The sharing economy has upended the working lives of millions, from cab drivers to food buyers, office dwellers to hoteliers. We look at how to mitigate the risks of disruption

Wherever there is some slack in the economy - whether it’s an unused spare room that could be listed on Airbnb, or a car that is sat racking up parking expenses that could be used by someone else - there is a market. 

And where there is a market, there is a Silicon Valley type, looking to build a platform – or exchange – to trade that economic fat. That means there is a lot more disruption to come.

“Do you own the movies you watch at home,” asks risk expert Hans Læssøe. “Do you own the music you play?” He concludes: “Why the heck should you own your car?”

But then he says something surprising: “Why should you own your house?”

He explains his rationale, saying that car owners need to pay to maintain and park the vehicle, which most of the time goes unused.

For houses, it comes down to access to capital. But Læssøe says that if we could finance it another way, people may feel differently about ownership.

“People like to own their house for two reasons: they want to be able to change it and they want to be able to make a profit out of it. It’s an investment as well as a home.”

But, he says, if the cost of renting fell by half because of a change to financing laws that allowed peer-to-peer lending, then the attraction of ownership would decrease significantly.

And it’s possible that even the disruptors may be disrupted. Think of Uber, the ridesharing firm that listed for $82bn last week. If autonomous vehicles take off, then the need for a third-party platform linking riders to rides would likely be replaced by firms, probably vehicle the manufacturers themselves, that would own fleets of cars, charge for subscriptions and arrange trips through their own apps.

That in itself would mark an interesting shift from peer-to-peer – or P2P – and back to B2C, or business-to-customer.

So, if Uber needs to take steps to future-proof its business, then you do too.

Læssøe says the secret is to understand which way the winds of change are blowing in an industry and catch that gust at the right time.

“The strategic risk manager is going to give the most important early warning indicators on where to go with their strategy, if he’s any good.”

He points to Danish energy firm, Dong, as an example. It divested its oil and gas assets to focus on renewable energy, spotting the limited lifespan of fossil fuels.

“That’s strategic risk management,” he says. “You’re making sure that you’re executive team is never caught off guard.”

He said it involved watching what those outside the business and even the industry were doing.

“You have people working with politicians, you have people working with legal, you have all kinds of different colleagues that can work around, but what you are as a risk manager is a process jockey,” he explains.

“You just hold discussions, you just feed discussions.”

“Bring the legal people and the governmental affairs people and the logistics people into the same room and let them brainstorm a bit.”