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"We can see disruption all around us - at a business, societal and geopolitical level."

New World, New Solutions: John Ludlow, Airmic CEO, explains the theme of Airmic's annual conference and lays down the challenge for risk managers.

"New World, News Solutions is a call to action for both our members and the insurance market," says John Ludlow, Airmic CEO, discussing the significance of his chosen theme for the imminent annual conference in Harrogate.

"It's throwing down the gauntlet that we in the risk and insurance community must align ourselves and our organisations for the challenges and opportunities of the new world."

According to Mr Ludlow, technology-driven change is the single defining feature of the new world, but it encompasses a lot more than that. "Technological advancement is age-old and perpetual. But what is noticeable now is the profound impact it's having on economic development and business value," he explains.

The impact of social media is a good example, he says. "Social media has triggered a shift in power from the shareholder view to the societal view. The trust your corporate brand commands has therefore become a huge differentiator and has contributed to the shift we are seeing in corporate value away from tangible assets and towards intangible ones such as reputation."

Couple this with globalisation, and the results are enormous. "In today's world, if you gain the trust of global stakeholders, you're the winner of a global market. The rewards are bigger than in any time previously. The flip side is that many people feel left behind in this environment: the difference between winners and losers is bigger than in the past. The risks are as big as the opportunities."

We are at a tipping point

In his opening speech at last year's annual conference in Liverpool, Mr Ludlow hailed these changes as a revolution. "It's not incremental change or continuous improvement that we're seeing, but a fundamental transformation of working practices and business models. We are at a tipping point," he explains.

"Evolution results in change, but revolution results in disruption, and we can see disruption all around us - at a business, societal and geopolitical level."

In this environment, understanding and predicting the future is far harder than it has ever been. "We've never had a crystal ball, but now our visibility is even more clouded than in the past as there are too many unknowns. There is only one thing certain about revolutions, and that is that they will have unintended consequences. Today is no different."

It is very difficult to create business models with a long shelf-life in this environment, he explains. "That's why an organisation's ability to reinvent itself has become a key differentiator. That was a key finding of Airmic's Roads to Revolution paper we published at our last conference. And that's the challenge we want to build upon at this year's conference."

John Ludlow, CEO, Airmic

People are key to reinvention

Reinvention is a particularly tall order for larger, well-established businesses, says Mr Ludlow, noting that they are competing with agile, tech-focused start-ups. His advice for businesses is to focus on people:

"Upskilling your employees and bringing in the right talent so that the business can leverage new technology is absolutely vital. This must happen at both an operational and a strategic level, so that the business model is adapting as well as the routine functions."

Take on more risk

The role of risk professionals, says Mr Ludlow, is to ensure their organisations are positioned to take advantage of the exciting opportunities opening up in this new world:

"Once you achieve strong risk governance, you can take on more risk not less. That is a really important and exciting message that we must get through to boardrooms. Our members are already gaining more access to the boardroom, but I'd like to see this accelerate and for our members to become strategic partners. To do this, we must grow our knowledge, our networks, and our influence."

My Ludlow hopes the insurance industry will continue to play a vital role in the new world, but says it will need to change faster and further in order to do so.

"If insurers can develop meaningful business relationships and cultivate data intelligence in a way that is useful for risk managers and their organisations, then the role of insurance will grow in the new world. But if they continue to treat insurance purely as a product designed for their own balance sheets, then they will not. Insurance will become ever more commoditised."

Mr Ludlow says he is looking forward to bringing together risk professionals, insurers, brokers and others from the risk community to debate these challenges in Harrogate. "It's only by working together, debating problems and sharing ideas that we can rise to the new world challenges."

Airmic's annual conference will take place in Harrogate from 3-5 June. Places are free for Airmic members. Click here for more information and to register.