Over the past month, StrategicRISK has hosted events in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney, with senior risk managers weighing in on the best ways, and best people, to lead a firm through a crisis

Ukraine crisis

Building resilience in the face of a crisis, was one of the key issues up for debate at a series of recent events hosted by StrategicRISK around Asia-Pacific. But risk managers were divided on who should be involved in a crisis management team, and who should be the spokesperson during a time of crisis.

In Malaysia, Astro Overseas vice-president for enterprise risk management Patrick Abdullah said there needed to be a “double hierarchy” in a crisis management team.

“At the top level, the crisis management team should not exceed six or seven people making key decisions and these are the most senior people in the company and this excludes the board. The second layer of defense, which is the second hierarchy, is teams that will manage specific areas of operations within your organisation.”

Abdullah added that for Astro, it was always their chief executive who is the media spokesperson in a crisis.

A senior insurance manager agreed with this stance.

He said: “When a CEO goes out and talks about your company, firstly his message carries weight and secondly he is the person responsible for the company. So I think together the perception of the dialogue will be much more appreciated [when it comes from the CEO] rather than the company’s number two or a specialist.”

But Sime Darby group risk management head Glenn Daly said he didn’t have a blanket rule on the media spokesperson.

“If we have a crisis in China, we’re not going to have our Malaysian-speaking CEO come and speak to the media. You can’t make a blanket rule if you’re a conglomerate; when you’re multi-country, multi-languages, you’ve got to get the right person for the situation. It may well be the CEO, but it may not be,” he said.

In Hong Kong, Swire Pacific head of group risk management Tom Cohen said the role of the chief executive and the c-suite were critical in a crisis but there was often a role for technical spokespeople.

“Sometimes in a smaller incident or when an incident is growing, often the technical input of someone who’s very competent, who has been through scenario planning and media training, and who is very open with their style of communication, can often come across as a more honest and transparent approach,” he said.

Arcadis head of risk manager, Asia, Lisa Shi, said that risk managers needed to challenge themselves in determining the best spokesperson in each crisis situation.

“When you look at the media in a crisis you would expect certain figures or certain personalities to come up, so that kind of personality needs to be explored and better understood to determine ahead of the event who might be the best,” she said.

Understand the perception of your chief executive is also an important consideration.

RL Expert managing partner Leesa Soulodre suggested firms look at the Edelman Trust Barometer for a benchmark on how trusted chief executives are across regions.

“If you know from perception studies that your CEO is unfortunately not believable or credible, it may be much better crisis management to have technical experts at the front of the organisation,” she said.