Risk in Focus

Hot topics for internal auditors: the 2021 report

Risk in Focus is an annual report analysing the top business risks which organisations across Europe are facing.

Key findings

  1. The top three risks currently facing businesses in 10 European countries are: cybersecurity and data security (79%), regulatory change and compliance (59%) and digitalisation, new technology and AI (50%).
  2. For the first time ever, disasters and crisis response has been included in our survey, with 34% of Chief Audit Executives (CAEs) voting for it as a top 5 risk priority for their organisation.
  3. Climate change and environmental sustainability is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for businesses, with 22% of CAEs citing it as a top 5 risk - an annual increase of 50% on the year before.

Download the Risk in Focus 2021 report (pdf)

Download the Risk in Focus 2021 board briefing (pdf)

Short on time? Watch this video summary of the report

About the report

Risk in Focus helps Chief Audit Executives to understand how their peers view today’s risk landscape as they prepare their forthcoming audit plans for 2021.

For the past five years, Risk in Focus has sought to highlight key risk areas to help internal auditors prepare independent risk assessment work, annual planning and audit scoping.

This year’s Risk in Focus looks at the risks faced by organisations through the lens of the global coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has exacerbated existing risks, putting them in a new light and forcing organisations to think about them from different angles or assign them new levels of priority.


The research for Risk in Focus 2021 combines both a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews with CAEs, this time from across 11 European countries and 10 institutes of internal auditors.

For the first time this year, the process included interviews with Audit Committee Chairs to give a broader perspective on where key business risks lie. This interview cohort comprised 42 CAEs and Audit Committee Chairs (29 CAEs and 13 Audit Committee Chairs) and the quantitative survey saw 579 respondents, a 10% annual increase and the highest response rate since this research study began five years ago.

Practical guidance

For the 2021 edition, practical guidance is available on the following three chosen hot topics from the report:

Cybersecurity and data security (pdf)

Macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty (pdf)

Climate change and environmental sustainability (pdf)


We have created dedicated podcasts on two risk areas in the report: cyber security and climate change.

These podcasts can be listened to SoundCloud, YouTube or Spotify.

Information security and the expanded work environment
SoundCloud | YouTube | Spotify

Climate change and environmental sustainability
SoundCloud | YouTube | Spotify

Related content

Risk in Focus 2020

Risk in Focus 2019