findings

  1. The top three risks currently facing businesses in 10 European countries are: cybersecurity and data security (79%), regulatory change and compliance (59%) and digitalisation, new technology and AI (50%).
  2. For the first time ever, disasters and crisis response has been included in our survey, with 34% of Chief Audit Executives (CAEs) voting for it as a top 5 risk priority for their organisation.
  3. Climate change and environmental sustainability is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for businesses, with 22% of CAEs citing it as a top 5 risk – an annual increase of 50% on the year before.

About the report

Risk in Focus helps Chief Audit Executives to understand how their peers view today’s risk landscape as they prepare their forthcoming audit plans for 2021.

For the past five years, Risk in Focus has sought to highlight key risk areas to help internal auditors prepare independent risk assessment work, annual planning and audit scoping.

This year’s Risk in Focus looks at the risks faced by organisations through the lens of the global coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has exacerbated existing risks, putting them in a new light and forcing organisations to think about them from different angles or assign them new levels of priority.


The research for Risk in Focus 2021 combines both a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews with CAEs, this time from across 11 European countries and 10 institutes of internal auditors.

For the first time this year, the process included interviews with Audit Committee Chairs to give a broader perspective on where key business risks lie. This interview cohort comprised 42 CAEs and Audit Committee Chairs (29 CAEs and 13 Audit Committee Chairs) and the quantitative survey saw 579 respondents, a 10% annual increase and the highest response rate since this research study began five years ago.

Download the Risk in Focus 2021 report >>

Download the Risk in Focus 2021 board briefing >>