Ben started out as a business analyst and only became aware of risk management as a career after participating in some risk projects...
As I found out more about it, I realised that risk was a growing field and represented a great opportunity to learn how a business really works and get exposure to all parts of it. At the time, I wasn't entirely sure of where I wanted my career to go, so I saw it as a great chance to learn about the corporate world and get some first-class experience in the meantime.
Thanks to the success of one of the risk-related projects I was involved in, I was offered a secondment to the head office team the following year. The success of this, in turn, allowed me to apply for pure risk management roles, and the rest is history.
In terms of tips for getting into risk management, if, like me, you have a qualification that doesn't seem all that relevant to risk management, emphasise your transferable skills and the different perspective you can bring. In virtually every interview I've had, I'm always asked how my degree (which is in astrophysics) is relevant to the job that I'm applying for. My response is always to acknowledge that while the subject matter itself is worlds apart from the day-to-day world of business, the skills required for success are much the same.
To get a risk job, you need to convince people that, among other things, you can communicate effectively at all levels, learn and employ new concepts quickly (particularly if you're coming from a different background), manage your own workload and present your work convincingly to a mixed audience - some of whom may be fairly sceptical about the value of risk management.
My main tasks include working with senior management to assess, document, manage and monitor their risks, controls and mitigating actions, plus developing and maintaining the company's risk management framework. I've worked with all levels of the business and on a wide variety of activities from Sarbanes-Oxley implementation to control self-assessment.
Apart from the standard risk assessment work, my roles have included system development, staff training, report design, data analysis and process re-engineering. I have also led a small team, which has allowed me to try my hand at mentoring and coaching.
I enjoy the constant variety of challenges and the scope to work with virtually anyone in the business. Risk teams are typically fairly small and operate close to the top of an organisation, so you get to hear about everything and, more importantly, have a chance to make your own impression on the business. On the downside, risk management is still not taken seriously by everyone, and it can be an uphill struggle to get time and resource from people who are sceptical of the benefits.
Other challenges include the common misunderstanding of risk management concepts, as well as the battle to ensure that risk information is used correctly and kept up to date.
In developing my career, my skills have allowed me to develop my role according to my strengths. From my very first position, I've noticed that my skill set was fairly unique among my peers, which has allowed me to carve out my own niche in risk management, focusing specifically on systems, reporting and analysis. Although the small size of risk teams means that everybody has to pitch in with some of the larger tasks, there has been an opportunity to specialise.
In my current role, I am the team expert on analysis and reporting systems and am also the referral point for presentation techniques and reporting styles. To develop my career, I'd like to continue developing my own specialty within risk management and eventually lead a team or start/join a consultancy.
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