Risk managers say that business interruption is the biggest threat to businesses, according to Aon's first pan-European survey of leading companies.

The broker surveyed more than 100 risk managers in 13 countries across a wide variety of industries.

Loss of reputation was also considered a major threat, although only 20% of the companies surveyed had reputation risk management in place.

The risk managers predicted the hard market would continue well beyond the 2002/2003 renewal period.

It also said there would be , a median 15% increase in property and casualty premiums expected next year.

The survey found risk management was being taken increasingly seriously.

The survey showed that 80% of the companies questioned had a dedicated risk management department in place.

However risk audits were most likely to be undertaken in areas where cover was readily available or there was a legal requirement to do so, such as health and safety and environmental pollution.

Aon International European development director Patrick Thomas said the figures showed that European companies had recognised the importance of risk management.

"But there is still a long way to go,' he said.

"Companies need to put risk management on the board agenda.

"And they need to start to audit their risk profile across the business, not just in the areas where the law or their insurers require them to undertake a risk audit."