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What is a risk manager?
Risk managers work where risks can have an existential impact in a short time, i.e. primarily in banks and insurance companies. Specialists are required here who can quickly initiate countermeasures if necessary.
While this specialist area was often taken over by controllers in the past, almost all companies in the financial services sector now employ special risk managers. Because both the number and the possible effects of internal and external risks have become increasingly complex in recent years. While smaller financial institutions can manage with a single expert, as the company grows, several risk managers are used.
Due to their high level of responsibility, they usually report directly to the Executive Board or — if the risk management department is large — to the head of risk management. They are internal advisors to the Executive Board, and the Executive Board involves the risk manager in almost all important strategic decisions. This calculates the various models and scenarios and outlines any consequences of the decision alternatives. If the risk manager makes a mistake, fails to consider a risk or an important aspect, the consequences for the company can be devastating.
Risk managers monitor the risks of products, processes or entire companies. This is an ongoing process that has to be constantly adjusted and usually comprises four steps.
Four steps of risk management
- Identification: The most important basis for successful risk managementis the identification of all relevant risks. Many companies call in external consultants for this, who have an unbiased view and can often define risks more objectively.
- Analysis: The risk manager must now analyze all identified risks and, if possible, rate them on a percentage scale of up to 100 according to their probability of occurrence. If risks cannot be quantified, the risk manager must find other criteria to assess the risk. Using modern risk assessment approaches, many risk managers simulate the risks and their impact on business goals. This is because they recognize dependencies between the individual risks.
- Communication: It is the task of the risk manager to communicate the identified risks and their possible effects on the company as comprehensively as possible within the company. In this way, every department can contribute to a functioning early warning system. Above all, he must proactively and regularly keep the Management Board informed about the risks.
- Control: In the last step, the risk manager must monitor and control the risks. This not only includes observing the framework conditions (politics, environment, economy). Every (potential) entrepreneurial decision can mean new opportunities and risks as well as influence existing goals or risks. If a risk has become more likely or even occurred, the risk manager must inform the board so that it can adjust the strategy or change operational processes.
Since digital structures have taken on a central role in risk management these days, risk managers are having to reprogram processes themselves more and more frequently — independently of IT. Because the saying “time is money” is a daily reality in risk management: the faster the company can initiate countermeasures in the event of an imminent risk, the more likely it is that the risk can be avoided or at least the amount of damage associated with it minimized.
Digitization: Higher quality and higher pressure
Due to digitization, professional software has proven itself many times as a useful support for risk managers. Because this enables the increasingly extensive risks, which also influence each other in different ways, to be bundled in a central location, even in smaller companies. In addition, good software primarily facilitates evaluation and control. A professional software solution offers the possibility, among other things:
- Add timings to risks and set up a notification.
- Assess risks using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods (e.g. self-assessment or Monte Carlo simulations).
- Sharing risks with colleagues, assigning tasks and keeping everyone involved continuously informed
On the one hand, digitization has improved the quality of risk management and created the opportunity to react to risks much more quickly than before; on the other hand, these digital structures have also increased the pressure on risk managers. Because they have to evaluate more and more data in less and less time — and despite the time pressure, they must not make any mistakes.
It can be assumed that this trend will continue: risk management will become even more complex in the future. At the same time, companies will want to calculate the risks in ever shorter periods of time in order to further increase the speed of reaction. Today, the trend toward daily—and sometimes even hourly—calculation has already begun.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: Studies in risk management, business administration or economics, law, (business) mathematics or a comparable course
- Starting salary: €60,000
- Top salary: €100,000
- Opportunities for advancement: Head of Risk Management, Chief Risk Officer (CRO)
What does a risk manager do?
- Identification, analysis and monitoring of operational risks at company and, if necessary, process level
- Setting up and ensuring appropriate risk management processes
- Monitoring and implementation of legal and regulatory requirements and changes
- Creation of reports, stress tests and scenario analyses
- Creation of risk management analyzes for ad hoc inquiries or in projects
- Reporting to the board and proactive communication
- Further development of methods and processes in risk management
How do you become a risk manager?
Due to their high level of responsibility, risk managers are usually not young professionals, but have already gained several years of professional experience in relevant business areas. It is not uncommon for risk managers to be career changers from areas such as controlling, quality management, auditing or finance. However, there are now courses and specializations that focus on risk management. It is conceivable that companies will increasingly rely on specialized graduates and employees in the future. Other common requirements for risk managers are:
- Studies in risk management, business administration or economics, law, (business) mathematics or a comparable course
- at least five years of relevant work experience
- IT know-how and programming skills (SQL, VBA)
- Knowledge in the fields of statistics, financial mathematics, and data modeling
- Solid knowledge of regulatory issues (MaRisk, CRR)
- very good knowledge of spoken and written English
What does a risk manager earn?
up to €100,000
Risk managers earn above average. Your salary can vary greatly and be between € 60,000 and €100,000 gross per year. Professional experience and the individual area of responsibility have the greatest influence on the exact salary. But the size and location of the respective company, the industry and a possible collective bargaining agreement also play a role.
What do you expect from the risk manager?
Risk managers are down-to-earth and well-established personalities who appear confident and can communicate with different hierarchical levels on an equal footing. You effortlessly manage to keep an overview and set priorities in complex processes and stressful times. Risk managers are particularly willing to follow various developments relating to the economy, politics, the environment and world affairs and to constantly develop further. Because their judgment and ability to manage risk can be vital to the company they work for.
In practice, risk managers work with data, statistics and models to identify, assess and control risks. To do this, you need a quick grasp and strong analytical thinking skills. In addition, solid IT knowledge and programming skills are indispensable nowadays in order to be able to set up or adapt processes and systems independently of the IT department of a company.
If you want to be successful as a risk manager, you also need strong entrepreneurial thinking and a conceptual and structured way of working. He combines this with initiative, innovative spirit and social skills: risk managers like working independently as well as in a team and know how to communicate complex issues in an understandable way.
Opportunities for advancement as a risk manager
With increasing professional experience, risk managers can develop into a team leader or head of risk management. Since risk management is usually the responsibility of the Chief Risk Officer (CRO), good risk managers may also be promoted to Chief Risk Officer.
Since crises and uncertainties are becoming more and more challenging for companies in terms of quantity and quality, good risk managers are of crucial importance for the company’s success. It can be assumed that this will remain the case or even increase in the future and that companies will be dependent on highly qualified risk managers.
Since risk managers are less likely to be affected by branch closures or other layoffs, the position is also considered relatively future-proof. In addition, the job profile offers many opportunities for further development: because of their field of activity and their personal profile, risk managers are also in demand in many other business areas such as treasury or controlling.
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