Make Risk Work for You

How to turn risk into a business opportunity.

By Sean Stein Smith

Risk is an inevitable part of life, as well as being inherent in every business transaction that is undertaken, or not undertaken.

Organizations have created chief risk officers and entire departments that are dedicated to risk management, that is, helping the organization avoid costly legal and/or operational snafus that could be damaging. Risk, and the damage that it can wreak upon on an organization, can damage both operational results as well as the brand of the firm. Brands can be worth in the billions of dollars, and so any potential damage to this part of the business should be taken seriously.

Too much focus on controlling, mitigating and planning for risk events that could impact the organization can stifle creativity, innovation and the very sparks that many businesses rely on to drive growth and propel the business forward. Obviously, managing and monitoring risk are two essential activities that every modern business must do. Without having a strong grasp on potential risk factors that could impact operations, the organization is left open to unexpected, and costly, surprises.

While there certainly are financial professionals who work in risk management and mitigation areas already, the potential for greater involvement of all financial professionals makes business sense. Some of the most common methods by which organizations seek to reduce risk exposure, or plan counter-actions to deal with risk, are by the use of predictive modeling programs. Insurance firms are some of the most active users of said models, and this helps these firms set pricing and coverage policies for the wide-ranging coverage options offered to customers.

By integrating the finance function (both accounting and finance) into the risk management function, there are several benefits to be derived.

The first concerns the additional financial acumen that is brought to bear on the financial ramifications of risk-on events, and the impact that these financial effects will have on ongoing performance.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, financial professionals work with virtually every aspect of an organization, and the insights that they could bring to bear would be invaluable.

Bringing over feedback from both the forecast, as well as how actual results are playing out, and integrating these facets into the risk model creation process would result in more robust and accurate risk assessments. More robust risk assessment models will allow a more accurate picture of risk-reward tradeoffs to be presented to management, and might even allow the organization to take advantage of opportunities that other firms were unable to.

Risk is inevitable, but there is no reason why it cannot work for you and your organization.