One in three global businesses see loss of data as a significant threat and the key issue to address in operational risk management planning, according to the latest global risk briefing report conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Ace European Group.

The survey of 181 senior executives and risk professionals revealed that loss of data was the most important consideration in terms of operational risk, with over 40% saying their organisation focused more on loss of data than other issues - including systems failure, human error and even natural disasters.

The results mark a growing risk management trend towards a greater emphasis on the operational impact of data loss.

Gareth Tungatt, senior underwriter specialising in IT and Cyber Risk at Ace said: “The survey shows that risk managers clearly understand the value of data and, increasingly, are focusing on its associated losses.”

He continued: “When respondents where asked about the reasons why their business continuity plans had been put into action in the last year under 16% identified data loss. I see this report as providing the evidence to show that more businesses are looking ahead in terms of their business continuity planning. 71% of those questioned said that they have increased the time and resources they dedicate to focusing on their business continuity programmes.”

The survey showed that over half of respondents think that the volume and severity of operational risks have increased in the last three years but reassuringly, a similar number were confident that their business's operational risk planning would successfully manage areas such as risk assessment and quantification.

When asked about the business impact of poor planning, 43% of respondents identified reputational damage as the main threat. However, only 19% said loss of revenue. Tungatt commented: “The apparent lower level of fear about loss of revenue is a concern. Based on the survey's findings exposure to financial losses is expected to increase so it is clear that businesses should be doing a lot more than they currently are to counter the financial implications of data loss."