At the heart of any effective risk process are two common qualities of
strong team work and open communication. This, supported by strong action and
solution orientation enable the Risk Management function to carry out its
mandate effectively. Risk Champions are central to this, and used well, they
become the glue that can hold risk activities together.
Risk champs are not necessarily experts in risk but they have enough
influence within their team, which is backed up by their genuine interest and
basic knowledge about the risk process. Among their many qualities is passion and
As effective communicators, they are able to get the broader team
involved and often succeed in getting their colleagues to entrench risk management
practices in their day to day activities. Good risk champions understand that
their role is that of providing leadership and guidance for their specific
teams working alongside the group’s risk function.
The process of getting the risk champions is often riddled with
complexities, these may range from non-commitment to clear cases of
incompetence. However, a common pitfall is often the fact that risk champs are
capable individuals who are just overloaded with a range of other activities.
"One of the challenges we faced is that business would often appoint people who
had a variety of other responsibilities and being a risk champion is but one of
the many functions they fulfill,” says Kananelo Buthelezi (a senior risk
manager at Medscheme).
"Other challenges that often come up is ensuring continuity and
often we train risk champs only to have changes, making continuity difficult at
times”, she adds. "This is often coupled with unwillingness to take
responsibility on risk issues,” she continues. These two scenarios are managed
through setting clear expectations of senior management and ensure that each
areas have plans for ensuring continuity. "One of the key ways is to ensure
that costs associated with training are initially covered by the risk area but
if there is a change that could have been prevented, then the business has to
take the costs.
A useful intervention is making recognition and reward process which
will ensure that effective risk champs are publically acknowledged laying a
platform for adoption of best practice across the group. Recognition is a positive motivator and can
help mold a positive risk management culture. The process of recognition and
reward must be clear to all stakeholders and the outcome must be unquestionable.
The final aspect of ensuring effective risk champions is to provide
platforms that will support the champs in their day to day activity, as well as
provide a channel through which issues can be quickly reported and escalated. A
risk champion weekly or monthly meeting can serve this purpose, this platform
has to be explicitly stated on the risk policy and there has to be clear
support by senior management. The process can also be supported by an effective
risk management system that captures all the information, risk incidents and
action plans. The system has to be easily accessible and monitored visible to
by all stakeholders.
Ultimately, risk champions must be team players with good communication
skills, they must be action orientated and solution driven – in this way they
can help the Risk Management function to be more effective and play a pivotal
role in carrying out this risk mandate effectively.