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How to evaluate and manage the financial risks of a business

how to evaluate of financial risk

In today’s dynamic business environment, navigating financial uncertainty is paramount for achieving long-term success. Financial risk, consisting of a range of potential threats to a company’s financial stability, is a constant consideration for businesses of all sizes.

This blog article delves into the various types of financial risks, what accounting professionals can do to help, and strategies for proactive risk management. By understanding and implementing these strategies, your business clients can build financial resilience and navigate the path to growth with greater confidence.

What is financial risk?

Financial risk refers to the possibility of experiencing financial losses due to various factors that can affect income, expenses, assets, or liabilities.  These factors can be internal or external to the company and can significantly impact a business’s profitability, stability, and even its ability to continue operating.

Several things may lead to financial risks, such as market fluctuations and cash flow management issues. Understanding and managing financial risk is crucial for making informed decisions and protecting a business.

Types of financial risk

Businesses face many different challenges when it comes to their money. Generally, they can be categorised under these five types:

Market risk

Market risk refers to the possibility of losing money due to fluctuations in the overall market or specific asset classes. For example, a decline in stock prices can lead to significant losses for investors. Rising interest rates can also increase borrowing costs, impacting profitability or straining budgets.

If the business has suppliers or customers abroad, fluctuations in exchange rates can affect profitability. A holistic view of a company’s current position is important to best understand potential financial risks.

Credit risk

Credit risk occurs when a borrower defaults on a business loan or debt obligation. This can lead to losses in two different ways:

  • Businesses extending credit to customers: If a customer fails to repay a debt, the business may experience a loss.
  • Banks and other lenders: When borrowers default on loans, banks lose the expected income from interest payments and may face difficulty recouping the loaned amount.

Liquidity risk

Liquidity risks refer to the difficulty or inability to sell assets or investments quickly and at a fair price when the business needs to pay for something on the spot. This can limit a business’s ability to pay for urgent expenses, which sometimes results in selling assets at a loss if they’re not easily liquidated. This can often happen when a business lacks access to financing options.

Operational risk

Operational risks arise from internal factors that can disrupt business operations and lead to financial losses. This can mean human errors in calculations and decision-making or instances of fraud. Operational risks have become increasingly important due to the mass digitalisation of businesses, putting a proactive focus on data and cybersecurity attacks on the business.

Another example of operational risk is supply chain disruptions. This can be caused by natural disasters or political instability, impacting a business’s access to materials.

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Financial reporting risk

Financial reporting risk refers to the possibility of errors or misstatements in financial statements. Inaccurate financial statements can mislead investors and creditors about a company’s financial health, leading to poor investment decisions or difficulty securing loans. Significant errors or intentional misstatements in financial reporting can lead to legal action and financial penalties.

Understanding the impact of financial risk on businesses

Financial risks can directly impact a company’s bottom line. Fluctuations in the market, like a sudden drop in the Australian dollar, can make exports less competitive or increase import costs. Similarly, credit risk materialises when customers fail to pay on debts, leading to bad debts and reduced revenue. Operational risks like cyberattacks or natural disasters can also disrupt production and sales, hindering a company’s ability to generate profits.

Financial risks can make it difficult for businesses to secure funding for growth or even day-to-day operations. Banks and lenders become wary of providing loans to companies perceived as high-risk. This limited access to capital can stifle a business’s ability to invest in new ventures, hire talent, or stay competitive in the market.

When a business struggles to secure funding, it may be forced to convert assets into cash readily. When faced with urgent expenses or loan repayments, businesses with limited access to credit may be forced to sell assets at a loss to meet their obligations. This fire sale mentality can add to financial strain.

In extreme circumstances, financial risks can lead to a company’s insolvency. When a business is unable to meet its financial obligations, it may be forced to declare bankruptcy and shut down. This not only results in job losses but also has a ripple effect on the broader economy.

The role of accounting professionals in financial risk management

Accounting professionals play a critical role in safeguarding businesses from financial risks. Their expertise in financial analysis, internal controls, and regulatory compliance empowers them to act as a vital line of defence.

Financial performance analysis

Accountants carefully analyse different financial statements to identify potential red flags and vulnerabilities. By reviewing ratios, trends, and differences from benchmarks, they can pinpoint areas where financial risks might lurk. This proactive approach allows businesses to address potential problems before they escalate.

Risk management frameworks

A robust system of internal controls is fundamental to mitigating financial risks. Accountants play a key role in designing, implementing, and monitoring these controls. This may involve a clear separation of duties, regular reconciliations, and proper access restrictions. Additionally, they can help establish comprehensive risk management frameworks that identify, assess, and prioritise potential threats.

Regulatory compliance

The financial landscape is riddled with regulations. Accountants ensure businesses adhere to relevant accounting standards and reporting requirements. This not only fosters transparency but also minimises the risk of serious penalties or legal repercussions for non-compliance.

Collaboration with management

Effective risk management necessitates collaboration between accounting professionals and business managers. Accountants work closely with management teams to develop and implement risk management strategies tailored to the business’s specific needs and risk profile. They also play a crucial role in communicating financial risks and their potential impact to management clearly and concisely.

How to identify financial risks

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what you should do to identify a business’s financial risks.

1. Gather financial statements and documentation

Collect financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement) for the past few years. Gather budgets, forecasts, loan agreements, and any other relevant financial documents.

2. Analyse financial performance and trends

Find patterns and trends in revenue, expenses, profitability, and cash flow. Look for any areas of concern, such as declining profitability, increasing debt, or decreasing revenue growth.

Conduct ratio analysis to assess financial health and identify potential weaknesses. This may include liquidity ratios (current ratio, quick ratio) to gauge short-term solvency or debt ratios (debt-to-equity ratio) to assess the level of financial leverage.

3. Assess asset and liability composition

Analysing the balance sheet can help you understand the composition of assets and liabilities. Identify any high-risk assets that may be difficult to sell quickly if needed (e.g., excessive inventory). Evaluate the debt structure and assess whether the debt levels could strain cash flow or limit the ability to borrow in the future.

4. Conduct an internal risk assessment

Identify potential internal risks that could disrupt operations or lead to financial losses. This may include operational risks, compliance risks, compliance risks, or management risks. Maintain an open dialogue with the business to gain context over any decision-making within the relevant periods.

5. Evaluate external risk factors

Consider external factors that can impact the business environment and financial performance. These may include:

  • Market fluctuations: Changes in stock prices, interest rates, or currency exchange rates that could impact profitability or access to capital.
  • Economic conditions: A recession could lead to decreased customer demand or difficulty collecting payments.
  • Competition: Increased competition could put pressure on prices and profitability.
  • Technological advancements: Disruptive technologies could make existing products or services obsolete.
  • Regulatory changes: New government regulations could increase costs or restrict business activities.

6. Prioritise and mitigate risks

Based on the identified risks, assess their likelihood of occurring and the severity of their potential impact. First, focus on mitigating the most likely and impactful risks.

Develop and implement risk mitigation strategies. This may involve diversification (across product lines or markets), hedging (using financial instruments to offset potential losses), building strong internal controls, or contingency planning for disruptive events.

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Risk management strategies to recommend to businesses

After you’ve identified the potential financial risks, it’s time to lay down the groundwork to control it. Businesses navigate a complex landscape filled with potential pitfalls, so the best solution is a combination of strategies that best address their particular situation.


Diversifying your offerings and customer base reduces dependence on a single market, product line, or customer. This can help mitigate the impact of unexpected downturns in specific sectors.


Make use of financial instruments like futures contracts or options to offset potential losses arising from market fluctuations in interest rates, currency exchange rates, or commodity prices.

Stricter internal controls

Implement robust internal controls to minimise operational risks like fraud, errors, or inefficiencies. This may involve segregation of duties, regular reconciliations, and access restrictions.

Contingency planning

Develop contingency plans to address potential disruptive events, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, or supply chain disruptions. These plans should outline response protocols, mitigation strategies, and business continuity measures.

Scenario planning

Develop financial plans that accurately reflect your income, expenses, and cash flow needs. Conduct scenario planning to assess the impact of different economic conditions or market scenarios on your business. This can help you prepare for potential challenges and identify opportunities.

Financial monitoring and risk awareness

The business environment and risk landscape are constantly evolving. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your risk management strategies and adapt them as needed. Help the business foster a company culture that emphasises risk awareness and encourages employees to report any potential risks they identify. This collaborative approach can help you proactively address potential problems before they escalate.

Equip yourself with the tools and knowledge to manage business finances

While the road to financial resilience is paved with proactive financial risk management strategies, even the most meticulous business owners can face unforeseen challenges. That’s where having the best financial tools and resources at your disposal becomes a game-changer.

By equipping yourself with the best accounting and payroll software and resources, you’re building a financial safety net that empowers you to navigate uncertainty confidently. So, take control of your financial well-being and explore the wealth of tools available to fortify your business against financial risks.

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