6 minute read 20 Nov 2018
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How to turn today’s risks into tomorrow’s opportunities


Mark Weinberger

Former EY Global Chairman and CEO

From 2013 to 2019, Mark led 270,000 EY people working with businesses, entrepreneurs and governments to solve their most pressing challenges and help them take advantage of emerging opportunities.

6 minute read 20 Nov 2018
Related topics Trust Digital Risk Disruption

The potential for predictive technology is virtually unlimited. If we get it right, we can be more confident about the future than ever.

In the seventies, Xerox was as omnipresent in American offices as the Microsoft Office suite is today. And just like Microsoft, Xerox leveraged its success to invest in the technologies of the future. One of those innovations, called the Alto, was the world’s first personal computer. At the time, Xerox was so focused on revenues from its copying business that it didn’t realize the Alto’s potential. But Steve Jobs did. After seeing a demo, Jobs incorporated many of the Alto’s innovations into Apple’s next computer, the Lisa. Obviously, the rest of this story is now history.

This cautionary tale is familiar – but it underlines a central lesson for any business attempting to plan for the future today, by placing digital innovation at the heart of their business transformation. When it comes to managing the risks involved, it’s no longer enough to focus your attention on preventing downside risk – that is, the possibility of something going wrong within your organization. With the incredible pace of disruption, failing to take advantage of the upside of risk – the chance to seize new opportunities – is often the most dangerous risk of all.

In fact, we’re now living in a moment when we need to embrace change and expand the whole way we think about risk. Along with upside and downside risk , outside risks like geopolitical instability and climate change are on the rise. Businesses are now facing more risk – and more kinds of it, from more places – than ever before.

The good news is that we also now have the technology to get ahead of these risks. We can analyze data from across and outside of an organization – and then turn that information into actionable insights. We can better see how any single decision is likely to affect the organization’s future. And instead of simply looking backward at what’s happened in the past, we can focus equally on where our businesses and industries are headed long term.

When businesses have a more focused view of these risks, they can feel more confident in their decisions – and help investors and other stakeholders trust that the business knows where it’s going. And at EY, we’ve found that there are three rules of risk management for any organization that wants to navigate this moment of disruption and thrive in the long-term.

First, it’s crucial to analyze risks in real-time, instead of looking backward at older data that takes too long to collect. Second, major decisions should be modeled using “what if” scenarios, so businesses can look at how they might create changes across their operations. And third, it’s vital to bring multiple perspectives to the table to help ensure you’re looking at situations from every angle.

1. Real-time risk-checking

Five years ago, it often took at least a month to gather and analyze data from across an organization, so businesses were always looking backward. Now, we’ve developed tools using advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) that analyze data and predict potential risks in real-time.

So, for example, we can look at how new laws and regulations interact with all of an organization’s banking and financial transactions – and see instantly whether they increase the risk of financial fraud or compliance issues as well as predict potential risks in the future.

In another case, we helped an energy client develop a way to predict price fluctuations in the power market. The process used AI and machine learning techniques to detect a wide range of data patterns. Some of this data was straightforward, like analyzing the market shifts for energy indices like crude oil and liquefied natural gas. But it also took into account things like oceanic weather patterns, which it predicted by looking at the wave height and wind direction around marine platforms and buoys. It tracked the weather on land, too, by observing humidity and cloud conditions. It even looked at how public and school holidays influence demand and pricing. By considering such a wide range of factors, we were able to provide forecasts that were nearly 20% more accurate than traditional methods.

2. Running “what if” scenarios

In addition to evaluating short- and long-term risks today, EY tools can also help organizations better answer hypothetical questions about potential decisions they might make in the future. That way, you can make more informed critical decisions and become a more confident and trusted enterprise that has thoroughly considered all options.

For example, is it riskier to open a factory in Michigan or Missouri? Indonesia or India? Would adopting new technology like RPA (robotic process automation) and blockchain decrease a company’s exposure to compliance issues? Do new tax reforms make it smarter to invest in hiring more people, or training current employees?

The answers to these questions could have a major impact on a business’ success over time – and in today’s fast-moving world, it’s more important than ever to get them right.

3. Looking at challenges from every angle

Given the rapid pace of technological change, many innovations and industries are emerging faster than the regulations that will eventually govern them. This is why it’s now critical to look at new opportunities and challenges from every angle.

For example, when it comes to a new digital offering, we strive to bring together lawyers, financial risk professionals, cyber professionals, regulatory and tax professionals. By bringing these players together, we can think through all of the potential grey areas where legal, tax and regulatory frameworks haven’t yet caught up with technology, and build in the measures to manage those risks while the offering is still at the design stage.

We were recently able to do this while working with a manufacturing company that produced heavy machinery for a variety of industries. A century-old business, they wanted to adapt their operations for the digital age, so we brought together a group of professionals who could visualize and think through all of the different implications that would come with that shift. As a result, we were able to help them implement a governance model that considers the risk profile across their strategic priorities. These changes reduced their exposure as they confidently implement new digital technologies to create a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing market. They can now evolve their business in a way that can balance upside, downside and outside risks, while building trust with their stakeholders.

The future of predicting the future

All of this is just the beginning. We’re now working to incorporate AI into all of these processes. In the next five years, we are confident that EY tools will be able to not just analyze today’s risks, but also predict future risks that aren’t even on your radar.

That might mean we can use geological measurements to predict that a volcano in Hawaii has a high percent chance of erupting soon – which could affect any business that relies on a Hawaiian trade route.

Perhaps we’ll be able to look at your business model and the experiences of your competitors, and then predict what type of cyber attacks you are most likely to experience in the next six months. That way, you can properly and preventively tune your IT strategies and identify necessary new investments.

Or EY teams might be able to use aggregate polling data to better predict which countries will experience political unrest – so businesses can prepare their people, back up critical data and operations, and look for alternative markets if necessary.

The potential for this predictive technology is virtually unlimited. If we get it right, we can be more confident about the future than ever before – and help ensure that people trust business to lead them forward. That’s why EY iscommitted to investing in risk management tools for the long term, that can build in trust by design to our client’s businesses. It’s something we’re doing today – to help ensure that we’re fully prepared for tomorrow.


While businesses face an environment of increasing risk today, digital disruption, and a fresh approach to risk-management, presents a real opportunity for tomorrow.

About this article


Mark Weinberger

Former EY Global Chairman and CEO

From 2013 to 2019, Mark led 270,000 EY people working with businesses, entrepreneurs and governments to solve their most pressing challenges and help them take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Related topics Trust Digital Risk Disruption