24 March, 2023

Blog | On Risk Management

Following the stories of sudden collapses making headlines in March involving SVB, Credit Suisse, Transaction Capital and others that are likely to follow, I share high-level reflections with reference to two critical leadership tools, being strategy and risk management.

1) Strategy is a game-plan with a 3 to 20 year time horizon in the case of large companies; let's say 3 to 5 in smaller entities/focussed projects. For governments, up to 50 years.

2) Risk management (verb) supports the execution of that game-plan w.r.t evolving internal and external factors - it must work consistently during both good times and bad times. Surprise/ shock events means the risk was not identified or fairly prioritised or the CRO or was not in the room. Of course, black swans do land, albeit only occasionally and cyclically in some disciplines. What about repeat events - 2001, 2008, now 2023 and ESG scandals in between.

3) Companies that apply inconsistent or ineffective risk management will fail and fall eventually - the game-plan has a faulty scoreboard and offers no practical adaptation levers. Kicking the can down the road simply deepens the cracks in the lifeboat.

4) Banking on external factors and systemic forces to compensate for poor risk management culture is like captaining a damaged ship with arms folded. Hubris and irresponsible. High uncertainty requires high risk monitoring and consistent key stakeholder engagement. Keep the CROs close and allow them to be brutally objective about the facts and scenarios.

5) During change, adaptation or turbulence, stakeholders must remain well informed of how the game is being played, in simple language, so that they can clearly evaluate the upside and downside of their involvement, based on what they choose to hear and buy into. Vital in an age of information overload and high polarisation. Effective investor/stakeholder relations needs objective technical experts who communicate with facts. PRO and marketing are different.

Turbulence and disruption are the new normal, until the 4.0 foundation is set. We are seeing various systems in adaptation/ transition phase, across sectors. We have also entered a new AI era which brings in new complexity. Yet old risk events repeat. Chaos looming?

What is the capacity for critical thinking within our leadership teams and structures? Can current thinking help direct a new trajectory that delivers prosperity? If not, what practical changes can we make now to avoid a foreseeable crash, collapse or corporate scandal in our spheres of influence - as business leaders, influencers and educators/mentors? This is surely a key layer of the 4.0 foundation?

Article written by Roshni Gajjar