by Carolyn Williams, Director of Corporate Relations, Institute of Risk Management

Industry View from

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Future-proofing risk management

The risk profession is going to have to develop new skills to stay ahead of the digital game. In 2018, the Institute of Risk Management partnered with the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies (CRS) at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School to produce exciting new risk management research. The publication, Risk Management Perspectives of Global Corporations, reviews the risk management practices of major organisations and determines how they are adapting to meet future challenges and opportunities, particularly those posed by rapid technological developments.


This research has highlighted technological change as the biggest driver of uncertainty for organisations today. From self-driving cars to online medical consultations, new technologies such as the internet of things, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics and data analytics are starting to transform how things are done and present us with a new landscape of opportunity and risk. Change has always been with us, but there is a feeling that what we are facing now is more extreme. This arises from both the speed of developments and the profound impacts they are likely to have on business models and on human activity.     


Technological developments are moving so fast – look at what you can do on your mobile phone today that you couldn’t do (reliably, anyway) five years ago; look at the mushrooming take up of connected devices in our homes and workplaces. Further emerging technologies such as drones, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles and blockchain are starting to move out of the laboratory and into real-life applications, as our ability to transmit and crunch vast amounts of data expands. New technology offers so many opportunities for organisations to fulfil their objectives by improving processes, reducing costs, enhancing services and developing innovative new solutions. The potential benefits for firms, individuals and economies are huge. But all of this comes with risk – there are downsides as well as upsides, and these risks need to be managed. As well as the relatively familiar “cyber” risks of hacking, data and privacy breaches, extortion and internet-related fraud, there are the more strategic risks faced by organisations where digital technology is disrupting markets. There are also ethical questions – just because you can do something, does that mean you should? And if you do, how can you do it safely (and what does that even mean)?


Our research also uncovered that fewer than 40 per cent of the risk management community feel well equipped to understand these changes and support their organisations in this area. Part of our response to this is, don’t panic! The basic principles of good risk management will stay the same – the fundamental approach of building resilient organisations with robust processes, a healthy risk culture and strong risk communications will still be very much required, albeit able to move at a faster pace. The context, however, is certainly shifting with new risks to address and the potential for new tools and techniques to help. The risk professional cannot afford to be left behind in this field. They have to be reasonably knowledgeable about these developments. If they act fast, they could actually have an opportunity to lead and add value in helping their organisations manage these risks.


To help with this, IRM recently launched its new Digital Risk Management certificate. This qualification has been designed to equip risk practitioners and others to apply their skills in an increasingly digital world. Our world-class study material, developed in collaboration with Warwick University, will cover how new technologies and digitalisation are disrupting businesses and changing the risk environment for organisations of all types. It will look at how to carry out digital risk assessments, provide a detailed grounding in cyber-security principles and practices, and also look at the ethical issues surrounding both privacy and machine learning.


The qualification is, naturally, delivered and examined globally on a fully online basis, paving the way for a programme that will eventually bring all IRM’s qualifications online and hence make them even more accessible. It will be a relatively quick qualification to obtain, involving one multiple-choice examination and about 180 hours of study over approximately six months. It has been designed on a standalone basis to provide both a supplementary “future-proofing” qualification for our existing members as part of their continuing professional development opportunity, and also as an introduction to the subject for those from other disciplines. Enrolment for our first exam session opened at the end of 2018 and more than 200 people from around the world have already signed up to take the certificate.


A combination of great risk management skills together with an up-to-date knowledge of the digital risk landscape should be an unbeatable combination for tomorrow’s risk jobs.


The IRM also delivers an International Certificate in Enterprise Risk Management, one in Financial Services and also a Diploma. More information on this can be found here. 



If you’re interested in finding out more, click here.

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