2017 in review: a year of wake up calls

Published on Wed, 29/11/2017 - 10:02
John Ludlow, CEO, Airmic
John Ludlow, CEO, Airmic

Airmic CEO John Ludlow looks back at the key events of this year, and gives his predictions - and challenges - for 2018.

If 2016 was a year for shocks - think Brexit, Donald Trump or even Leicester City winning the Premiership - this year has been a hard reminder of fundamental truths.

The series of devastating storms in the Americas was a brutal reality check about the impact of climate change. Meanwhile, a spate of global cyber attacks hammered home the fact that cyber risk is a reality today not a problem for the future. And finally, the tragic fire at the Grenfell Tower was a reminder that "traditional" threats are as dangerous as ever.

These are not new lessons; they are wake up calls. They are a reminder that we as risk professionals must be prepared for all risks, whether they are dominating the headlines or not.

Just because artificial intelligence and data analytics are current hot topics, we cannot lose vigilance on physical risks such as fire, or the slow-burn risks such as climate change. Just because cyber is often labelled an "emerging risk", it could still hit your company today - in the next hour, even.

"Insurers are improving their offering for the more challenging threats"

The good news is that businesses are increasingly understanding the importance of risk management for addressing these challenges. This was highlighted by Airmic's Profession in Transformation survey published in June, which showed that the profile of risk management within most organisations is higher than it has ever been - a trend that is set to continue through 2018, according to eight out of ten Airmic members.

Insurers are also showing improvements in their offering for the more challenging threats, especially cyber. This year has seen a marked improvement in products and services on offer, making cyber insurance the fastest-growing area of the market in terms of products, capacity and number of companies purchasing cover. With WannaCry and Petya fresh in the minds of boardrooms across the globe, this trend is likely to continue into 2018.

"Insurance and risk management must be more closely aligned and integrated"

A particularly important development this year has been a growing recognition of the need for more collaboration between insurers, risk managers and brokers. Speaking at Airmic's LAB Forum in October, the new Lloyd's chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown summed it up when he said that the insurance industry "needs to shift from a transaction-driven model to a partnership model."

He rightly pointed out that risk transfer alone "is too simplistic" for threats such as cyber where the complexity of the risk requires an enterprise-wide response. This is spot on. Today's risks require a joined up approach between insurers, brokers and businesses. Insurance and risk management must be more closely aligned and integrated. This is slowly starting to happen and Airmic will be working with its members and partners in 2018 to ensure the trend gathers momentum.

"One clear message is the importance of supporting members on their complete career journeys"

For me personally, 2017 has been incredibly exciting, taking up my new role at Airmic. Our annual conference in Birmingham was undoubtedly the best yet - a fitting send off for John Hurrell and a tribute to his nine years of hard work.

Since then, I have had the pleasure of talking and listening to Airmic's vast network of stakeholders, and most importantly our members, to better understand how Airmic can serve the risk community in today's challenging business environment.

One clear message has been the importance of supporting our members on their complete career journeys - from graduates to the most senior professionals. We have therefore worked hard to improve our offering at every level, including partnering with universities, relaunching a new and improved fastTrack offering and Academy series, launching our leadership development course in partnership with City, and working closely with our most experienced members through the Leadership Advisory Board.

If you haven't done so already, please do get involved in these initiatives next year - they are tailor-made for Airmic members and a fantastic investment in your time.

"Breaking the profession out of its traditional technical mould is no easy task"

In my first speech to members as your chief executive, I said that risk professionals must learn to think like business people if they are to truly demonstrate the value of risk management around the boardroom table. Breaking the profession out of its traditional technical mould is no easy task, but that is my challenge to members for next year.

To that end, Airmic has a thought leadership series planned, exploring how to have an effective board level conversation on risk management - covering both the content and how to translate this into an engaging pitch for senior executives.

Whatever 2018 throws our way, I return to the good news that business leaders are looking to us - risk professionals - for help more than ever before. It is now for us to rise to the challenge and to demonstrate the true value of strategic risk management.

Merry Christmas, and a happy new year to all our members, partners and the rest of the risk community.

John Ludlow,
Airmic CEO.