Value in uncertain times

When in June 2008, incoming AIRMIC chairman Julia Graham chose promoting the risk manager as her theme for the year, she may not have realised just how appropriate it would be by the time of the annual conference in June 2009. The programme for this year’s event, which will take place in Bournemouth on 16 and 17 June, focuses on the subject in the context of the global financial crisis, where risk managers are anxious to demonstrate their value to their organisations.

The conference begins with a members’ only training session from Cranfield School of Management on Tuesday morning, 16 June, including talks on the workings of financial markets and on creating shareholder value through successful branding. In the first plenary session that afternoon, presentation coach Graham Davies will explain how risk managers can make their arguments clearly and effectively in every business situation. Having begun his speaking career as president of the Cambridge Union, Davies then combined professional speaking with work as a barrister at the criminal bar. A second keynote speech will be given by mountaineer Joe Simpson, whose death-defying experience was the theme of the book Touching the Void, and the film of the same name.

Among the conference workshops, AIRMIC member Adrian Smith of Cable and Wireless, and Nigel Godwin of Heath Lambert Group, will explore the theme of promoting the risk manager and consider how the risk manager is perceived from the standpoint of a chief executive, what is important to the board of directors, and the pitfalls of extending the role beyond the core risk management issues.

On Wednesday, Joseph Restoule, president of the US Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) and leader of risk management for NOVA Chemicals Corporation, will reinforce their discussion with a workshop on taking risk management to the top. Restoule argues that a major challenge facing the risk management discipline is gaining recognition at the highest level of the organisation. He will put forward strategies for winning over senior managers and directors.

With the current dislocation in the financial markets, one of the things finance directors want to know is: ‘What is our aggregation with any one insurer?’ It is a pertinent question, because the number of insurers with the capacity to write global programmes or major risks is limited. Philippe Gouraud, head of major accounts for AIRMIC partner organisation AIG UK, will lead a workshop on Tuesday on the subject of insurer counterparty risk, that will help risk managers respond.

On Wednesday, Roger Sellek and Nick Charteris-Black, AM Best Europe, and AIRMIC member Helen Hayden of Prudential, will present a complementary workshop, which will consider how a major claim could affect insurers, including the role of the rating agencies and financial strength ratings.

Fortunately, there will be time for some (virtual) seaside fun at the conference. The AIRMIC beach party will take place on the evening of 16 June and promises fish and chips, popcorn, candy floss, ice, cream, Punch & Judy and a chance for members to test their prowess at the strong man machine. Due to the uncertainties of English weather, it will be held in the conference centre.

For more programme information and registration, see the AIRMIC website at