United Kingdom

Aon’s 2020 Risk Maps find COVID-19 pandemic will likely accelerate increasingly interconnected geopolitical risks

  • Economic and political nationalism is on the rise as action to protect public health and domestic economies erodes long-established business norms
  • Three in five developed economies face the potential for strikes, riots and civil unrest in 2020, which are likely to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Supply chain resilience is under significant pressure in an increasingly dislocated world
  • The threat of terrorism continues to grow, with nearly half of all countries and territories facing some degree of terrorism risk in 2020

LONDON, 29 July 2020 – Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, has published its 2020 Risk Maps report (in partnership with The Risk Advisory Group and Continuum Economics) which finds that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will likely transform the geopolitical landscape and have profound socioeconomic implications. Extraordinary public health measures and a precipitous drop in global trade will continue to exert significant pressure on economies and governments and reshape long-standing geopolitical norms.

Aon’s report finds that three in five developed economies face the potential of strikes, riots and civil unrest in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic deepening those concerns. Countries that rely heavily on tourism or retail, or where there is a higher human toll from the pandemic, will face greater potential for civil unrest and government-focused protest, a risk that was already elevated prior to the pandemic.

The pandemic will also test supply chain resilience, as economic nationalism in the form of expropriation, currency controls and trade restrictions and near-shoring curbs globalisation. Additional economic consequences include labour market disruption, consumer anxiety that restricts overall consumption, wider risk premia for equities and corporate debt, and restriction in corporate bond issuance and lending.

In addition, Aon’s report found that nearly half of all countries and territories face some degree of terrorism risk in 2020. This ratio is higher than last year and reflects a more widespread threat of terrorism, motivated by a range of extremist ideologies and causes. Extreme right-wing terrorist attacks have increased in frequency for at least five consecutive years and have doubled globally in the last three years.

Vlad Bobko, head of Crisis Management, Global Broking Centre, Aon, said: “COVID-19 is shaping up to be one of the most disruptive, world-changing events in living memory. The pandemic has transformed the way we live and work, and new challenges have appeared across industries and territories. And in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment, informed decision-making has never been more important.”

He continued: “Through our Crisis Management practice, we have been supporting clients seeking to navigate these complex risks. Whether it s insulating against government intervention in emerging markets, sovereign and private counterparty defaults, or protecting people and operations from the threats posed by civil unrest, terrorism and kidnapping, our goal is to help protect against - and mitigate - a host of client exposures.”

Henry Wilkinson, head of Intelligence & Analysis and director at The Risk Advisory Group, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is a turning point in global risk. Countries with an underlying risk of instability are likely to see negative trends accelerate as restrictions lift globally, with unrest and terrorism risks likely to rise. Old as well as new geopolitical fault lines are unsettling and becoming flashpoints, making crises and conflicts between states even more likely than in 2019. Businesses will need new strategies and tools to manage their exposure to survive and thrive. High-quality intelligence advice and data is a critical investment.”

Continuum Economics Lead Economist Francesca Beausang said: “It is still unclear whether the COVID-19 backlash against globalisation is more than a knee-jerk reaction, but the possibility of the U.S./China trade war turning into a global trade collapse cannot be ruled out.”

Additional key findings from the report include:

Civil Unrest,Terrorism and Political Violence

  • Economic stagnation and frustration over a range of political, social and environmental trends are the primary drivers of heightened unrest in traditionally stable economies. Environmentalism is becoming an increasingly prominent cause of civil unrest.
  • Extreme right-wing attacks are increasing and multinational businesses, particularly within the technology, banking and media sectors, are targets.

Political Risk

  • Governments are increasingly resorting to measures that regulate market transactions. Emerging market (EM) governments have responded to rising populism by erecting barriers to trade and investment.
  • EM investors face significant headwinds linked to government expropriation, which is undermining contract certainty and eroding investor confidence.
  • Political interference in EM is now taking increasingly indirect forms, such as tax pressure, export restrictions, more stringent regulatory requirements, contract reviews and a general increase in government involvement.

Economic Risks

  • The speed of individual EM recoveries following the COVID-19 pandemic will depend on the state’s ability to control the health crisis itself, the state of the economy before the COVID-19 pandemic and how much fiscal and monetary policy stimulus is administered.
  • Significant monetary and fiscal policies are needed to limit the pandemic’s fallout on EM economies, though they will not fully offset it. Aggressive policy easing will not be enough to avert a fall in global growth by 1.3% in 2020.
  • Global trade, labour and capital flows are severely challenged, as economic nationalism has become a widespread response to COVID-19.

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.

Follow Aon on Twitter

Stay up to date by visiting the Aon Newsroom and hear from Aon’s expert advisers in The One Brief.

Sign up for News Alerts here

Media Contacts:

Colette La Pointe
FTI Consulting
Phone: +44 (0)20 3727 1709
Email: [email protected]

About The Risk Advisory Group

The Aon Terrorism and Political Violence map represents detailed empirical- and intelligence-based assessments on terrorism threats and political violence risks.

The map has been produced in conjunction with The Risk Advisory Group since 2007. The Risk Advisory Group is a leading, independent global risk management consultancy that helps businesses grow whilst protecting their people, their assets and their brands. By providing facts, intelligence and analysis, The Risk Advisory Group helps its clients negotiate complex and uncertain environments to choose the right opportunities, in the right markets, with the right partners. For more information, please visit www.riskadvisory.com.

About Continuum Economics

Continuum Economics (formerly Roubini Global Economics) is the international market-leading service for independent economic research powered by 4Cast and Roubini Global Economics. With its growing user base of 10,000 clients and a reputation for incisive analysis on every aspect of the market, it provides research that spans short-term market signals and long-term strategic themes. This approach uncovers opportunities and risks before they come to the attention of markets, helping our clients make more informed decisions.

Continuum Economics works with clients in a series of different ways, from macro strategy subscription products to bespoke work, multi-client conference calls, direct access to analysts and the licensing of its systematic country risk analysis tool. For further information on Continuum Economics, please visit continuumeconomics.com.