In our last post, we covered some potential mitigations for each of the top three geopolitical risks that we identified in our Risk 2011 series. In this post, we are going to cover some potential mitigations for each of the top three economic risks as we continue our series of posts inspired by the World Economic Forum‘s recently released 6th annual Global Risks report, 2011 edition.
03: Asset Price Collapse
Most of an organization’s capital is tied up in two things — its people and its assets. This includes its buildings, its inventory, and the raw materials that will be used to create future inventory. If all of a sudden the value of each of these assets drops 50% over night, the organization loses 50% of the value of these assets — and will likely sustain additional losses when it has to sell its inventory at a deep discount.
While asset price collapses can’t be prevented if a market is flooded, or a market is cornered, or asset prices are artificially inflated by collusion and then drop rapidly when the inflation cannot be maintained, it is often the case that impending asset price collapse can be predicted in advance. Asset prices rise and fall, and they always fall if they get to high. While the exact time, and degree, of collapse cannot always be predicted accurately, it’s often possible to predict an approximate time of collapse, and an approximate degree. If a price collapse is coming, the organization can reduce buys to minimal levels, sell off unnecessary assets in a controlled manner, or, if possible, hold onto them until such time as asset prices return to reasonable levels.
02: Extreme Energy Price Volatility
Today’s organizations are ultimately dependent upon three things – people, raw materials, and the energy required to transform the raw materials into the product the organization will sell. If oil doubles in price, that could make the difference between being able to produce the goods in China and import them into the US for sale at a profit and having to import them into the US for sale at a loss (or risk losing the entire inventory).
Energy price volatility is not going to go away. An organization has two options, try to predict the volatility and ride it out as best as it can, or try to restructure its operations such that it is not (as) dependent on volatile energy sources. There are two ways it can achieve this goal. First of all, it can focus on streamlining its operations to make them as lean as possible. Reducing the energy required is the first step. Secondly, it can invest in creating its own green energy sources to minimize its dependence on external sources. This will go a long way to not only stabilizing its energy costs, but to preventing energy spikes in the future.
01: Fiscal Crisis
The fiscal crisis can lead to many things — currency volatility, a credit crunch, and overall infrastructure fragility. Weakening currencies can cause costs to skyrocket. A credit crunch can severely restrict cash flow and make it almost impossible for an organization to temporarily borrow the cash it needs to secure the inventory required to produce the goods it plans to sell to create revenue and, eventually, generate profit. And infrastructure fragility, which weakens every time there is insufficient cash to invest in necessary maintenance, can result in transportation lanes, power plants, and basic utilities becoming unavailable overnight.
If the organization is a global multi-national, currency volatility can be mitigated by keeping keeping cash in multiple currencies. If a credit crunch is likely, the organization can reduce its expansion and investment plans to maintain enough cash on hand to continue operations without interruption. And if the infrastructure is becoming fragile, the organization can invest in infrastructure improvements. If the government will take loans (by selling bonds) to finance improvements, the organization can invest to insure continued availability of necessary public infrastructure. If not, the organization can invest in its own infrastructure to the greatest extent possible or relocate operations to where the infrastructure is strong and expected to stay strong.