Is Risk Management a Source of Risk

See on Scoop.itComplexity & Resilience

If you have risk function, however, that fully understands the business model, the deployment of its operational strategy, the sector the business operates in and the macro-economic and socio-political environment in which it operates, then they will be able to provide risk information that is relevant to the business, and can be understood by the business.

David G Wilson‘s insight:

‘Knowledge’ that fails to distinguish between practises that are based upon sound theory and those that rely upon flawed models and assumption-based modelling, do not lead to understanding but to feedback loops of unintended consequences…patterns and correlations of our own making!

Unidentified sources of risk and ill-informed (albeit well-intentioned) efforts to manage without UNDERSTANDING ‘causal relationships‘ has the opposite of the desired effect…

…unmanaged risk does not dissipate but is a source of systemic risk, mis-managed, it adds complexity is amplified through the business’ interdependencies and interactions, feeding-back as volatility and adding to uncertainty.

‘Conventional wisdom’ (or herd mentality) based upon assumptions of knowledge, can/does impair our ability to understand and address issues at source.

Before we had the tools to increase our knowledge we were ignorant but, to have the tools and not use them is dangerous and costly ineptitude!:

‘Corporate Latency’ is a significant source of, reducible, exposure in every domain and, unless it is better managed, we cannot build resilient systems or create ecosystems that can claim to be truly sustainable.

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Ontonix S.r.l.: Complexity Profiling and Causality

See on Scoop.itComplexity & Resilience

Complexity is a measure of how much information a system “contains” and how much this information is structured. One could simply sum up the Shannon entropies of each variable and conclude that this is the total amount of information in a system. However, because variables can be correlated, they give rise to structure. Structure means the system can “do more” and, potentially, perform new functions. Structure is present everywhere in Nature.

David G Wilson‘s insight:

The potential to track causality through identification of ‘Causal Relationships’ offers insight where an early warning can serve as a means to prevent a potentially major loss.

Invaluable insight for carriers of financial and insurance risks where the causal relationship between its own profitability and risk profile is apparent…so, WHY, if loss prevention is achievable, are those charged with the responsibility to underwrite such risks, ‘content’ with conventional wisdom and a limited ‘risk horizon’ when:


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Complexity, risk, uncertainty and change


Business management, particularly for those intent upon ‘change’ or responsible for managing exposures, needs a rigorous, objective, measurement of the endogenous properties (complexity) that enables the functionality from which (through interactions with exogenous parties) the business generates the revenues that sustain it in changing and turbulent economic times.

“Complexity increases cost and decreases flexibility — often in unforeseen ways — and also tends to decrease stability,”….

Peter Leukert, CIO of Commerzbank

It is the number, nature and integrity of dynamic, multi-scalar, interactions that are the sources of strength (enabling performance greater than the sum of the parts). The ability to distinguish and respond to ‘signals’, that maintain the variety, effectiveness and agility of the complex system, from the ‘noise’ of flawed metrics, self-serving culture, hierarchical structure (silos), skewed incentives – of an unsustainable, failed or failing, model (reliant upon  assumption, reflexive, subjective, statistical analysis and prediction) that has its foundation in flawed (linear) economic thinking.

We won’t get different or better answers while we keep on asking the same questions.

For meaningful change to occur and to be sustained requires a rigorous justification, sufficient to counter financial projections that satisfy the goals of C-level short-termism that are detrimental to the stability and long term health of the business.

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Risk STILL isn’t optional: nor is the truth!

Where are the “risk leaders”?

Instead of FS compounding the problems we should be utilising our expertise and resources to establish a means of “repaying” society, by promoting, supporting and investing in building community resilience.

EVERY project, process, task, operation being undertaken by an organisation is reliant upon varying degrees of INTER-CONNECTED process that (often unseen) underpins function. Each contains some degree of risk.

The more complex the process or product the greater the exposure. Risk does not ‘run parallel’ to function, it is inherent to it and, as such, RM cannot be viewed as an option or add-on! To me this, scarily common and naive perspective serves to reinforce the need for a paradigm shift in Corporate culture.

I have revisited this old article for a couple of reasons. Firstly, (even though I say so myself) I thought it rather good! Secondly, I am seriously concerned that, where there should be “thought leadership”, there are, instead, clear signs that in some quarters a, subjective, consultancy-led approach is preferred to a rigorous, quantitative, analysis of business exposures!

This despite IRM, in a paper issued last year [Risk Appetite & Tolerance], advocating a more quantitative approach. In their accompanying webinar they offered a timeous reminder of Board level responsibilities:


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Insurance & Reinsurance…as simple as “A, B, C” but much more dangerous!

Apparently my (lone) voice isn’t sufficient to alert the UK financial & insurance industry to the folly of their perspective on “risk”! So, I am eternally grateful to Tim Harford for this presentation!

PLEASE watch this and don’t make the mistake of thinking that the “problem” relates only to Oil disasters, Financial or Nuclear meltdowns. The lesson is that, if the means of communicating INFORMATION, quickly and effectively, between business units, is impaired in complex systems (and that includes relatively small businesses), events WILL happen faster than you or “the system” can react and can have HUGE, unforeseen [not unforeseeable] consequences. This is the nature of the world as we now know it.

Complexity & Close-coupling cause losses!!!

This should be required viewing for every underwriter, risk manager, insurance company executive, banker and regulator…except that many of them already KNOW precisely how risk cascades and spreads. I am constantly amazed how many learned people, in finance and insurance, who  talk about “contagion” and “systemic risk” as if it is something that they don’t have to worry about! THE PROBLEM IS, THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM, SO HAVE FILED IT UNDER “INCONVENIENT TRUTH”, waiting for the time when the shit hits the fan (again) so they can try to convince us that failure was unforeseeable – a Black Swan event – they don’t want to have to admit how little they know about causality, preferring instead to rely upon historic risk data…as if our industrial past holds all the answers we need in our extremely complex, inter-connected, Digital present and future.

Tim talks in great detail about the failures that led to the loss of 167 lives on the Piper Alpha Oil rig and how the sheer volume of data means we can miss vital INFORMATION that could serve as a means of crisis anticipation.

Now, if you have read any of my previous blogs about complexity and risk, you will know that just because “they” say they don’t know what the answer to problem is, doesn’t mean that there is no answer.

BECAUSE THERE IS! This is why I was so excited by what Ontonix, under the inspirational leadership of Dr Jacek Marczyk, had developed and why I keep going on about it DESPITE the enormous challenge of cracking “institutional inertia”.

I would like to highlight a previous article from 2010: Does complexity guarantee “system failure”?

NOT because I am not trying to claim to be so far ahead of the curve here BUT to try to illustrate that the knowledge is out there but too many people who have the power to do something about it AREN’T…go figure!!!