Risk management is seen as divorced from business, M&S group secretary warns

Published on Tue, 28/11/2017 - 14:20
Amanda Mellor, group secretary and head of corporate governance, M&S
Amanda Mellor, group secretary and head of corporate governance, M&S

Risk professionals must make risk "accessible and relevant" to drive value, ERM Forum delegates hear

Risk management still lacks relevance in many boardrooms across the UK, according to Amanda Mellor, group secretary and head of corporate governance at Marks & Spencer.

Speaking at Airmic's ERM Forum last month, she warned that, although risk management is an "increasingly critical topic", it is still often perceived as "compliance" and "divorced from business".

"All boards acknowledge that risk is very important but yet risk conversations are not always having the value they should at the board level," she observed. "It's critical that we facilitate effective risk conversations."

Risk professionals must learn how to make risk an accessible subject and avoid being a "governance bureaucrat", Ms Mellor urged. "It's very difficult to shape the debate and drive value in the boardroom without accessibility or relevance."

Communication is part of the problem, she noted, with many risk professionals struggling to translate their technical knowledge into a boardroom pitch: "You have developed your own language which makes it impenetrable and makes you look disconnected."

Instead, risk professionals must learn to articulate the link between risk management and the business model, especially before giving a presentation or pitch to senior executives. "Build your networks internally and externally and make sure you understand the business strategy and the board's perspective. Investor relations and strategy teams are useful for that," she advised.

Ultimately, the key to getting noticed is to work out what will really grab their attention. "In my world, it's the threat of jail," she joked.