Investigating challenges related to the successful implementation of risk management processes: a South African risk practitioner perspective
Van der Merwe, D.A.
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Risks and risk management are part of our daily lives, whether in the work environment or in our personal lives. Decisions such as whether or not security guards are required, or whether or not to advance credit to a potential new customer are examples of risk management. The term risk management is a more fitting term than the terms risk removal or risk eradication, since there is a strong relationship between risk and reward. Lower appetite for risk will more likely than not result in lower rewards.. Financial service entities provide essential services to the public, such as providing the means that allow for banking to take place, or providing financial protection products such has insurance. Financial service entities such as banks face numerous risks, both internal and external. These risks range from strategic risks such as competitiveness and innovation, to the more operational risks such as processing errors and theft. Industry loss statistics, scandals, and risk experience suggest that financial services entities may be experiencing problems in successfully implementing risk management. The objective of this study was to determine the most pertinent barriers to the successful implementation of risk management, specifically in financial service entities. In this regard, failure has a broad meaning: from not realising the true potential of risk management, to an entity collapsing. In order to determine these barriers, 24 interviews were conducted with risk practitioners — a suitable group because of their first-hand experience and knowledge of the challenges related to the successful implementation of risk management. Questions posed were primarily developed using the findings of existing literature on risk management, as well as literature that dealt with project implementation, in order to crystallise implementation-specific challenges that may be relevant. This study highlighted critical barriers previously identified by other researchers, as well as certain barriers which may not have been considered as serious until now. The following four key themes arose from the research, and reveal the most pertinent barriers to implementing risk management successfully: 1. inadequate buy-in from operations; 2. no risk appetite is defined; and 3. risk practitioners have insufficient knowledge of the operations. There are three key findings from the study. The first is a practical take-away from the study, namely that senior management should conduct cultural interventions that advocate for the importance of risk management to improve buy-in. Second, the importance of having a risk appetite stems from being able to determine the amount of controls and effort to expend in managing risks — this balance can only be determined and achieved if it is clear how much risk is acceptable. Risk management is essentially maintaining the desired balance between risk and reward; this is embodied by a risk appetite. Last, for risk practitioners to be able to contribute meaningfully to the risk management programme, they must have sufficient knowledge and insight of the entity for which they facilitate risk management.