This opinion piece from StrategicRISK editor, Lauren Gow, examines whether formalising the profession is worth all the effort.

The notion of formalising the risk profession via education came to the fore this week, after StrategicRISK spoke to Scott Ryrie, the CEO of the Risk Management Institution of Australasia, speaking from this year’s RMIA Conference.

He said: “There is a demand to get the risk function to develop as a profession, and we can see that coming. The risk industry has to have some rigor about how people develop within the risk “profession”. People want to develop. People want education. People come into risk from all sorts of different disciplines. We need to cater for that from an education point of view; to tailor that education.”

Ryrie has a very valid point. In an age where noting you have Microsoft Office skills and a university degree on your CV no longer cuts it, it is time to rethink how people qualify to be risk managers.

If we formalise risk management as a university degree, it will become a “profession” but it could also have the opposite effect to what is desired. Tertiary education has a tendency to attract only those who can afford it. MBAs are a classic example of this, open largely only to those who can afford to take time off to complete it, as well as paying the exorbitant fee costs that evitably follow the word ‘university’.

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Moreover, what happens to those in the first few years of their risk management career? Will they suddenly have to do an about-face and go back to formal education because they are caught in the gulf of having neither formal education nor enough work experience to overcome the gulf? These are issues that need to be thought about very carefully.

Of course, this is not news. There were periods in history where this occurred to other professions – law and journalism, for example, were both apprenticeship-type professions before formal qualifications were brought in. It is practically unheard-of now to have a young journalist join a local paper straight out of school with no formal qualifications.

I am a firm believer in formal education, having a number of university degrees and postgraduate qualifications myself. But I am equally a huge believer that the best lessons are on the job, not in the classroom.

At a time when regulators are cracking whips with increasing intensity and certain industries (Financial Services, I am looking at you) are desperately searching for qualified compliance and risk professionals to help sort right from wrong, this is not the moment to put up barriers to entry. It is time to build stairs and open doors.

I would like to see a global standard of education for risk management but broken down into components that can easily be picked up and added to other formal qualifications or built up over time to achieve a Masters of Risk Management type of qualification. However, there must be an ongoing requirement to continue learning.

Risk management is such a dynamic field and what is considered ‘best practice’ (I hate that phrase) is constantly changing. To risk register or not to risk register? To be agile or to be traditional? Bowtie or Monte Carlo?

There is definitely room for improvement in terms of formalising risk management education but to be a truly global standard, there needs to be a meeting of the minds. Picture a UN-style room with RIMS, FERMA, RMIA, PARIMA and IRM all working together to better the industry. It isn’t that farfetched if you think about it but there is the obvious question here: who wants to go first?

I would love to hear your thoughts, so please do comment or drop me an email at lauren.gow@nqsm.com.