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Institute of Risk Management Survey highlights quality of response to fight pandemic

13 May 2020

BASED ON a survey where responses were received from close on 1,000 practitioners worldwide, the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) has now produced a detailed report on the discipline of risk management's overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The role of risk management is to help organisations achieve their objectives in an uncertain world. In 2020, that world has been turned upside down as a long observed, although perhaps not sufficiently managed, risk – that of the global pandemic – has become a live and very real issue.

The IRM wanted to find out how risk management functions have been responding to the crisis, whether or not their plans were working, what had proven to be helpful to the response and what had not, how this situation might affect the development of the profession and how the profession should be learning from it.

In broad terms, it appears that the risk management community is fully engaged with the pandemic response, with 98% of respondents still at (appropriately distanced) work, dealing with current issues and preparing for the future. Good technology, good communications and good leadership have been rightly highlighted as the key positive factors in companies being able to maintain their operations.

Although there are realistic concerns about the scale of what has happened and what will happen, many respondents have reported how their personal and organisational investment in risk management expertise has paid off during the crisis.

When asked the question: 'Before the current global COVID-19 pandemic event, had your organisation given any consideration to pandemic risk?', 32% of organisations had not considered pandemic risk or anything similar before the advent of the Coronavirus outbreak. If risk managers had previously considered a global pandemic (or similar), what actions did you take? One fifth of organisations who had considered pandemic risk didn’t then do anything about it.

Initial response

In terms of how satisfied risk-focused practitioners are with how their crisis management and business continuity actions have dealt with the first few weeks of the pandemic, 82% appear to be satisfied with their organisation’s initial response. 86% of organisations questioned have set up a crisis management group.

When it comes to whether or not there been a change in risk management roles as a result of the pandemic, 98% of our respondents are still working in their risk-related roles. Going forward, 92% have predicted a greater focus on operational resilience.

Overall, do risk practitioners think that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a loss of confidence in risk management or a strengthening of the business case for risk management? The survey result is that 94% believe the case for risk management is strengthened by the pandemic experience.

There's a strong feeling that SMBs will now begin to see the need for a formalised approach to enterprise risk management. For their part, risk managers themselves are now in the right position to make effective contributions in managing this global pandemic.

Iain Wright CFIRM, chair of the IRM, commented: “For the future, we expect to see a sharper focus on resilience and strategic risk management. These topics have been around for some time, of course, but this period of crisis will focus attention on ensuring organisations have the people and skills to raise their game to what will be required in ‘the new normal’. We must not allow the magnitude of the current crisis to obscure the other major (and interconnected) risks that we all face. We still need to tackle climate change, cyber risk, supply chain disruption, economic and geo-political volatility to mention just a few. The IRM and the wider global risk management community stands ready and confident to lead the response.”