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Amid Global “Grey Swan” Event, Aon and Pentland Analytics Report Unpacks Crises’ Impact on Shareholder Value

  • “Grey Swan” report analyzes 40 years of incidents that include 300 reputation crises’ impacts and recoveries
  • The average impact reflects a total of USD $1.2 trillion in destroyed value    
  • In over 10% of reputation crises, more than 50% of shareholder value is destroyed   

CHICAGO, April 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, and Pentland Analytics, a provider of advanced analytics and advisory services to the executive management of the world’s leading companies, today released “Respecting the Grey Swan,” a new report detailing the impact crises have on reputation and shareholder value, and emphasizing the need for organizations to recalibrate their approach to risk and crisis in a highly volatile world.

“Today, clients are justifiably focused on the unprecedented socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are also increasingly aware of other challenges like climate change, supply chain disruption, reimagining and reconfiguring how and where work gets done and the growing health-wealth gap,” said Greg Case, Chief Executive Officer of Aon. “If, and when, a reputation crisis occurs, this research reinforces the importance of promptly acknowledging the seriousness of the event itself and, most importantly, how to translate this understanding into decisive action.”

Like their better-known “Black Swan” event cousins, “Grey Swan” events can greatly impact firms; unlike Black Swans, which seem inconceivable before they happen, Grey Swans are known beforehand. Grey Swans are long-tail risks, known but thought highly unlikely – and thus firms have often neglected to invest scarce resources to prepare for them. Many extreme events, such as the 9/11 attacks, the 2008 financial crisis and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, are considered Grey Swan events because of the size of the impact and the many warning signs that were ignored. Other types of reputation Grey Swans come from within an organization, including, for example, governance crises or product failures.

The report highlights how crises remain a major risk for organizations globally, analyzing data from 300 corporate crises from the last 40 years, examining Grey Swans’ impact on shareholder value and identifying drivers of recovery.

“Risk management awareness has heightened over the last year. This research provides us with an evidence-based picture of the many challenges we face, not only when managing Grey Swan events in the moment, but also in our preparation and need to invest in resilience,” added Dr. Deborah Pretty, Founder of Pentland Analytics.

For most organizations, the likelihood of a Grey Swan event occurring is greater than preparation for it. The report draws attention to cognitive biases and explains how ambiguous and uncomfortable data are easy to ignore, how the impact of Grey Swan events is substantial and enduring, and how value recovery is a function of critical pre- and post-loss decisions. It also highlights the financial value of reputation — in over 10% of crises, more than 50% of shareholder value is destroyed – and directors’ and officers’ increased risk exposure, especially following a Grey Swan event. On average, shareholders can expect to lose 26% of value at some point during the post-event year.

Evidence from the research suggests three areas on which organizations should focus to build resilience:

  • Reimagining the risk landscape through a broader risk assessment
  • Acknowledging the seriousness of impact with a focused investment in risk preparedness and crisis management
  • Translating understanding into action, fostering a responsive and agile culture

Since 2017, Aon and Pentland Analytics have collaborated to produce independent, universal and industry-specific research focused on why some organizations succeed and emerge stronger after a crisis while others do not. To access the latest report, click here. In addition to the “Grey Swan” analysis this year, Aon and Pentland also published reports analyzing what makes businesses within given sectors more resilient. This industry analysis focused on: Food, Agribusiness & Beverage; Life Sciences; and Financial Institutions.

About Aon
Aon plc (NYSE: AON) is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions. Our 50,000 colleagues in 120 countries empower results for clients by using proprietary data and analytics to deliver insights that reduce volatility and improve performance.

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About Pentland Analytics
Pentland Analytics provides advanced analytics and advisory services to the executive management of the world’s leading companies. The firm converts complex business issues into analytics solutions that yield clear insights and direction. The results inform strategic decisions and help to build clients’ resilience, reputation and shareholder value.

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