Marie-Gemma Dequae is an economist, a university lecturer and the corporate risk manager of a global transformation and materials group

She was risk manager of the year in 2000 for a UK publication. Yet, the new president of FERMA draws on a family allusion to describe how she sees the relationship between FERMA and its member associations.

"FERMA is, indeed, the association of country associations, so it can be compared to the grandparents of a big family of children," Dequae says.

"FERMA does not want to interfere in local businesses - just as I do not want to interfere in the households of my children - but wants to listen to what is happening in each country together with some specific activities that have to be organised on a European level where FERMA has to take the lead."

Among these activities are contacts with the European Commission and European associations of partner organisations, such as insurers, brokers and internal auditors.

There is also work to be done, Dequae believes, on technical aspects of risks which have European or international exposures, where FERMA can provide support to member associations, and she hopes to encourage contacts with universities and other research bodies.

Dequae has taken over the helm of the European risk management association at a time when the European Community has widened to 25 countries, with still others lining up to join. Risk management is little developed in many of these accession states, and Dequae wants to use her two year term as president of FERMA to encourage the growth of risk management as a profession and the creation of national associations in more European countries.

One of her priorities will be risk management education and training.

This is hardly surprising, since she took a PhD. in applied economics and taught economics and finance at university for some years. She joined the Belgian based materials group Bekaert, an international leader in advanced metal transformation and advanced materials and coatings, in 1985 to build its risk management and insurance department. Since 1990, she has been the corporate risk manager for Bekaert worldwide.

From June 1994 until June 2005, Dequae was also president of the Belgian risk management association, BELRIM. She continues to teach and lecture on risk management. Yet, perhaps her top priority as president of FERMA owes as much to her experience as a mother of four children, and as the grandmother of three grandchildren, as to her working life. "Most of all," she says, "I will first listen to what the local associations expect from FERMA."