‘Changing the narrative’ around risk management

Sword GRC Blog

‘Changing the narrative’ around risk management

An interview with Simon Levy, CEO, Risk Management Institute of Australasia

With offices in Melbourne and Singapore, Sword GRC takes an active role in supporting the risk management community throughout the Asia Pacific region. Keith Ricketts, VP of Marketing recently enjoyed a virtual ‘catch-up’ with Simon Levy, CEO of the Risk Management Institute of Australasia (RMIA) – the region’s leading professional organization for Risk Managers.

Over the course of an informal chat, Simon shared his views on RMIA’s remit in providing leadership, knowledge and recognition for its members and the wider industry, the changing role of risk management and the challenges risk professionals face today. He also brought welcome news of the upcoming RMIA Annual Conference 2022 – a highly-anticipated event that will, after testing times, bring the risk community together once again.

This blog features highlights from Keith and Simon’s conversation:

KR: Simon, tell me, how long have you been involved in the risk profession?

SL: I’ve been involved for some 25 years. Like many people, I fell into the sector ‘by default’ – I have a science background and started out within a manufacturing and process environment. Moving to the UK, I spent 10 years working within the aviation industry, over which time I gained valuable perspective on the ‘enterprise view’ of risk management that is its bedrock today. Relocating back to Australia, my career encompassed roles within retail, healthcare and insurance; this period of time highlighted to me the importance of brand and reputation, and further broadened my knowledge of risk and its management.

KR: You took up the role of CEO at RMIA last year. Did you have prior involvement with the institution?

SL: Yes, I’ve enjoyed close involvement with RMIA over the past seven years, initially joining as a member, moving up the ranks to Chapter President for the Victoria region, and in the capacity of RMIA Board Director for three and a half years. Over this time, I’ve had great opportunity to understand the organization, build knowledge and consider risk management through different ‘lenses’.

KR: How has RMIA evolved over recent years?

SL: RMIA has progressed apace with the changing view of risk. Maturity in the field has grown and there’s a wider acceptance that what we do as a professional industry association can add value for organizations. We have an established platform from which we can advocate for our members, both as individual risk professionals and for the profession collectively.

KR: Would you say that risk management has become more ‘professional’?

SL: Interestingly, there are two sides to that: our members’ expectations have changed; and rightly so, they demand a highly professional representative body. Equally, the ways in which we are innovating, delivering thought leadership and making knowledge accessible to our members is in turn, helping them to develop and embed greater professionalism within their roles. It’s a good dynamic – almost symbiotic, in many ways.

KR: Do you think that the status of risk has elevated – is it taken more seriously these days?

SL: Yes, I’d say so. The Chief Risk Officer’s role within the C-Suite represents the changing needs of businesses and the maturity of the profession. Risk is now firmly integrated within organizational strategy development and decision-making, for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors.

KR: Now you’re at the helm of RMIA, what are your priorities and ambitions?

SL: My focus is very much on listening to and meeting the needs of individual members and industry professionals and realigning Head Office vision throughout our Chapter network. Reaffirming the values of the RMIA internally results in clarity of message, ensuring the needs of members and the profession are addressed.

We are also dedicated to enhancing the credibility that continues to grow in our industry. Risk management has moved from being a compliance and insurance function to something ‘necessary’ – measurement and governance – that adds value, on an operational basis and at C-Suite level too. It’s a significant evolution and our job at RMIA is to maintain this momentum.

Essentially my goals are two-fold: To grow the RMIA membership base and to support the development of the profession within the Australasian region; ultimately, I believe that this will result in changing the dialogue around risk and ensuring its professionalism.

KR: What kind of partners make up the RMIA eco-system and what value do they bring?

SL: Partners are critical to RMIA’s operation – they are at the forefront of risk management. Our network is made up of our members, education and training providers and industry partners, one of which is Sword GRC. We also work with technology providers, PR and communications specialists – effectively providing the full spectrum of knowledge and support that our members can lean on. Our partners facilitate that knowledge transfer; we act as the conduit in the middle.

KR: Do you think technology is critical to the risk management process nowadays?

SL: Technology is certainly an enabler, regardless of the size of the organization. The power that technology brings can simplify the data and insights that professionals need to embrace and utilize in the right way. Risk managers and leadership must be cautious of decision-making paralysis and select the data and risk intelligence that will add the most insight and context for the organization.

There’s nothing dynamic about using Excel spreadsheets for risk registers – ultimately, technology needs to be a tool to provide insights to support and inform decision-making.

KR: Would you say that effective risk management supports the performance of the organization?

SL: I think it sets those performance markers as well. If risk management within the organization is effective, it’s providing tools to the decision-makers in order for them to make appropriate judgements and set the guiding strategy – pushing the KPIs and boundaries for the organization. Whether it’s a listed organization, a small not-for-profit or SME enterprise, risk management has that role to play.

KR: What do you think are the key challenges for your members today?

SL: I think the risk manager’s role and the requirements of the profession have matured as everyday decision-making has incorporated risk management. Of course, we can’t overlook the events of the past two years. When Covid struck, there was suddenly no rule book; risk professionals found themselves either part of a crisis team, advising the crisis team or elevated into a position that to many of them may have been new. Risk management quickly became a key function in business continuity and resilience.

As the pandemic progressed, as in the case in most industries, fatigue set in. In 2021 there was a universal shift in focus to the wellbeing of people. Now, happily, we’ve reached a point where things are opening up again and restrictions are lifting.

I’d say the challenges for risk professionals have been unprecedented. Add into the mix emerging trends – big data, AI, evolving areas of focus such as ESG – and the risk professional has had to step up and raise their game. The RMIA has been there, throughout, providing community for its members – essential understanding, resources and support amongst peers.

KR: On the theme of professional peer support, tell me about the upcoming RMIA Annual Conference – what makes this year’s event so special?

SL: Covid took away the opportunity for the professional risk community to get together so we’re delighted to be resuming this major event, taking place from March 30th – April 1st at Sofitel, Melbourne.

It’s billed as a ‘risk reunion’ – the very first risk conference on the 2022 calendar and a great opportunity for colleagues and friends to meet up once again, network, learn and share knowledge and experiences.

We have a great keynote speaker line-up, presenting across a variety of topic streams – including enterprise risk, strategic risk, resilience and communications, decision-making, project risk, financial services and the public sector. Training workshops will also be available on risk leadership and culture, ensuring that conference delegates will refresh their skills and widen their learning. And of course, attendees will be able to enjoy the face-to-face networking that’s been impossible recently.

We’ll also be hosting our gala awards dinner in recognition of outstanding performance and leadership in the risk field over the past 12 months. The whole event promises to be a lot of fun! Registrations are open and welcome from both RMIA members and fellow risk management professionals.

KR: Sword GRC is proud to support the work of the RMIA and as an event sponsor, greatly looks forward to be being part of the ‘conversation.’

Discover more about the RMIA Annual Conference 2022 and register.

Learn more about the RMIA