The Intercontinental Hotel Group’s (IHG) newly appointed director of corporate risk and reputation, Greater China, Rudi Wertheim talks exclusively to StrategicRISK about his move from the armed forces to one of the world’s leading hotel companies
I have always had a lifelong interest in China, and very much enjoyed my time as UK defence attaché in Beijing. [Wertheim also undertook this role in Ulanbataar and Islamabad; he was responsible for the management of strategic defence relations between Britain and its host nations.]
When I reached the end of my service, I was keen to return to China, and was extremely lucky to find a post in which both the job and the location appealed. I have also stayed in an awful lot of hotels, so felt that I had ‘user’ experience of the hospitality industry, if nothing else.
Although some of the risks I encountered in the army were very different from those that face the hospitality industry, there are in fact many similarities. We both face pressing talent risks, security risks, programme risks and so on, which we need to assess and mitigate in our respective ways.
The disciplines needed to run these large organisations are not so different, apart from the fact that the armed forces are spending public money. From what I have seen, there is a great deal that each can learn from the other. So, when I was thinking about what I might do when I came to the end of my army service, risk management appealed as a field in which I felt I already had relevant experience.
For IHG, the company’s brands are its most critical assets. It is trust in these brands that forms the core of our relationship with our shareholders and hotel owners, and brings guests to our hotels. So the reputation of the brands is critical to success.
IHG is a leading proponent of active reputation management, whereby we seek to measure our reputation among all our many stakeholders, then use that information to make informed business decisions, with the goal of constant improvement.
IHG is partnering with the UK’s Reputation Institute to use industry-leading methods of measuring reputation. This includes a variety of methods of measuring stakeholder feedback, from media monitoring to questionnaires. These methods are adapted to different national environments.
I think that [more] corporate risk and reputation posts will be needed across the industry, given the rise in importance of reputation as a component of brand value. Furthermore, globalisation has hugely increased the speed and potential scope of damage that uncontrolled risks can potentially cause to multi-national companies. Whether such posts will be filled by more ex-military personnel, I honestly don’t know, but I like to think it is a field in which we have the potential to contribute.
Rudi Wertheim was a cavalry (armoured) officer, he commanded the Queen’s Royal Lancers, and he has also carried out staff posts in training, HR and intelligence. He has an honours degree in Chinese from the University of Cambridge, and has studied at Beijing University, as well as the Chinese and Pakistani National Defence Universities. Wertheim will be speaking on brand and reputation risk management at StrategicRISK’s second annual rusk management benchmarking event in Singapore on April 23. Go to http://riskforum.strategic-risk-global.com for more information.