Digital transformation, balancing old and new skills, and integrating risk throughout the business are overarching focuses for Julia Graham, Airmic’s deputy CEO and technical director

julia graham

When considering Airmic’s technical agenda – and how it has changed in recent years – Julia Graham highlights a shift that has taken place, with digital transformation as the new headliner. Airmic’s deputy CEO and technical director, and former DLA Piper risk and insurance director, emphasises the need to embrace that change within the risk management community.

She says her work is based around three pillars to help that happen.

“Our technical agenda contains very different subjects to just a few years ago. Then, there wasn’t much on digital, and if it was there, it tended to be cyber insurance,” said Graham. “Now we’re very focused on the digital transformation, what that means for the world, and the whole subject of emerging risks.”

Her second pillar is the balance between old and new skills, which Graham is using as the basis for shaking up Airmic’s educational agenda for risk professionals. “It’s about making sure we have a better balance between traditional knowledge and skills and the knowledge and skills that meet the new challenges of the digital age. We know members want to have the right skills mix, but some still have a mountain to climb, not least to recruit people with different skill sets,” Graham said.

“Everything has to slot in somewhere to the journey our members are making to prepare their knowledge and skills for the future. There is a lot going on, but we’re living in a transformational time, so we’ve got to have a lot going on,” she added.

The third pillar Graham is focused on is about building collaboration between the risk function and other important internal stakeholders. “We want to see integration of risk management across the business, making sure that the risk function is relevant,” Graham said. “Collaboration is a big word for me, and you can only collaborate if you’re relevant, so the other parts of the business will work well with you.”

Those three pillars fuel the three agendas that Airmic uses as its delivery mechanisms, according to Graham. These are Airmic’s technical agenda, its educational programme, and its events schedule.

As part of the collaboration theme, she points to Airmic’s series of academy days. These are one-day events aimed at improving collaboration between risk and insurance managers and other areas of the business to support board engagement.

Graham said that of the six new academy days in mind, running roughly every two months from September, the first will be devoted to technology, the second will focus on geopolitics, followed by talks devoted to people, audit, finance, and finally, a governance day.

To instil the theme of collaboration, she wants members to bring their colleagues from outside the risk management function to these events. “It’s in a spirit of collaboration with their peers,” Graham said.

This could mean inviting the chief information officer, or the chief information security officer (CISO) to the technology event. For the geopolitics day, members might consider inviting their firm’s chief operating officer, the head of security or the business continuity manager.

“We want to end with governance deliberately to be a crescendo of all the papers already released, so that there’s a journey we’re covered, and all the papers will be relevant,” she added.

Last year Airmic’s member survey yielded some insight into what members were most concerned about. The relevance of insurance was a major theme, Graham said, with the value to be gained from cyber insurance as a major point.

Airmic is continuing to release its risk and insurance papers, with several planned for the next year, on the use of captive insurance, parametric insurance, and managing cyber insurance claims.

Its latest survey has also produced three further subjects for the next year. The first of these is diversity and inclusion (D&I), Graham noted. “We have our own issues in the risk management profession, as well as the broader issues such as the gender pay gap. We’re looking at things from the angle of talent,” she said. “So that is about knowledge and skills – do we know what we need and are those people coming into the right jobs?”

She said Airmic is also looking at the topic of “culture, attitude and values”, for example by issuing a report on culture at the conference. Graham also said that Airmic is engaging with the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) on its proposed changes to the UK Corporate Governance Code, focused on responsibilities for how risk is managed at board and C-suite levels.

“We’re keen to persuade the FRC to be more adventurous in a world driven by digital innovation, because the FRC code has been driven by legacy and not by looking forward,” Graham said. “There is a conflict between a system of governance and compliance driven by looking down the wrong end of the telescope. We’ll certainly meet up with them and express our opinions,” she added.

Another survey-inspired topic of interest is about so-called megatrends, asking what people in the industry think about hot topics such as crisis management.

“We have another big report we will be working on, that is the next one after Roads to Revolution, which is focused on digital transformation risks. That next report is not yet named, but it’s going to be much more about how organisations are sensing, receiving and reacting to crises,” said Graham.

She considers events such as the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, and how well other companies might respond to a challenge. Predictive analytics can help give organisations an edge, she observes.

“Predictive analytics are allowing organisations to be sophisticated in digital outlook posts – using analytics to scan outside world and gather data from the cloud, to tell that you have a problem before you know you have a problem,” said Graham.