More than 65 percent of the CFOs and 70 percent of the audit committee members surveyed by accounting firm Crowe Chizek cited managing enterprise risk as the biggest challenge facing their organizations over the next 12 months.

Enterprise risk management was considered an even bigger challenge than improving financial reporting and improving internal controls for CFOs. When asked about specific risk management tasks, less than 25 percent of senior finance executives felt that their company's performance was excellent on any of the tasks. 

Overall, 74 percent of audit committee members rated their chief audit executive as "very effective," yet less than 43 percent felt their CAE was "very effective" at conducting risk assessments, and only 41 percent give high marks to their CAEs on evaluating governance and ERM processes.

Mergers and acquisitions, divestiture or restructuring topped the list of changes that would put the most strain on risk management, even more than the weakening economy. More than 30 percent of CFOs said they have been disrupted by financial and operational surprises in the past year.

Over 40 percent said they are substantially concerned about market, financial and technology risk factors during the next year. Twenty-one percent of finance teams plan to devote much greater attention to companywide risk management.

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