How good really is your company's risk management? The Brexit situation provides a good litmus test.
The Leave win was surprising, but with polls running close to 50-50 in recent weeks, and information markets pegging Brexit likelihood over 20%, a company with prudent and effective strategic risk management cannot say they were "shocked", as in this article from today's WSJ.
I know two companies who anticipated the possibility of Brexit in their last scenario planning or strategic risk assessment exercises. One was a UK-based company, the other a North American one with low direct UK exposure, but correctly fearing a Brexit win would roil financial markets much more broadly. Did your company do something similar? Are you now fleshing out a couple of different possible Brexit evolution narratives going forward and what they might mean for your company, including your value chain partners, in the next few years? Or did your company just assume and trust it "wouldn't happen" and you're now scrambling to think it through?
More broadly, are you considering a longer-term "End of the Globalization Era" doomsday scenario? Something that covers a fundamental reshape of the EU, systematically increased protectionism in the U.S., and a global re-emergence of trade barriers? How it affects not only your direct economic drivers, but those of your customers, your suppliers, your competitors, and other stakeholders? You may not like that scenario, you may not even truly believe in it. But it's in the realm of possibility, and if your company is doing good strategic risk management, in the current environment it should be front and centre in your risk management and strategic planning. What steps should you take now? What plans should you start preparing? What instabilities will harm you and which ones may present an opportunity?
The risk management world is full of checklists, frameworks, and diagnostics on the quality of ERM or risk management more broadly. Sometimes a simple litmus test provided by fate is equally powerful.
I'm not an actuary, but do occasionally work with institutional investors, where the tradeoff between market risk (volatility as well as systemic macro risk) and runout/longevity risk is important, and has significant impact on optimal portfolio construction and risk management in closely held ownership stakes.
Approaching this from the side of personal financial planning, I've appreciated the writing of Prof. Moshe Milevsky in Toronto ("Are you a stock or a bond?"), including the thinking in his book "Pensionize your nest egg" with Alexandra Macqueen. The shift from DB to DC pensions is opening up a longevity risk can of worms many people are not sufficiently concerned about.
Over at my old colleague (25 years ago!) Michael James' blog, I've done some quick analysis that shows very roughly (with crude assumptions) that for a typical North American retiree, longevity risk protection can be worth about as much as an extra 3% per year of investment returns. A value not insignificant given reasonable after-tax, real (post-inflation) portfolio return expectations -- and ripe for capturing (and often in fact captured in large part) by higher and less transparent product fee levels.
In some of my executive education work, I help emerging leaders switch from "base case only" planning to creating and considering scenarios. For those with HBR access, here is an interesting case example of that type of thinking in action, at Lego. Personally, I'm not convinced forcing a 2-dimensional scenario framework is helpful -- crafting 4-5 compelling scenarios with multi-factor narratives behind them is less constraining -- but the overall case example is quite illustrative.
HBR Lego Group: Envisioning Risks in Asia (A)
In an HBR blog post, Laura Liswood quotes research by Prof. Aaron Dhir on how increasing the number of women changes corporate Board dynamics. Independent of the gender dimension, it's interesting that the core themes identified all relate to improved treatment of risk and uncertainty, better bridging the gap between Kahneman's System 1 and System 2. The themes are:
Varied and enthusiastic crowd yesterday at Rotman for my talk on ERM across sectors.
A video of the presentation is available at the Rotman media browser and the slides (which are puny in the video) can be downloaded here: 20150601 Pergler ERM Rotman.pdf.
In addition, Rotman have posted a short excerpt on YouTube, though the editor somehow chose only a clip about financial services, which was actually only a minor part of the talk.
Presenting as invited speaker on the above topic at the 3rd Kuwait ERM conference on March 30. Very important topic -- in my opinion stress testing is a crucial but still not very systematically discussed topic in the nonfinancial sector. And the interplay of "business as usual" risk modeling (e.g. cash flow at risk models), scenarios, and stress testing is an important part of framing robust risk management.
Update Apr 8, 2015: Presentation is available for download at the conference site
Interesting commentary on varying volatility, economic regime change, and confidence in scenarios.
Amplifies my belief that scenarios (for important foundational unknowns, potential regime changes, and stress testing) and probabilistic modeling for business-as-usual risks can and need to coexist for good risk-informed decisionmaking.
And it's a cool title to boot.
Rhys Bidder: Animal spirits and business cycles
Risk management is a shared responsibility of everyone in a company, not the exclusive domain of risk managers.
What can treasurers in particular do to improve overall risk management, beyond pure treasury risks? Continuing my collaboration with the AFP, I am part of a panel speaking on this topic this Thursday (Feb 12) in an AFP webinar, "How can Treasury lead ERM?"
For a similar perspective on the role of the CFO, rather than the Treasurer, see my working paper (with Will Liu), Role of the CFO in risk management. There are both commonalities as well as specificities by role (and of course my thinking has evolved in the intervening 2 years...)
Principal, Balanced Risk Strategies, Ltd..