Luxembourg Association for Risk Management president Marco Zwick tells us about some of the lessons he has learnt as a risk manager

Q. What are you thinking about right now?

A. The past few years have presented many challenges for all internal control functions and risk managers in particular. I think that one of the main lessons learnt from the financial and economic crisis is the need for risk managers to interact more and openly communicate among themselves. There is a lot of good and, sometimes, bad experience to be shared. 

Q. What is your most treasured possession?

A. Persistence and passion in what I do. People occasionally focus their interest on results only, which is not surprising in a competitive world. But in my view, the way in which we decide to achieve results is equally as important as the results themselves. I apply this value in my profession as I have always considered it to be an efficient risk mitigator. 

Q. Who is your greatest hero?

A. For me there is no single greatest hero. There are many, and most of them do not benefit from VIP status and press coverage. Believing the definition in Wikipedia, a hero “refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, displays courage and the will for self-sacrifice for some greater good of all humanity”. Moral excellence is a more modern way to describe heroes nowadays, therefore I hope that the number of heroes increases daily, even though some courageous actions may benefit only a small part rather than all humanity.

Q. What is your greatest fear?

A. In risk management, we deal with uncertainties, assumptions and impact assessments. We can get it wrong and recent history has demonstrated to us that risk modelling has important limitations. International regulatory standards ask for more modelling and require companies to perform back and stress tests on the models used. My concern is that risk continues to be ‘virtualised’ via the adoption of symmetric models based on similar underlying risk scenario assumptions. Significant risk events outside the financial industry have evidenced the need for “zero risk tolerance”, for example to protect life. In financial services, we need to learn again that the objective is to manage risks, not try to eliminate them completely.

Q. Tell us a secret

A. During my free time, I play keyboards, which is the perfect stress mitigation for me, but not always for my family. The advantage of playing electronic musical instruments is that you can adjust volumes and, at worst, even use headphones when hitting the keys. This has often helped me to mitigate the risk of complaints.

Q. What makes you happy?

A. My eight-year-old daughter shares my passion for music and has started to play the violin. I am very happy about the musical records that we produce together. Everybody feels obliged to comment in a positive way.

Marco Zwick, president, Luxembourg Association for Risk Management (ALRiM)