“I have lots of ideas and I want to use them in the most appropriate way”

Julia airmic 2015 edited

Few risk professionals are respected more than Julia Graham. The knowledge and experience she has gained from a career in risk and insurance spanning more than 30 years are just the starting point for measuring her achievements.

Despite a busy working life in her role as director of risk management and insurance at international law firm DLA Piper, Graham has also found time to dedicate herself to the development of the risk profession. Graham scoffs, however, at the suggestion she is a workaholic and says she would not have it any other way. “This is the way I work,” she smiles.

However, all is set to change in the next few months. Two hugely successful years at the helm of FERMA will end in October at the association’s conference in Venice. To call Graham’s presidency proactive would be a gross understatement. Driving three themes of innovation, diversity and professionalism, Graham has criss-crossed Europe and beyond relentlessly to promote the FERMA agenda. One week in April saw Graham in London, Guernsey, Dubai, Brussels and New Orleans.

In addition, she has been one of the prime movers behind FERMA’s certification programme, which launches in the autumn after a three-year process even Graham describes a “challenging”.

Graham will also retire from DLA Piper at around the time she hands over to FERMA president-elect Jo Willaert. She will remain on the FERMA board until the 2016 general assembly, supporting Willaert on projects such as certification, where he believes her support would be most effective.  After such a dedicated and distinguished career, most people would be forgiven for looking forward to a less hectic schedule. That is not the case for Graham, who will embrace a new challenge as Airmic technical director.

Typically, although she does not take up the post full time until October, Graham has already been putting in the hours at Lloyd’s Avenue. Preparation, she says, is everything and a major part of this is listening. “Paul Hopkins did a great job at Airmic and left an incredible legacy but, as with any development such as this, I don’t want merely to replicate Paul’s role; this is an opportunity for a refocus and for making changes,” Graham says. “Determining what that shape should be is likely to dominate my first 100 days and I will be looking at a number of things. These include getting my radar working and reacquainting myself with how Airmic works. Most importantly, I will be talking to people internally and externally about what should be done. 

“Overall, I need to use this to assess what the role should involve and work closely with John Hurrell to refine this. The focus will be on what Airmic members want from the association. It is important to recognise that Airmic is not FERMA and listening to relevant stakeholders on all sides will help me with this. “I am also fortunate to have a small but great team. I can bring my knowledge and experience to that team as a leader, coach and mentor.  “In the longer term, my focus will be more strategic and supporting John closely in developing the next Airmic strategic plan.”

A new focus

Helping to set up Airmic’s new advisory board is one area already attracting Graham’s attention.  “I need to establish what that should look like, determine its purpose, what it is trying to achieve and who is going to be on that board, so we can achieve what we set out to do.”

“I have lots of ideas and I want to use them in the most appropriate way. Listening is such an important part of this. This is a combination of getting the basics right and the rest will follow. I am inquisitive and also a theme-orientated person and it is a question of using all these things to their best effect. Without doubt, however, a primary focus will be continuing to build Airmic’s reputation as a thought leader in the world of risk management insurance and there are clear ideas around this already in the pipeline ”

“The role of technical director is a fantastic opportunity. In the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time at FERMA shaping strategic objectives. Now Airmic is my new focus and this is where my main level of energy and focus will be directed.”