A survey by management consultants and risk experts Corven interviewed over 30 chief risk officers across the major companies in the financial services sector.
It focused on managing operational risks, such as money-laundering, dishonest LIBOR trading, mis-selling PPI, rogue trading, and major system failures. The results were then benchmarked against other industries such as aviation, oil and gas, nuclear, and manufacturing.
These other industries have over decades developed operational risk management best practice following incidents such as Three Mile Island, Piper Alpha and the civil aviation disasters of the 60s and 70s. In particular they have learned that addressing processes and systems only produces moderate improvement in performance. They therefore focus on less visible factors, such as culture and the behaviours of leaders and front-line staff. Although the banks and insurance companies interviewed recognise that over 60% of risk incidents relate to behaviours and staff capabilities, under 10% of the incident responses addressed these areas.
The research also pointed to a worrying lack of ownership of their own risks by financial services organisations. Chief risk officers reported that over 78% of their risk functions’ efforts was spent on regulatory change, with under 10% in response to internal assessments of future risk. The benchmark from other industries, many of which are heavily regulated, is for over 50% to be internally driven. The survey also reports that a global investment bank closed its specific risk incident review team as it was identifying too many risks which when reported caused embarrassment with the regulator.
There are well developed techniques to address the behavioural issues at the heart of most risk incidents. One easy way to have an immediate and positive impact is to second well respected business leaders into the risk function. Other sectors also have proven tools for identifying the root cause of incidents and then communicating these across global organisations. The financial services industry can accelerate implementing the necessary improvements in managing operational risks by learning from other sectors.