Risk managers still lacking influence, says report

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LONDON - Only half of risk managers at UK FTSE 100-listed companies say they are influential within their organisations, according to a survey by executive recruitment and consulting firm Whitehead Mann.

A worrying 13% of risk managers - one in eight - described themselves as "not at all influential" within their organisation, while only a third said they were "quite influential" within their firm.

"Companies seeking to navigate through the current recession must put a premium on effective risk management," says Nick Hedley, head of Whitehead Mann's legal, governance and risk practice. "This requires senior risk managers with not just first-rate technical skills but also the ability to become truly influential at board level and respected across the organisation."

The financial crisis has been seen to raise the profile of risk management within large firms. Therefore, although the study is not restricted to financial services firms, the fact that only 63% of respondents said their firm had a risk committee is underwhelming - especially as a quarter of participants said it had not helped them become more effective in their jobs.

"In the current environment, where the painful cost of inadequate risk management is being demonstrated every day, it is surprising that risk managers do not believe themselves to have more clout," says Hedley.

Whitehead Mann surveyed 50 senior risk management professionals at FTSE 100 companies, including internal auditors, compliance officers, legal general counsels and health and safety officers. The survey was conducted in November and December 2008.

"The best risk managers will be those who can help drive cultural change within their business, ensuring a sound approach to managing risk is part of their company's DNA," says Hedley. "Only a few high-calibre risk managers have the right combination of both technical and leadership skills, and such people will be in great demand over the next few years."

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