Sue Copeman previews this year's Institute of Risk Management annual conference.

The UK Combined Code on Corporate Governance and the subsequent Turnbull guidelines on its implementation focused attention on the need for organisations to assess and manage their risks well. The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) tackled this need in its last two conferences. In 1999, the theme was that risk management was too important to be left to risk managers. Last year, it was the new language of risk management, considering in particular the emerging exposures and behavioural issues.

With the deadline for compliance now behind us, along with a great deal of debate on the feasibility of embedding risk management and the potential benefits, this year's conference will mark a new watershed. It takes the theme 'Great Expectations - How can risk management deliver the promise?'

As Paul McDonald, chairman of the IRM conference project team and director, group risk management, BAE Systems, says, "Organisations are now recognising that Turnbull is not just something they have to do, but something that makes a degree of sense. Whoever is responsible for their risk management, they now have to deliver. And this means not just delivering in the sense of meeting the Turnbull guidelines but actually providing some form of value to their organisation.'

Delivering value can no longer be seen in terms of the risks that the IRM and others have mapped over the last few years. The evolution of business's role in society has focused attention on the broader impacts of corporate activity. In the words of McDonald: "New topics are emerging on the radar screens of organisations' chief executives". The conference will reflect the new backdrop.

So, stakeholder expectations of higher standards from businesses and the recognition of reputation as a critical business asset are both high on the agenda. These issues have strong implications for risk management.

In February, the growth in socially responsible investment was underlined by the launch of the FTSE4Good indices for the UK, Europe, the US and the whole world, providing benchmarks against which institutions can measure and market the performance of their ethical funds. The message is clear. Investors are taking an ever closer look at the corporate governance performance and risk management strategies of companies in their portfolios.

A plenary session will stress the importance of legal developments, whether involving major changes such, as those proposed by the UK company law review, or detailed adjustments to regulations. These have a far great impact on risk management than has traditionally been recognised.

Delivering value by embedding risk management thinking and practices into operations means improving performance and stimulating innovation while, at the same time, avoiding bureaucracy. This may seem easier said than done, but delegates will have the opportunity to share BP's practical experience in integrating risk management into a performance driven organisation.

Some of the conference workshops will take a more detailed look at aspects of these particular issues. Others focus on specific topical areas, such as how business continuity fits into risk management strategy, and the cultural drivers in risk management. Nor are the nuts and bolts forgotten, with workshops on defining and identifying risk, with appropriate management and analysis techniques, and risk financing theory, application and effect.

McDonald is enthusiastic about the high degree of commitment and professionalism of the workshop leaders . "We want all those who attend to leave saying that the IRM conference continues to be the event on their calendar that puts their work into perspective and adds some form of intellectual property that they can take away to their workplace. We see the conference as a key forum for intellectual debate and professional development."
Sue Copeman is editor, StrategicRisk

The IRM annual conference, Great Expectations - How can risk management deliver the promise? - takes place on 26 and 27 September at Robinson College, Cambridge. The plenary speeches are:

  • The revolution in corporate social responsibility - embedding integrity in business: Sue Slipman, director, external relations and compliance, Camelot Group plc
  • Corporate risk - understanding the macro and micro legal drivers: Lord Hunt of Wirral, senior partner, Beachcroft Wansboroughs solicitors
  • An institutional investor perspective: Michelle Edkins, corporate governance director, Hermes Investment Management Ltd
  • Managing risk in a performance culture: Dr Reg Hinkley, vice president and general auditor, BP plc.
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