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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Looming Reputation Risk Explosion

C. HUYGENS - Wednesday, December 20, 2017
The recent stock market rise has masked weaknesses that could lead to massive losses linked to corporate reputational crises in the coming year, according to research conducted by Steel City Re, which analyzes reputational risk and provides insurance to protect companies and their leadership.

A number of companies have undergone reputational crises in the past year and, as a result, have significantly underperformed compared to their industry peers. Despite this, they still have seen their market caps rise – temporarily quelling stakeholder anger and reducing the severity of losses one might otherwise expect. When the equities markets go through an inevitable correction, those companies will likely sustain the biggest losses and, once again, become the focus stakeholder hostility – leading to a potential avalanche of reputational attacks and related financial losses.

This study comes a year after Steel City Re research showed a 461% increase in corporate reputation-related losses during the five years leading up to and ending in 2016. Key findings of the new study, which can be found here, include:

  • Factors leading to reputation related losses have become more extreme, including the weaponization of social media.
  • A rising stock market has created a false sense of security among certain companies and their stakeholders.
  • Prominent activist investors, often the catalyst for stakeholder anger, have been less effective, but smaller activists with less capital have emerged, targeting smaller companies.
Looking to 2018, a market correction will expose companies with reputational issues, compelling activists to attack and stakeholders, the media and political figures to unleash pent-up anger at corporate executives and board members. As a result, companies will experience losses in market cap, revenue, earnings and margins that could as much as double those experienced in the past year.

Dr. Nir Kossovsky, CEO of Steel City Re, said: “Warren Buffet’s saying that you can only tell who’s been swimming naked when the tide goes out is an apt description of the current environment. After witnessing the reputational bloodbath of 2016, quality companies committed to emerging unscathed in 2018 must communicate the improved quality of their governance and build reputational defenses that will insulate them when the inevitable onslaught occurs.”

The risk of reputation value loss was determined through a multi-year loss simulation experience based on a standard insurance parametric model of reputational value metrics. The actuarial database comprises approximately 5.65 million measures derived from a median of 7,313 public companies weekly for 823 continuous weeks.

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