Canadian Underwriter

Why risk managers are feeling a sense of urgency

September 29, 2022   by Jason Contant

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business and risk landscape dramatically over the past couple of years and created a sense of urgency to spread risk knowledge and education, the new CEO of RIMS said in an interview with Canadian Underwriter.

“As a business CEO, as a leader, I used to be able to make forecasts. Now I can just make ‘nowcasts,’” said RIMS CEO Gary LaBranche. “I can only give a current estimate for the very short-term window of what’s next as opposed to forecast for a quarter or a year in advance or three years in advance. Because there is, it seems anyway, so much change.”

The business and risk landscapes are going from “the known to the unknown, going from stable to unstable, going from the comfortable to discontinuity,” said LaBranche, who has been an association professional for 41 years. He took over from Mary Roth who recently retired after 37 years with RIMS.

At the front and centre of the change is the redefined world of work.

“I used to put on a suit and tie, carry a briefcase, get on the train, go down to an office, spend all day at the office and then come home and take off my suit and tie and that’s how you knew when the workday started and ended,” LaBranche said. “We’re redefining the world of work.

“We’re redefining how we relate to each other in the workplace. This is a time for adaptation, for relearning and reengaging with each other in this unstable world.”

LaBranche spoke with CU following the RIMS Canada Conference in Halifax, attended in-person earlier this month by more than 1,300 people. He said one of the key takeaways from the conference was that while video conferencing technology is a great tool, it just can’t replace face-to-face human connection.

“There was also a sense of urgency, I would say, that risk management has been high visible over the last few years, and it’s become more important than ever and it’s very rapidly evolving,” LaBranche said. “So, there’s a sense of urgency to get up to speed, find out what’s going on, learn from the experience of others – this thirst for learning and knowledge and education.”

The changing landscape has also created more of an urgent competition for talent as leaders try to better position themselves and their organizations to attract the next generation of workers, LaBranche said. “We’re in competition with every other profession in the industry.”

How are organizations differentiating themselves?

“Increasingly, at least from what I’ve been hearing, folks are expecting and perhaps demanding more flexibility in the workplace,” LaBranche said. “It’s rare that I’ve come across companies that are insisting everyone’s back 37-and-a-half hours a week in the office in the traditional pre-2020 world… unless the type of work demands it and you can’t do it any other way.”

RIMS’s work model is 100% virtual. “We were all virtual during the pandemic and the conclusion was we were all able to operate pretty effectively.”

Looking to the future, RIMS will focus on increased engagement of its 10,000 members and getting them engaged back into their local communities, LaBranche reported. “I think we have got some real opportunities to improve and extend our networking and our community development.”

Among other initiatives, RIMS will also focus more on diversity, equity and inclusion. “I think that’s critical for the profession, for the industry,” LaBranche said. “I think diversity, equity and inclusion has become, not only more important, but frankly, central to the world of risk management and the world of business in general.”


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