Thursday, 3 May 2012
Risk managers may become obsolete as risk culture spreads say IRM experts
A panel of leading experts gathered at the Institute of Risk Management’s (IRM) annual Forum in Manchester, England have questioned whether the role of the risk manager will become obsolete as risk culture develops and spreads throughout organisations.
Norman Marks, Honorary Fellow of the IRM and governance, risk and compliance expert
Speaking at the forum’s Question Time panel the experts agreed that, particularly in these times of austerity, risk managers must ensure risk management takes place at all levels of their organisation and the function is aligned with value creation as well as protecting against downside risk.
However, the panel members and participants from the floor were divided as to the success risk managers have enjoyed with this goal and the influence they will be able to exert in future.
Norman Marks, Honorary Fellow of the IRM and governance, risk and compliance expert told delegates: “My view is that in the perfect world everybody would be a risk manager and over time I expect that we will see a disappearance of the risk management profession because every manager will be trained as part of their MBA programme, or part of their project management programme, in using risk as one of the disciplines in looking at uncertainty and achieving performance.”
“However, in the meantime we need risk managers to help organisations mature, to be mentors and trainers and make sure that risk management frameworks and policies are in place. They need to facilitate and pull everything together so that the board has a view of risk across the whole enterprise. So there is a role for a specialist but that role is certainly going to change over time,” he added.
Mr Marks’ assertion that going forward there may not be the need for risk-specific professionals was contested from the floor by Richard Anderson, Chairman of the IRM and Managing Director at Crowe Horwath Global Risk Consulting.
“My sense is that to keep risk management current and to keep it active and flowing we will continue to need risk professionals, just as we need finance and human resources professionals—to ensure that risk management remains active within our organisations. I don’t buy the idea that there will not be the need for risk professionals in a few years time,” he said.
The panel agreed that risk management must be the responsibility of risk owners. In an economic downturn that has seen risk management budgets come under pressure this is key to ensuring the risk function remains valid, they said.
David Hancock, Head of Risk and Value at Transport for London said that his organisation had seen its risk management budget cut by some 40%. This has meant the first level of risk management is now carried out by people ‘on the ground’. But this is where risk management should take place in all organisations, he argued.
“My job now is to train the people on the ground in risk management,” he said. “In my view it is not that everybody has to do more they just have to do what they should have been doing in the first place. If you are a manager you should know your risks in the same way you know your schedule and your programme…So for me the risk manager’s job is to teach other people to be risk managers,” he added.
The level of success that risk managers have enjoyed as they try to spread the risk gospel was hotly contested at the IRM conference. It appears results have been mixed.
Mr Marks said he has seen some positive signs. Not only are regulators pushing the agenda, but also top management are being trained in risk management and embracing the discipline, he argued.
However, fellow panel member John Zeppos, a leading international expert on business continuity management, painted a less rosy picture in which actions are not necessarily following words.
“I have seen many managers and top management executives willing to hear about risk but not really willing to take that on board as a main duty. So people are willing to listen on risk management but not willing to start doing real risk management on their own and undertake that responsibility because they already have enough on their plate,” he said.
In order to drive their agenda risk managers must strike a balance between doing the day job and educating colleagues, particularly at board level, he continued.
“It’s a balance between feeding them a fish and teaching them how to fish. So it’s not just a matter of giving them what they want in terms of risks but balancing that with the time you spend to educate them to start thinking about risk. This will then be mutually beneficial,” he advised.
To encourage individuals to take ownership of risk and embrace its management, risk professionals must develop their qualitative and softer skills, the panel argued. They must also show that they understand the strategic objectives of their organisation and be able to prove their value, agreed the experts.
The full version of this story can be found in the May issue of Commercial Risk Europe's newspaper.