A Reflection on Risk
How leaders in risk prevention view the world today and the growing risks of tomorrow.
By Eric Gilkey
Do you think the world is becoming more or less risky? It’s a question we posed each month to a different risk professional throughout 2016. See how these leaders in risk prevention view the world today and what they consider the growing risks of tomorrow.
“I think the world is becoming more strategically risky. I think that emerging risks like terrorism, driverless cars, 3D printing, drones, e-cigarettes, and the ‘Internet of Things’ show that we live in a changing world. I think risk managers are starting to understand that they can’t just look backward at risks and prepare for those; we also need to look forward and get our arms around emerging risks.”—Lance Ewing, Executive Vice President of Global Risk Management and Client Services, Cotton Holdings Inc.
“I believe the risks that exist in this world are greater than they were a generation or two ago. Additionally, people are more sensitive to these risks and potential outcomes. Therefore, mitigation techniques and data analytics play prominent roles in managing risk.”—Bill McCullough, Manager - Liability Claims, Treasury and Risk Management, Verizon
“Neither. I believe the nature of risks and how they are presented to us is always changing, but I think that the overall presence of risk remains the same.”—Tim Vincent, Manager of Risk Services, Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust
“I cannot say that I feel the world is becoming riskier. What I do believe is that our society and its workings are undergoing extremely rapid change. Delivery of goods, services, education, and organizational undertakings are evolving in ways not imaginable even a decade ago. The traditional risk management approach of reacting to an occurrence is no longer a valid application; our field now is expected to be on the forefront of managing the future and being prepared for it when it arrives.”—Patrick Hughes, Chief Risk Officer, Enterprise Risk Services, Oregon State University
“I would like to say it’s becoming less risky, but I don’t think that is the case. While technology and the global marketplace have made our world much more efficient, it also has resulted in constant change. Constant change means inherent and ever-changing risk to which organizations must anticipate, react, and adapt. Change and risk management become key to organizational success. So while I do not necessarily prefer to have a riskier world within which to work, this is likely good for the risk management profession as it raises the awareness, status, and importance of risk management within all organizations.”—Richard Payne, Chief Risk and Compliance Officer, Graebel Companies Inc.
“In many respects, the world appears far less risky for professionals. We have computers to keep track of our calendars and notify us about important deadlines. We can obtain information at the touch of a button on a smartphone or tablet. We can be far more efficient in word processing tasks. Letters do not have to solely rely on the post office because we can send messages and documents via email. We can communicate more efficiently and more often than in the past. However, technology has created new risks—or, rather, the same risk in a different format. Calendar systems are only as good as the deadline dates that are put in, and they cannot help a professional who ignores or forgets to respond to a reminder. Too much reliance on technology can backfire if a professional doesn’t have the right systems and safeguards in place. In addition, clients are far less patient about the work product of their hired professionals. We work in a society in which immediate responses are expected. Professionals may have less staff to help with projects and actually are doing far more than in the past. Mentoring of young professionals is not as common as it used to be. This results in less experienced professionals handling projects for clients on their own with an increased risk of making a mistake.”—Gawain Charlton-Perrin, Director of Risk Management, The Hanover Insurance Group
“Both. In some respects, there are developments that make us safer, faster, and our processes easier. However, with the use of technology in almost every aspect of our lives, it creates new areas of vulnerability to risk. The biggest risk is the one that we don’t see coming. We don’t know what we don’t know. So the challenge for the insurance industry and risk managers is to try and anticipate the unanticipated.”—Joni Mason, Vice President, Professional Risk Practice, Wells Fargo Insurance Services