The Undisputed Role of Risk Champions
No matter the organisation, the risk landscape has never been even. That is why decision-makers are always concerned about issues relating to risk ownership
Since risk ownership cannot be assigned to only one particular individual, risk champions need to be appointed to facilitate the risk agenda across their respective departments. Let’s look at some of the distinctive role(s) of risk champions in this context (the insight into this discussion is not limited to the following roles).
Cross-functional interface and interaction
The challenges encountered by risk champions cannot be underestimated. As they facilitate the risk management processes, their interface and interaction with staff will inevitably collide with “friendly fire” from risk owners.
In this instance, they need to build mutually beneficial relationships as fighters for a good “risk agenda”. Thus, to further foster this relationship, each department ought to appoint a risk champion.
In an era when risks might emerge from predictable or unpredictable sources, risk champions must always be “on the lookout”. This is not done in isolation; it requires continuous dialogue with colleagues on challenging the risk landscape.
They need to ask what it is that could assist or stop them from achieving the departmental or organisation-wide risk objective. This might sound straightforward, but is fundamental to achieving this goal.
Communication, consultation and participation
Risk champions are privileged to have an insight into an organisation’s risk profile. This enables them to influence and facilitate a risk-based mindset through communicating, building rapport and taking part in evaluating risks and associated controls.
Determine level of assurance
When planning assurance activities, it is a daunting exercise to determine assurance coverage in the respective departments. Risk champions should be seen as good allies by internal or external assurance providers, as they have to have their “ears to the ground” when ensuring operational, supervisory and oversight controls are effectively implemented.
How management can help
Those in the profession will be aware that the role of the risk champion is often undervalued in many organisations. If risk champions are to be advocates for risk management, then management at large needs to recognise their roles and responsibilities. The bottom line is: if they are recognised as change agents, influencing an enterprise-wide risk management culture, eventually the value of their roles will be undisputed!
The Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) in its post of May 15, 2013, entitled: Risk champions are catalysts to effective risk management, summaries it well:
“The final aspect of ensuring effective risk champions is to provide platforms that will support the champs in their day-to-day activities, as well as provide a channel through which issues can be quickly reported and escalated.”
Hope Mugagga Kiwekete is a managing consultant at the Centre for Enterprise Sustainability. Prior to his current role, he was a principal consultant: risk management at Transnet Freight Rail, and a management systems specialist and senior EHS auditor at the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).