Posted on February 16, 2021.
Risk appetite. Risk tolerance. You’ll be familiar with the terms, but how do they differ? Are they in fact interchangeable, since both can influence business decision-making? The Government Finance Function* provides a simple definition that offers clarification:
Risk Appetite: the level of risk with which an organisation aims to operate.
Risk Tolerance: the level of risk with which an organisation is willing to operate.
Subtleties and semantics aside, the challenge is for organizations to be able to distinguish between which risks are worth taking, in that they are likely to result in value-creating opportunities, and those risks that pose more of a threat and may destroy value. Failures can often be the result of excessive risk-taking or on the flip side, being too risk-averse.
“By determining an appropriate appetite for risk and implementing a framework to ensure that this appetite is maintained, organisations can ensure that decision-makers do not expose them to either too much, or too little risk,” advises the Institute of Risk (IOR).
In its ‘Operational Risk Appetite and Tolerance’ white paper, available as a free download, the IOR focuses on operational risk as part of an organization’s wider appetite for risk. Clear to assert that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, it does emphasize the importance of Board and senior management engagement: operational risks such as fraud, health & safety or conduct-related risks must be managed for good governance and compliance. And strategic decision-making often relies on exposure to operational risks, so there must be confidence in an organization’s ability to take and manage them.
Even though the design and implementation of an operational risk management and tolerance framework can be challenging, the payback can be significant.
Benefits of implementing a framework for operational risk appetite:
With tips for determining risk appetite, practical examples, an outline of the elements of an operational risk management framework and implementation guidance, the white paper is an invaluable reference.
*Government Finance Function Risk Appetite Guidance Note, October 2020