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Risk in Focus: Melvyn Baptiste IRMCert Management Associate, Group Enterprise Risk Management (E.R.M) at Republic Bank Limited

The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) asks its members what working in risk is really like and what hints and tips they'd share with people looking to move into the industry.

 

Melvyn Baptiste IRMCert

Management Associate, Group Enterprise Risk Management (E.R.M) at Republic Bank Limited

Trinidad and Tobago

How did you get your job?  

Recognizing the importance and consequential benefits from managing risks holistically, my organization - a leading financial institution in the Caribbean - embarked on a strategy to implement an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) function within the group’s operations. My training background and experience afforded me the opportunity to join the pioneering team tasked with the implementation and development of our present ERM framework.

What’s a typical day like as a Management Associate?

As a risk management professional, my workdays are pretty dynamic with one of the driving forces behind this being the evolution of the department. Whilst there are routine type tasks which are performed, a typical day includes new challenges, learning opportunities and an avenue to respectfully challenge customary approaches, all redounding to enhancements in the way the organization manages risks and ultimately performs.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I believe the nexus created from the combination of novelty, learning and application is one of the most satisfying aspects of my job. For instance, I was recently tasked with developing a credit rating model for sovereign nations. Whilst adequately challenging, the model was completed and is currently in use. I learnt quite a bit going through the process and the skills acquired can be applied going forward. Another component of my job which I truly appreciate is the wide cross-section of professionals that I am able interact with, ranging from top tier executives to frontline staff. This has really allowed for a solid understanding of the business and its operations within various regional and international markets. These interactions are generally timely and certainly strengthen my analyses and recommendations. Moreover, the opportunity to contribute to the organization in very tangible ways and being part of somewhat of an “epistemological break” in how effectively the business operates adds an even greater sense of utility within my role.

What are the challenges?

Initially, one of the more notable challenges concerned influencing colleagues to accept and fully appreciate ERM. This was a new approach being presented for adoption across the organization at an entity level; hence it was naturally met with some skepticism. Though, once the approach was sufficiently explained, colleagues understood the advantages and the correct tone was set, there was success and buy-in into the ERM methodology.

What would you say to others thinking about taking the IRM's International certificate?

I fully support interested parties undergoing the ERM certificate programme as it’s a great opportunity to build a sound foundation in the principles and application of ERM. I believe the knowledge gained can be paired with one’s experience, thereby creating the right synergies, allowing the individual to become more effective at managing risks. The concepts covered are contemporary, with sufficient breadth and depth, and matches the needs of organizations including businesses, government entities, NGOs etc. navigating the global environment. As a corollary, I would also humbly advise that one exercise proper time management to be successful.

What have you been able to put into practice in your job as a result of what you have learnt?

Having improved my understanding of ERM, I have been able to more effectively engage colleagues within the ERM function, as well as, throughout the “three lines of defence”. This has actually allowed for further progression towards the desired risk culture within our firm. Mediums such as coaching, training, presentations and discussions form part of my daily functions and the programme has really helped in making these engagements more productive.

Also, I have been able to offer advice on adjustments to our ERM framework for increased effectiveness and efficiency of the same. Recognizing my own growth upon completion, I have encouraged some colleagues to pursue the programme, thereby building our collective strength.

What advice can you give to others?

I view ERM as a critical toolkit that can be paired with one’s experience/expertise in any industry to create a reinforcing, symbiotic relationship that yields enhanced and tangible benefits to an organization once properly integrated. Hence, to be truly effective at managing risks, I would advise that one understands or possess a general working knowledge of the business/industry within which the application of ERM is intended. Also, I highly recommend that persons be open to learning, as change is somewhat ubiquitous, both within industries as well as within the risk management discipline. That change occurs at different velocities and at times is compounded by concurrent events and knock-on effects. Therefore, keeping abreast of such developments is essential for the effectiveness of analysis and decision making.

ERM is merited on the principal foundation that it transcends the intrinsic boundaries set by the traditional, siloed approach to risk management, improving the cohesiveness across the organizational strata, including strategic, tactical and operational levels. In effect, it facilitates a holistic view of the organization, considering the interactions and interrelationships amongst risks and opportunities. This bolsters the quality of risk management whilst simultaneously optimizing the reward achieved for the level of risk assumed and improving the degree of assurance in achieving or even surpassing strategic goals.  

However, once ERM is in motion, there are essential interpersonal skills that I recommend a practitioner hones for success. Of these, critical ones include effective communication for a range of audiences, relationship building, negotiation skills and time management. Moreover, understanding and effectively relaying the value that ERM adds is critical to encouraging genuine support from key stakeholders. Particularly, the support from the Board and Top management is necessary so that a consistent tone cascades throughout the organizational network as progress is made towards the desired risk culture. In turn, the value-added, even at an entity level, as well as the organizational tone set, reinforces appropriate behaviour and decisions, resulting in improved bottom-line performance. Alternatively, if team members do not buy into the value of ERM, the process can potentially decay into a box-ticking exercise which vitiates very tangible benefits.

 

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