A Middle East Perspective on Top Risks 2021 - Key issues being discussed in the boardroom and C-suite

A Middle East Perspective on Top Risks 2021 - Key issues being discussed in the boardroom and C-suite

The range of uncertainties facing business leaders around the globe in 2021 is overwhelming. Challenges triggered by a rare airborne virus creating a global pandemic continues to unfold, combined with numerous other risk issues, such as growing social unrest, polarization and ever-present challenges ranging from new technologies and digitization innovations to everchanging markets, strategies, and business models. Staying abreast of emerging risks and opportunities is becoming increasingly difficult.

Leaders of organizations in virtually every industry, size of organization and geographic location are reminded frequently that they operate in what appears to be an increasingly risky global landscape.

Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s ERM Initiative latest report contains results from our ninth annual risk survey of directors and executives worldwide to obtain their views on the extent to which a broad collection of risks is likely to affect their organizations in 2021. Also, for the first time, this year we asked respondents to consider how these risks will affect their organizations a decade from now (in 2030).

We received some interesting insights and responses from the Middle East region for our survey, which rates the risks from “No Impact at All” (1) to “Extensive Impact” (10) on a scale of 1 to 10. For each of the 36 risks, we computed the average score reported by all respondents and rank-ordered the risks from highest to lowest impact.

Top 10 Risks in the Middle East Region - 2021

Risk Rank



Government policies surrounding public health practices, social distancing, return-to-work, crowd limits, and other pandemic-related regulations and protocols may significantly impact the performance of business (new in 2021)


Economic conditions in markets particularly related to unemployment and government stimulus may significantly restrict growth opportunities for organization


Sustaining customer loyalty and retention may be increasingly difficult due to evolving customer preferences and/or demographic shifts in organization’s existing customer base (new in 2021)


Resistance to change in organization’s culture may restrict the organization from making necessary adjustments to the business model and core operations


Organization’s succession challenges, ability to attract and retain top talent in a tightening talent market may limit the ability to achieve operational targets


Organization’s ability to access sufficient capital/liquidity may restrict growth opportunities for organization (new in 2021)


Organization’s culture may not sufficiently encourage the timely identification and escalation of risk issues that have the potential to significantly affect the core operations and achievement of strategic objectives


The adoption of digital technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence, robotics, natural language processing, visual recognition software) in the marketplace and in the organization may require new skills that either are in short supply in the market for talent or require significant efforts to upskill and reskill existing employees


Regulatory changes and scrutiny may heighten noticeably affecting the manner in which the products or services will be produced or delivered


Organization may not be able to adapt its business model to embrace the evolving “new normal” imposed on the business by the current pandemic and emerging social change