Risk management

The Hidden Cost of Third-Party Risk: Why CFOs Need to Pay Attention

Joske Antonis | Chief Financial Officer

In today's increasingly interconnected business landscape, organizations are relying more on third-party vendors and suppliers to help them stay agile, competitive, and cost-effective. While the benefits of outsourcing are clear, the risks associated with third-party partnerships are often overlooked. In this article, we will delve into the hidden costs of third-party risk and why CFOs must pay attention to minimize financial and reputational damage.

Understanding Third-Party Risk

Third-party risk refers to the potential financial, operational, and reputational risks that organizations face when they engage with external partners, such as vendors, suppliers, and contractors. These risks can manifest in various ways, including data breaches, regulatory non-compliance, fraud, and supply chain disruptions.

The Financial Impact of Third-Party Incidents

The costs associated with third-party incidents are staggering. According to a 2020 study by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a third-party data breach was $7.5 million, which is significantly higher than the average cost of a traditional data breach at $3.86 million.

Another report by Deloitte highlights that companies with poor third-party risk management practices are 63% more likely to experience a third-party incident, resulting in an average financial loss of $10 million per incident.

The Reputational Damage of Third-Party Incidents

Beyond the immediate financial costs, third-party incidents can cause long-lasting reputational damage. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Marketing found that firms experiencing a third-party breach saw a 1.8% drop in their stock price within three days of the breach announcement. This decline in stock value can be attributed to the loss of customer trust and negative media coverage, which could take months to years to recover from. This finding is replicated and further deepened by a 2021 study published in the Journal of Cybersecurity.

Regulatory Compliance and Penalties

Organizations must also consider the potential regulatory penalties associated with third-party risk. For example, in the upcoming NIS-2 directive, which includes extensive requirements regarding third-party due diligence, supervisory bodies will get the authority to impose sanctions and fines to organisations that do not comply with the NIS-2 Directive. The administrative penalties can be up to 2% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the organisation.

Additionally, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) holds companies accountable for the data breaches of their third-party partners, with fines of up to 4% of the company's global annual turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher.

In the United States, organizations may face penalties under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for breaches involving their third-party partners. These fines can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation, with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year for each violation category.

Best Practices for Managing Third-Party Risk

To mitigate the hidden costs of third-party risk, CFOs must prioritize the following best practices:

  • Develop a comprehensive third-party risk management framework that includes due diligence, risk assessment, and ongoing monitoring.

  • Implement robust contractual agreements with third-party partners that clearly define responsibilities, performance metrics, and data protection requirements.

  • Establish a centralized system for tracking and managing third-party risks, such as a risk register or a vendor risk management platform.

  • Provide regular training and awareness programs for employees to ensure they understand the potential risks associated with third-party partnerships and their role in mitigating these risks.

  • Collaborate with other departments, such as legal, IT, and procurement, to ensure a holistic approach to third-party risk management.

What 3rdRisk Can Do

Investing in a third-party risk management (TPRM) solution like 3rdRisk can provide CFOs with a high return on investment (ROI) by streamlining risk management processes, enhancing visibility, and mitigating potential financial and reputational losses. Here's how 3rdRisk can benefit organizations:

  • Cost Savings: By automating manual processes, such as due diligence and risk assessments, 3rdRisk can help organizations save time and resources, significantly reducing the costs associated with third-party risk management activities. This increased efficiency enables companies to focus on their core business activities and make better-informed decisions regarding their third-party relationships.

  • Improved Efficiency: 3rdRisk can reduce the time spent on third-party risk assessments by up to 75%, allowing organizations to monitor and manage risks across their entire vendor ecosystem efficiently. This increased efficiency translates to more effective risk mitigation and the ability to respond to emerging threats quickly.

  • Enhanced Risk Visibility: 3rdRisk offers a comprehensive risk management dashboard that provides real-time visibility into an organization's third-party risk landscape. This enables companies to proactively identify and address potential risks before they escalate into costly incidents, reducing the likelihood of financial and reputational damage.

  • Better Compliance Management: With 3rdRisk, organizations can streamline their compliance efforts and reduce the risk of regulatory penalties. The solution helps companies manage and track compliance requirements across various regulations, ensuring that both they and their third-party partners remain compliant with industry standards and best practices.

  • Competitive Advantage: Implementing a robust TPRM solution like 3rdRisk demonstrates a company's commitment to protecting its customers, employees, and assets. This can lead to improved customer trust and confidence, resulting in a competitive advantage in the market.

Based on Deloitte data, we calculated that for organisations that assess 100 suppliers on an annual basis, our solution could save almost 0.8 FTE compared to a traditional spreadsheet approach.

In conclusion, investing in 3rdRisk as a TPRM solution can yield significant benefits in terms of cost savings, efficiency, risk visibility, compliance management, and competitive advantage. By adopting 3rdRisk, CFOs can ensure their organizations are better equipped to manage the hidden costs of third-party risk and drive long-term success.


The hidden costs of third-party risk can be financially and reputationally devastating for organizations. By recognizing the potential consequences and proactively implementing best practices, CFOs can effectively manage these risks and protect their organization's bottom line.



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