As 2020 draws to a close, Julia Graham ponders what next for risk professionals?

Published on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 10:25
Julia Graham is Airmic's deputy CEO and technical director
Julia Graham is Airmic's deputy CEO and technical director

As I write, we face two developments of a global magnitude - a potential vaccine for COVID-19 and a new era in the White House. Will 2020’s bad news soon be behind us? As we drive into 2021, will we look into the rear-view mirror, and, to quote a phrase used by Keir Starmer, ask “what was all that about?”

The response is that we need to look ahead. We will continue to accelerate into a new world as this “Annus horribilis” draws to a close. Issues that existed before the virus are still there, and the issues created by the global events of 2020 are still there - and the risks associated with these events will continue to emerge, adding to the complexity of the world in which we live, work, and manage risk.

As a profession, how did we perform in 2020, and what should we be focussing on now?

The pandemic exposed that our leadership was challenged by a lack of useful intelligence and data to support business decisions, leading to short-term reactions that we might live to regret. At an operational level, many organisations found their processes lacking around long-term business impacts.

Airmic members reported a positive experience in their organisational crisis management response to the virus. Many organisations had the right competencies and mindsets to think and act at an enterprise level to deal effectively with the pandemic.

However, they also reported a more critical role for risk professionals going forward, and the supplementary knowledge and skills required to achieve this. This response was most notable in collaborative working, in understanding the interconnectivity of different risks, and in engaging with business issues. The message of this article is to learn the lessons of 2020, get professionally fit and stay fit.

This month saw the passing of a great ambassador of professional learning, Jo Willaert. Jo was the former President of FERMA, with which he was still actively engaged, as well as the Belgian risk management association BELRIM, and the international risk association IFRIMA.

Jo chose education, leadership and communication as the themes of his four years as FERMA President. They have been the driving forces behind what FERMA accomplished during his tenure and continues to today. I speak with great personal appreciation of Jo, as his predecessor at FERMA, and without his support and wisdom, my mandate would have so much poorer. Jo, we celebrate your achievements and we will continue to champion a wonderful profession - keep learning, keep changing, never stand still, and continue to raise the professional bar.