Now that the new Pan-Asia Risk & Insurance Management Association (Parima) is up and running, we catch up with its chairman to examine the major issues that face risk managers in the region – and how Parima plans to help its members tackle them.

The past few years have been busy ones for Frank Baron, general manager for risk management and insurance at leading international healthcare, medical assistance and security services company, International SOS. Relocating to Singapore in 2011 following productive stints at European heavyweights AXA Corporate Solutions, Firmenich and Danone, the 2007 Strategic Risk European Risk Manager of the Year quickly realised that Asia would benefit from a stronger risk-management culture. And that meant the establishment of a truly regional risk-management association.

“When I moved to Asia, I looked at where I should go and I quickly found out that we were missing this at the regional level,” Baron says. “In the course of the first year I had the opportunity to meet with plenty of risk practitioners, and I noticed very quickly that it was the right time to get this community together.”

“With risk managers from different industries and different countries, our board highlights the fact that we want to truly engage with the local risk managers from all the different countries.”

Franck Baron

From these discussions grew a plan to create a new professional risk-management body. And in April, Parima was officially launched at a conference that attracted more than 100 risk professionals. “This is already the highest number of risk managers in one room in Asia ever,” Baron says. “It shows that there is clear momentum in the region for the community to get together. I took it as a successful stepping stone for the development of Parima.”

Now Baron and his board, comprising risk professionals from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, are turning their attention to growing Parima as an organisation. “The first year is dedicated to the structuring of Parima, and obviously the actual development of the membership of the risk managers in the different countries,” says Baron. “Because of the low maturity of the risk market in Asia, we are spending a tremendous amount of time identifying the right people first. It’’ all about attracting the risk and insurance managers of Asia; that is the golden goal this year.”

Baron says that a stronger and more connected risk-management community in Asia will assist risk professionals to tackle the big challenges faced by organisations operating in the region. Number one on his list is the need to increase awareness of the importance of effective risk-management frameworks. “There is a still a decent number of organisations without a new risk-management framework in place and/or with a risk-management framework that is heavily related to compliance issues,” he says. “The challenge is to ensure that this is properly recognised by top management as a must-do.”

Establishing a credible system of professional certification is vital to this process, Baron says, which is why he lists it as the second big challenge for the region’s risk-management community. “It is a way for risk managers to have a better platform to convince their management to develop risk-management frameworks,” he says. “It is also helps to to convince people that [risk managers] deserve to get a larger scope of responsibilities.”

Baron believes that there is currently a stronger demand for professional certification in Asia than there is in Europe or the USA. “It’s about the actual positioning of risk-management people in their respective organisations,” he says. “These positions are still seen as just about insurance procurement or risk-compliance administration, instead of truly being senior positions. Parima can help risk managers to be appropriately recognised in organisations through professional certification.”

The third major challenge, according to Baron, is “the disconnect between risk management and insurance”. “If you look across Asia, insurance is still seen as something which is compulsory, which is compliance driven; there is too much of a disconnect with the actual risk profile of the company,” he says. “It’s not yet a true risk-financing approach, [rather] it’s still very basic insurance procurement supported by compliance needs. We are definitely missing something here.” Baron firmly believes that insurance can be a useful tool to support the efficient management of risk, as long as it is closely link with an organisation’s risk exposure, and that serious thought is given to how to structure the associated risk financing. “There is a need to develop proper or sophisticated insurance programs to match coverage with the existing risk exposure of an organisation, instead of choosing on price,” he says.

Interestingly, Baron sees some of the biggest risks being faced by organisations as opportunities for risk professionals to prove their worth. “You have to be extremely opportunistic, which means that when there has been a change of legislation in a given country or the rise of a new insurance field –  for instance, cyber risk – you need to leverage this so that, beyond basic insurance procurement, you can help your company to develop a solid risk assessment relative to the exposures that you want to cover with insurance,” he says. “But, again, the set of skills [required for this] is a difficulty. Many are unable to see the opportunity in the short term.”

Baron is confident that Parima has the support of Asia’s risk-management community, and is keen to repay this faith with solid results for its members. “Having engaged with more than 200 risk managers individually here in Asia, I know that the vast majority of them are willing to be on board with Parima,” he says. “I would like people to know that at Parima we will do our best to engage with them across Asia in the coming months, so that they can become a member and bring to this community their ideas, input and expertise in order to share best practices with others.”

A pressing priority is the establishment of local chapters of Parima in every country in Asia. “We are looking at ensuring that Parima is not going to be seen as being Singapore or Hong Kong centric, that is a very important aspect for me,” Baron says. To this end, Baron has a request to make of the region’s risk professionals “If you are passionate about risk management and you want to be effectively engaged with the rest of your community and to represent your local country, it’s time to step up and let us know. We have been developing nicely and aggressively, but we are still a small baby… there is still a lot to do.”

The Parima board

Franck Baron, Group General Manager Risk Management & Insurance, International SOS, Singapore

Bob Sweeney, VP Risk Management, DFS Group Limited, Hong Kong

David Ralph, SVP Risk Management, PCCW, Hong Kong

Steve Tunstall, VP Risk Management, Genting – RW Sentosa, Singapore

Geetha Kanagasingam, VP Insurance Asia-Pacific, Barclays Capital, Singapore

Juliette Gelpi, Insurance & Risk Manager, Schneider Electric, Singapore

Roland Teo, Senior Manager Group Enterprise Risk, April, Singapore

Patrick Abdullah, VP Enterprise Risk Management, Astro Overseas Limited (AOL), Malaysia

Thu Ly Xuan, Associate Director Head, Group Risk & Compliance, Dragon Capital Group Limited, Vietnam