A Cyber Attack Could Cost a Business its Investor Backing

A cyber attack could cost a business its investor backing, according to a survey of Global Institutional Investors by KPMG.

The report found that 79 percent of investors would be discouraged from investing in a business that has been hacked.

The findings reveal that investors believe less than half of the Boards of the companies that they currently invest in have adequate skills to manage cyber risk.

Furthermore, they believe that 43 percent of Board members have unacceptable skills and knowledge to manage innovation and risk in the digital world. This sentiment was mirrored in a recent KPMG survey of Boards and management of FTSE 350 businesses which found that 39 percent of boards and management agreed they were severely lacking in their understanding of this area.

“Investors see data breaches as a threat to a company’s material value and feel discouraged in investing in a business that has had its sensitive information compromised,” says Malcolm Marshall, global leader of KPMG’s cyber security practice and partner with the UK firm.

“Following a number of high profile breaches, we are seeing global investors waking up to the issue of cyber security. The ripple effect of this has seen investor appetite for cyber businesses increase, with the survey revealing that 86 percent of investors see it as a growth area."

Marshall adds that investors expect businesses to increase their cyber capabilities from top to bottom, including the board.

Marshall notes that businesses that are generally well run and understand risk, are better prepared for future risks. A serious breach brings the competence and team work of senior executives and the board into sharp focus.

"What we are seeing is companies struggling to demonstrate that they are taking cyber risk seriously to their existing and potential investor base. The inability to demonstrate that a business is doing so could make it a less attractive investment proposition.

“A good start would be for Boards to elevate cyber higher up on the agenda and invest more time towards it."

The survey reveals that 86 percent of investors want to see an increase on the time Boards spend on cyber compared to last year.

Malcolm Marshall suggests that boards need to consider the following to be cyber secure:

- Board directors need to understand and approach cyber security as a business risk issue, not just a problem for IT.

- Directors need to understand the legal implications of cyber risks as they relate to their company’s specific circumstances.

- Boards should have sufficient cyber security expertise, and discussions about cyber risk management should be given regular and adequate time on the boardroom agenda.

- Directors should set the expectation that management will establish a firm wide cyber risk management framework that has adequate scope for staffing and budget.

- Discussions of cyber risk should include identification of which risks to avoid, accept, mitigate, or transfer, as well as specific plans associated with each approach.