Technology poses "biggest challenge" to risk managers - and the Russian threat cannot be ignored

Published on Tue, 03/07/2018 - 12:27
BBC presenter Spencer Kelly chaired the tech panel debate
BBC presenter Spencer Kelly chaired the tech panel debate

Risk managers need to become more strategic in response to the emergence of artificial intelligence, according to a leading academic. Gianvito Lanzolla Professor of Risk Strategy at City Business School told the annual conference that it was important for them to understand the dynamics of business and technology.

He was taking part in "The Revolution is Now!" technology panel debate, which focussed mainly on the implications of the so-called fourth industrial revolution. AI is already with us - very much in line with the 'Future is Now' theme of the conference - but need not be a long-term threat. Like so many emerging technologies it would destroy jobs, but also create new ones.

Yvette Connor, chief risk officer at advisory Focal Point Data Risk, described technology as the "biggest challenge currently facing risk managers". She urged them to approach technology the same way they would any other risk: identify risk; quantify risk and report risk.

"What we are talking about with technology risks is no different to what risk managers have been doing for years if not decades," she said.

"But now what you have before you is arguably one of the most exciting, challenging, ever-changing risks that you might face in your professional career.

"And it requires a new approach, but not a new approach in risk management, perhaps a new approach in terms of the lens that you apply to the risk management framework."

She said that the insurance industry had so far failed to respond adequately to digital risk - a challenge that requires a creative and strategic response from risk managers.

Lord (Tim) Clement-Jones, a member of the House of Lords AI committee, predicted there would be job losses, but said that some of the wilder predictions had been "over-egged". Many people would need to reskill to remain in the workforce.

Dr Jamie Sanders, a visiting professor at University College London, described potential Russian digital interference as a "hugely significant" and "extremely worrying" threat. "Any risk manager who thinks he can ignore that is wrong," he warned.

An important trend, he said, was a greater dependence on a small number of suppliers, leading to a concentration of risk.

Richard Hartley, CEO of Lybra, returned to the theme that AI was already here. The insurance industry, for example, was using it to price risks profitably and fairly to customers. He predicted, however, that it would "not become a transformative revolution." It would not replace the need for human judgement, and was more suited to commoditised risks associated with SMEs than the types of challenges faced by most Airmic members.