Our industry is facing a talent shortage. StrategicRISK editor Lauren Gow says don’t panic – the kindergartens are training a whole new generation of risk managers. But in the meantime, we need to find ways to deepen the pool.

I have seen the future of risk management. Standing just over one metre tall, with a penchant for all forms of transportation, an intense love of cheese and a knack for swindling Kinder Surprise eggs into your shopping basket, the future of risk management is my four-year-old son, Atticus.

You may be wondering at this point if you have wrongly picked up a copy of Mother & Baby magazine, but stick with me here. At Atticus’ recent preschool parent teacher interview night, my husband and I were told that his favourite subject was risk assessments. My first response was to laugh in disbelief. I assumed they were joking, knowing I am the editor of a specialist risk magazine.

Children

But no, his stony-faced, and somewhat confused, teacher told me that indeed, he loves conducting risk assessments. She explained, as part of the school curriculum, children are now being taught how to manage the risks around them effectively in order to become more resilient. Atticus apparently loves donning a tiny high-vis vest and trotting out to the playground with a clipboard to check for wet pavements (no running in the rain) or sun (no hat, no play).

Children are also being taught how to cross roads without the assistance of an adult and how to apply sunscreen properly to avoid skin cancer later in life. This all seems fairly logical when you think about it, but it is far from the generation before Atticus’, who have been dubbed the Snowflake Generation for their perceived fragility and inability to do anything without encouragement and full, unwavering support from adults.

The reason I am sharing this rather personal anecdote is because it genuinely gives me hope for the future of risk management. Sydney recently hosted the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry and from this came testimony from Commonwealth Bank chief risk officer, David Cohen, who issued a stark warning that we are facing a growing talent shortage crisis in risk management.

Cohen said the talent pool in Australia for highly qualified risk professionals is “not deep” and that there is difficulty in recruiting. Cohen was, of course, referring specifically to the financial services industry but I think he makes a point that is easily extrapolated cross-sector.

A career in risk management is not traditionally a tertiary-educated pathway, although there are courses sprouting out of many global eagle-eyed universities, who have seen a gap in the marketplace. Most risk managers come up through the ranks from audit or accountancy workstreams, which, in my opinion, leaves huge holes in the potential pool of risk managers. What about risk managers from marketing, HR or strategy backgrounds? Each skillset offers a different perspective on what risk means and how to manage and mitigate.

We need to start looking beyond audit and accountancy to other parts of the business. We need general councils, communications directors and heads of departments to make that leap to CRO. Not only will the pool widen, it will also offer us fresh-eyed perspectives on how we can improve risk management.

On top of this, we need to start encouraging career-changers to come to our profession. These are people who often have 20-plus years of experience in a completely different field, who are keen to expand their skills into risk management. Instead of closing the doors, we need to throw open every window and welcome anyone who wants to be involved.

Moving back to my Atticus anecdote, we have the potential for an extremely large pool of future risk management talent stepping into the workforce in the coming years. On top of that, this type of curriculum is actually doing what many risk managers I speak to are trying to do and that is make everyone in the business accountable for risk. Let’s start aiming for an alternative ERM – Everyone is a Risk Manager.

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