Not unnaturally perhaps, everyone tends to look at risk from their own perspective because risk threatens change to the norm, and often a change to personal circumstances. Too often, change is viewed negatively, but, if managed well, it can bring positive benefits. Too frequently, the management of risk is concentrated with those immediately affected, but not with all those who may be ultimately affected
We need to break down these barriers and escape from the silo mindset. If we do not transcend the traditional business model where each professional function operates alone, we will never be able to manage risk effectively and efficiently.
No one group has all the answers. Risk has always been part of life. Now, growing competitiveness, internationalism, and a greater focus on corporate responsibility, have put the effective management of risk at the heart of business operations.
How much importance is now attached to risk management is demonstrated by the wide variety of disciplines that will be represented at AIRMIC’s annual conference in Birmingham from 4-6 June. The conference theme is “Risk management - a virtuous circle”. I chose this theme for my year in office as AIRMIC chairman. It has two strands, and illustrates how everyone is a member of the risk management community.
First, there is the importance of each initiative - financial, operational, health and safety, project or other - in supporting the development of risk management within an organisation and in society. Second, there is the importance of having good communication between all members of the risk management community. Good communication creates a virtuous circle, which adds value and is at the heart of good corporate governance. It is appropriate, therefore, that the speakers and delegates at our conference include internal auditors, treasurers, loss adjusters, brokers, insurers, actuaries, lawyers, management consultants and IT specialists.
The keynote speakers will include a consultant in governance, reputation and risk, a journalist and a pensions investment consultant, each of whom will give their thoughts on how good risk management and insurance practice can benefit the health, security and confidence of organisations and society. Further, the importance of the American experience will be recognised by the presence of the eminent consultant Peter Bernstein, whose best-selling book Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk won an award as ‘the most insightful, innovative management book published in 1996.’
The other keynote speakers are Deborah Pretty, principal of independent strategic advisory body, Oxford Metrica; economic commentator and associate editor of The Times, Anatole Kaletsky, and Alan MacDougall, managing director of PIRC, the UK’s leading pensions investment consultants. Among the lecturers will be Dennis Farrington, consultant on higher education law to the Council of Europe and to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In the past year, AIRMIC has made a consistent effort to get much closer to professionals from other disciplines. We have improved our links with other organisations, such as the Association of Corporate Treasurers, the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, as well as with risk management bodies in the UK and overseas.
Our approach has always been the same. Risk management has to be the focal point, the centre of the circle. It is the only way to encourage a culture of risk thinking and risk strategy.
The AIRMIC annual conference - the largest in Europe for the risk management profession - is being held at the Birmingham International Convention Centre from 4-6 June. It includes a full two-day programme of speeches, workshops and lectures, as well as an exhibition involving more than 50 suppliers to the insurance and risk management industry.
Alan Fleming is chairman of the Association of Insurance and Risk Managers (AIRMIC).