The StrategicRISK team is on the road this week as we host our 6th annual Hong Kong Risk Forum at the Island Shangri-La, an undeniably beautiful venue. We have hosted the forum here a few times and my name is now well known to staff – as I would learn the hard way.

After getting up at the ungodly hour of 4 am to catch one of the first flights out of Sydney and to sit next to a warbling infant for 9 hours, by the time I arrived in Hong Kong, it is safe to say my nerves were a little shot.

I arrived at the reception desk of the Shangri-La a hot, tired mess, desperate for a shower and a wine… only to hear the very words every traveller dreads: “Sorry Ms. Gow, there is no record of a booking for you and we are fully booked, as are the other hotels.” I am sure the frustrated sigh I gave rattled the marble façade of the hotel. 

The next 45 minutes was spent making various international phone calls to Sydney and London to work out where things had gone awry. Usually, I book my own travel, so I am sure I have what I need. I am a little bit paranoid following an incident years ago where someone unhelpfully booked me two one-way tickets to Bermuda and no return flight. (Note to my readers: Bermuda airport is not a place you want to spend the night alone).

I thought I would be brave and relinquish control of this seemingly minor part of my life to have more time to dedicate to other work endeavours. By doing this, I placed the risk management of my travel plans in a travel agent’s arguably more qualified hands so I could focus on what I do best. However, at what cost? Exorbitant last-minute room rates charged to my personal credit card and a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration. 

This situation got me thinking about how difficult it must be for risk managers to relinquish control and trust risk management to so-called ‘risk champions’ within the business. The potential for things to go wrong inevitably rises exponentially the further the risk management control moves out of your grasp. Then again, the personal toll also increases if you try to control and manage everything.

I learned from my hotel experience that my personal resilience to deal with a crisis could do with a little honing. Every time the planes I so frequently travel on experience even minor turbulence, I am grabbing the hand of the unlucky soul sitting next to me and tearfully preparing goodbye messages to family and friends. Clearly, I am not destined to be in risk management.

What I would like to know from you, my readers, is how you cope in a crisis. Is the ability to stay calm, connected and coherent a birthright or learned behaviour? Do you believe risk management is an inherent trait in all of us, leading to the theory behind having localised business risk champions? Alternatively, are risk managers a specific special breed?

In my mind, it is the latter of the two, due to my personal experiences. Despite the fact I have ended up in a much more beautiful hotel in Hong Kong and my hundreds of flights thus far have led to no plane crashes (touch wood), I can assure you – I will still panic and run around like a headless chicken the next time something goes wrong.