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In December 2017, EY published its survey of North American Insurance Chief Risk Officers (CROs) Regulation no more: CROs are reborn as innovators. The survey revealed a shift in responsibilities away from regulatory issues towards disruption, battling cyber threats and leading the change on innovation.

Post-2007 financial crisis, many CROs have focused their attention on:

A new calling has arrived

The CRO Survey suggests that whilst work continues to embed ERM frameworks within firms, CROs and their teams are spending less time on regulation and instead transitioning (refer The Entrepreneurial CRO – Worth a seat at the table? Redefining the role of the Insurance CRO) towards four key themes:

Key concerns

The report echoes many of the themes covered by myself and others in various publications ~ coping with rapid change, horizon-scanning capabilities, identifying opportunities for growth and ultimately helping firms win in a tough trading environment.

A key point of departure from the past, is a desire and willingness of CROs to be ‘proactive’ and to partner with the Board and C-suite stakeholders, including strategy teams, to ensure the firm is innovating and the right strategic options are selected.

Interestingly some of the most serious concerns relate to inaction, inflexibility, failure to innovate and a slow speed-to-market.

Mindset change

The survey does offer some interesting areas of focus:

? Engaging on high-priority strategic and business-driven issues

? Moving to a more proactive, business-driven posture

? An imperative to innovate

Some may respond to this challenge by retreating further into their comfort zone, which will only serve to reinforce the view that ‘risk people’ are technical bureaucrats.

What the report is light on, is recognising the importance of developing qualitative skills and capabilities that are necessary to allow innovation to occur:

? The imagination and desire to seek out opportunities to create, or re(combine) what already exists

? The ability to generate lots and lots of ideas, from which the best ones can be selected

? An acceptance of the need to pivot, or fail quickly (and cheaply)

? A desire to look outside of the industry and learn from others (including adjacent industries)

? Setting innovation criteria to focus scarce resources on those ideas that have the best chance of success

In late 2017, River Partnership published CRO Survey – Insurance Risk and the Influence on Business Strategy after interviewing 40 CROs drawing together data, opinion and independent research.

The survey emphasises the ‘importance of senior stakeholder engagement skills alongside traits of influential people leadership’ and ‘investment in all areas of modern leadership development’.

The survey suggests the three main traits attributed to the ‘ideal risk manager’ are:

  • Technical
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Business skills

Whist comprehensive, the survey stops short of articulating the soft-skills required for the industry to innovate successfully.

Think like a disrupter

There is an element of genius in all of us ~ what will it take to unleash the innovator within that can lead to both incremental and breakthrough innovations?

What cultural and organisational conditions need to be created that allow individuals and teams to adopt a ‘have a go’ mentality – no longer fearful of ridicule or falling foul of the accepted corporate norm?

What will it take to embrace failure, learn from mistakes and pivot towards a more innovative and creative future?

Reciproco provides knowledge integration across risk, solvency and strategy, including digital transformation, leading complex and unique projects in regulated sectors. Helping senior executives and management teams focus on strategic challenges to create a competitive advantage.

Darren Munday is the founder and Managing Director of Reciproco. An experienced executive with over 20 years’ global experience with multinational companies, including Chief Risk Officer reporting to the Board.

Darren is an Honorary Visiting Fellow of the Digital Leadership Research Centre, Cass Business School where he also holds an Executive MBA.  Darren is a Certified Fellow of the Institute of Risk Management (CFIRM) and Chartered Insurance Risk Manager (ACII) of the Chartered Insurance Institute.

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