Friday 18 July 2014

My Son the Risk Manager?

That’s not a question for me.  I guess I am already there.  It is more of a potential question for my children – and yours as well.  The ultimate question is whether you would be happy to encourage your children (or perhaps the children of one of your best friends) to go into risk management as a career.

Put it differently, has risk management become like accountancy or law? Is risk-management a generic business qualification that can be applied in different business contexts?

Once I started thinking about this I realised that it wasn’t clear to me if risk management is a career in its own right.  The alternative is that risk management would be a common and reasonably well-defined role in many sectors.  This matters because one of the next questions in that hypothetical conversation would be along the lines of “how do I get there”.

The main argument in favour regarding risk management as a career in its own right is that there seems to be an emerging body of risk management theory that cuts across sectors.  This can be evidenced from the emergence of standardised approaches to risks management that cut across sectors, e.g. ISO 31000, and professional associations.

A similar argument would be in terms of the skills needed to perform successfully in the role.  While my experience is limited to financial services, my feeling is that the blend of skills needed in risk roles tend to be slightly different from those required for other roles – in no particular order, they include the ability to see the big-picture, communication, determination, ability to keep things simple.

At the same time, while developing tools and approaches for risk management is a considerable ongoing challenge, the main one is the implementation.  However, implementing successfully risk management and certainly generating value depends on business knowledge and understanding of the corporate environment.

All in all, I am more inclined to suggest to my children the following:
  •  choose a degree you like – IT, law, economics, engineering, finance – and a sector; 
  •  consider risk management as a role that would help career advancement; and
  • explore ways of getting ready for that challenge.

If you work in financial services, I would be keen to hear your thoughts about these suggestions.  If you don’t, I would be keen to know if these lessons resonate with your experience. 

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