Building a risk culture

German bank WestLB appointed its first chief risk officer, Matthijs van den Adel, last year after posting heavy losses in 2002 and 2003. His first job was to restructure the bank’s entire risk management framework. By Duncan Wood

Heavy losses, shareholder unrest, an ongoing row with the European Union (EU) and the impending loss of state support – not the most promising backdrop against which to start a new job, but that didn’t discourage Matthijs van den Adel from becoming WestLB’s first chief risk officer last January.

“WestLB’s problems were caused by a lack of risk management,” he says. “My challenge was to introduce risk management to the bank on an integrated risk and return basis.”

Having just set up a firm-wide

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