10 tips for a successful career in risk management

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#1: Rise to the occasion.

The events of recent years have made risk management a permanent part of the dialogue with management. While risk managers must have their traditional house in order, they must now become a trusted senior advisor by effectively linking risk management with business strategy, operations, and contingency planning. By asking the right questions, the risk manager can better understand the top concerns of the CEO, CFO, and CLO and be more effective at structuring the dialogue to address their concerns and improve their risk analysis. (Photo: Roberto Saporito/Adobe Stock)

#2: Get out of the workload trap.

Many risk managers spend their entire careers frustrated because things to do take up all of their time. Some might unconsciously undertake time-consuming tasks to isolate themselves from things they are not comfortable with. This requires a tough decision to go beyond to overcome the workload barrier, for example through more effective delegation. A risk manager buried in transactional noise is missing out on all the things that really matter and is at extreme risk of being sidelined or replaced. (Image: WeStudio/Shutterstock)

#3: Accept that cost reduction is universal and continuous.

Beware of reflexive resistance to corporate cost-cutting initiatives due to personal loyalties, fear of increased workload, or loss of control. Such resistance is usually visible and can damage the stature of the manager. It’s probably wiser to devise creative solutions such as reorganizing the workflow and using new technologies to improve productivity, and to make tough decisions about underproductive staff or practices. (Image: Elnur/Shutterstock)

#4: Recognize and manage internal competition.

There is probably no one in the organization whose experience and skills are directly comparable to those of the risk manager. But there may be leaders who think things should be done differently, who seek broader control, or who are driven by specific grievances. These people likely have their own power bases or knowledge advantages. The risk manager must anticipate these dynamics and take preventive measures to contain them. (Image: Adobe Stock)

#5: Minimize surprises.

The risk manager’s leadership team will be very sensitive to adverse news that catches them off guard or could have been mitigated. Expectation management, immediate escalation of critical information, and preventative communication should be essential aspects of daily practice. (Image: fizkes/Adobe Stock)

No. 6: All risk managers are in the service business.

This means being aware of the needs and expectations of stakeholders, and going out of their way to meet them. The clients of the risk manager are not limited to his chain of management and the corporate clientele that pays the bills, but include employees, shareholders, the board of directors and even members of the general public. (Image: sdecoret/Shutterstock)

#7: Embrace technology.

Most risk managers bring notable experience and credentials to their position, but aren’t necessarily tech savvy. Technology is more than a means to solve productivity problems: it’s also the driver of many of today’s top risks. It is not necessary for the risk manager to become a technology expert, but it is necessary to intelligently prioritize technology needs and opportunities, and secure the expertise and resources needed to design and deploy solutions. (Image: Green Butterfly/Adobe Stock)

#8: Question everything, continuously.

Change is necessary and, when managed well, very beneficial. Beware of letting the status quo go unchallenged. This does not mean that repetitive major changes should be the norm, that transformative results will always be achieved, or that every initiative should produce the desired results. Small improvements can add up to large total benefits. (Image: ©IRStone/Adobe Stock)

#9: Keep learning.

Every risk manager should have a working knowledge of enterprise risk management, labor law, working hours compliance, cybersecurity, data privacy, reputation management, risk Policy, Business Continuity and Assurance of Representations and Warranties. Although expertise in all of these areas is neither necessary nor practical, the risk manager must be able to generate and lead a high-level discussion about how all material risks relate to their own organization and what could be done to better manage them. The breadth of knowledge needed is indeed daunting, but relevant information is more accessible than ever. (Image: NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe Stock)

#10: Focus on generic preparation.

How many of us were able to specifically predict both the emergence and timing of the COVID-19 pandemic? What about the sudden shortage of talent, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, or the specific consequences of supply chain disruption? While such events may show warning signs of being imminent, we cannot always know what the next consuming event will be or what its impact on the organization will be. (Free to use image)

If you’ve been a risk manager for a while, there are probably things you would do differently if only you could go back in time. Even if this is not the case, we can all benefit from the perspective of those who have experienced the situations that risk managers face on a daily basis.

With that in mind, the slideshow above illustrates 10 ways risk managers can be more effective in their role and have more control over their career path.

To look forward

Instead of reacting to the past, preparing for what’s next is always the right strategy. Risk managers who earn a seat at the C-suite table pay close attention to the impact of future transformative events on key dimensions such as talent, liquidity, technology and sustainability of operations. They have already engaged in a company dialogue on these issues and are thus preparing their management team to anticipate and deal with them.

The steps listed above may seem too long, demanding or difficult. Indeed, we all have to make decisions about work-life balance, what interests us, what we seek in our careers, and how much change we are comfortable with. But we must also recognize that going back to the status quo or postponing things carries its own risk. Failure to grow, learn or change is not only limiting but dangerous. Sometimes we adapt more quickly once we accept that being a little uncomfortable can be a permanent situation.

By being aware of the issues mentioned above and taking proactive steps to manage them, a risk manager can be more satisfied and efficient at work and better equipped to take charge of their career.

Gary Pearce ([email protected]) is the Chief Risk Architect for Aclaimant, Inc.and member of the Editorial Advisory Board of NU Property & Casualty.

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