Sue Copeman interviews AIRMIC’s retiring chairman, Colin Campbell

What do you see as the highlights of your year as AIRMIC chairman? And were there any down-sides?

Looking back to last year’s conference, David Gamble was about to move from his role as executive director after almost 10 years to head up Risk Publishing Online (RPO), and we had managed to find an excellent interim manager - Alan Fleming. In the next few months, Alan not only held the ship steady but brought us on while we were looking for a permanent executive director. Most importantly, during the time of his tenure, Alan consolidated, developed and renewed our relationship with our key business partners.

We had to decide what the future role of the new executive director would be and the kind of person who would be best able to fulfil that. I believe that, both internally and externally, all would agree that we did a good job in securing John Hurrell. John has amazingly only been in tenure for five months but it feels like longer to me - and probably to him.

With John on board, we reviewed where AIRMIC is at generally. Then we looked at developing both my theme of communication and also new ways of doing things and how we could introduce these while keeping up to speed with what the association is all about, what the member issues are, and dealing with practicalities of running AIRMIC secretariat.

So I view my key achievement as securing John and helping him to get us to where we are.

During the year, there has also been the ERM research project with DNV. It gives an insight into how major, particularly international, organisations ‘do’ ERM and what the benefits are. We hope this will highlight to our membership what best practice looks like and give some practical guidelines on to how to embed ERM within an organisation successfully. The research process has been fairly long and quite difficult but I’m sure the results will be applauded.

In the meantime, we have initiated the willingness to pay claims initiative. We will be announcing progress at the conference, outlining our key objectives and deliverables for the near and medium term future. We see that as an ongoing exercise. We have engaged with the market which has already stepped up its communication on the subject of claims. This helps us to understand the product that we are buying and will hopefully at some point give us true contract certainty.

There have not been many downsides. The long time it takes to do research and the amount of work involved are always a disappointment in terms of not being able to deliver as quickly as one would like. However, I feel the work we are doing is in-depth and at a sufficient level that makes the wait worthwhile.

I am fortunate in that, during my year, we have not had what we would call major issues. Having said that, clearly the economic issues internationally are going to have a big impact on us going forward and have already affected some risk managers.

How easy was it to combine the role of chairman with the demands of your job?

Of course it hasn’t been easy and it’s added some hours to the working day. But we do have a team approach within AIRMIC – it’s not a case of just one or two individuals pulling their weight and the others simply sitting back. We have a fantastic secretariat and the council and AIRMIC Executive members all play their part in ensuring the burden is shared. That allows flexibility and continuity. I have a great team working for me at Arcadia as well as a very supportive wife and family for which I am grateful. You have to be flexible and ‘work round’ and prioritise.

You have made communication your theme for the year. Why is this and what do you think are the communication issues that risk managers need to tackle?

I chose it because I felt that risk management was and probably still is misunderstood in respect of both the term ‘risk management’ and also what risk managers do within organisations or as consultants. I feel that communication between risk managers was, and probably still remains, poor. Going back to my ‘disappointments’, one is the fact that I may have moved that on somewhat but not entirely. Risk management still remains a myth to many.

In terms of communications issues within AIRMIC, we have progressed in that our monthly newsletter is now on line, we have launched a new website, and we have more regular dialogue with our membership in the shape of roundtables and surveys. We are developing new bulletin type dialogue systems.

“Being Scottish and having been born not far from Edinburgh, this conference will be somewhat of a homecoming for me.

We have also tried to develop new ways within AIRMIC to facilitate communication member to member. Many risk managers can feel isolated because they are the only risk (or insurance) expert within their organisation. One of the strengths and fundamentals of AIRMIC is facilitating that communication whether it is on particular issues or just to share experience and ideas.

Another aspect of communication is within our members’ organisations and getting the risk management message across clearly and efficiently at all levels. Embedding risk management within the organisation, find practical ways to do that and ensuring that the board is informed on risk management and fulfilling its obligations are a constant challenge. Risk managers need to be good communicators and good internal marketers. Those are among the strengths of a good risk manager.

Finally, of course, there is communication with stakeholders on risk matters. That is becoming more and more an issue for risk managers. In the past we have probably been generally more concerned with our organisations per se as opposed to its stakeholders. Communication of risk matters is increasingly required by regulation but it’s also part of good risk management practice.

What do you think the other key issues for risk managers generally have been in the last year?

The effect of the economic factors, international oil prices, sub prime and other international issues have focused the brains of business and risk managers alike. They have been forced to be both reactive and creative on several fronts and that will develop over the next months.

Risk managers are often seen as the first port of call that people turn to when there is a problem. Risk management itself comes into its own when organisations are going through tough times. We can be the point of stability that people come to for a degree of assurance and security.

How do you see AIRMIC developing in the next five years?

As a member organisation we cannot stand still. We need to look at improving the organisation’s efficiency and also ensuring we have regular dialogue with the membership to make sure that we are up to speed with their needs and meeting them. The partnership programme is firmly in place and we need to look at ways of developing that on both sides, seeing what we can do to enhance the benefits that come out of these partnerships. We will also be looking to grow the membership where we can and to make it easier for existing members to stay or remain part of AIRMIC when they move to other organisations or other risk areas.

And do you think the role of the risk manager is changing?

The answer must be yes and no. There are two sides. First we have had to get back to basics with the risk manager seen as a solid port of call. But businesses are constantly changing so risk managers are constantly learning and developing. We need to be fleet of foot and ensure we keep up with the change of demand.

What are your plans for the future?

More of the same! I will hopefully be remaining on the AIRMIC council for a few years to come and so will continue to be involved in strategy and thinking for AIRMIC’s immediate future. My role in Arcadia is always changing with new features and initiatives happening or on the horizon. There are lots of things I would still like to achieve. I am very much involved in the construction of a new large church building in the town of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, where I live. It’s a major and exciting project. I am also looking forward to the new football season – this will be Huddersfield Town’s year (I say it every year!)

I believe the most important thing is family, friends and business associates. I am looking forward to developing those relationships - and starting new ones at the conference. Being Scottish and having been born not far from Edinburgh, this conference will be somewhat of a homecoming for me.