Sue Copeman interviews AIRMIC’s new chairman, Colin Campbell

What do you see as the greatest challenges in your forthcoming year as chairman? And what’s your theme for the year?

I’m not personally keen on chairmen having their own themes primarily because AIRMIC has now set in place its strategies which shouldn’t be influenced by individuals. But, if pushed, my theme is about communicating the risk management message.

I’m very keen to engage more with the membership. We have had fantastic results over the last two years in getting members more involved with AIRMIC and our activities. The change in structuring the financial package for members has obviously been key to that and should be reflected in this conference’s record attendance.

Over 50% of our members have attended one or more AIRMIC organised events over the last year – a remarkable result. As chairman, I plan to visit those members who so far have not been engaged or have only occasionally attended our events to ascertain their needs and wants and make sure we are performing in the right areas for them.

We will also be looking at ways to help members communicate internally and get the risk message agenda on every level of their organisations. External communication is important too. We need to tackle the terminology. AIRMIC ought to be making clear statements so members realise what we think we mean by risk management as opposed to what others think risk management is all about.

The success of our partnerships has helped us engage our members better. It’s not just a matter of financial assistance - our partners provide very good seminars and workshops. But we can’t sit on our laurels. We need to continue to work at these partnerships to ensure all parties receive the hoped for benefits and communicate these benefits to our partners so they can communicate these through their organisations.

We are also looking to totally revamp our website by the end of 2007. It will provide better communication platforms for members and will also be more attractive to external visitors, hopefully being the first or ‘one stop’ shop for risk.

And of course there is Risk Publishing Online - David Gamble’s new arena. This will spread the risk management message to a much wider community, particularly SMEs.

My greatest challenge this year will be making all this happen!

How can risk managers communicate to the board? And how can we promote the importance of the risk manager’s role?

Individual risk managers understand the culture of their organisations so they have their own ways of communicating within their businesses to fit in with that culture. The journey is for risk managers to develop skills which allow them to internally market in every direction. This is where risk managers are great. They tend to be people who can communicate at all levels through the organisation, bottom, top and across. The continuing move to regulate and add layers of bureaucracy often clouds the benefits of risk management and the opportunities available from embedding risk management into all parts of an organisation

AIRMIC seeks to promote the importance of the risk management role in many ways. Specialist publications, use of internet, smarter conferencing by using electronic communication tools and the like all make sense but it is a slow process.

Do you think there’s a place for corporate risk officers in the UK?

Acceptance of the CRO role has been generally slow but within certain industries it has gathered pace, for example financial services. Equivalent positions are appearing in other businesses too. However, the role is often taken by someone from an audit or accounting background. They can be quite narrow in their approach and perhaps even areas of responsibility – not extending into what we would call operational risk and looking at the upside of risk.

CROs are unlikely to be the norm unless they are purely compliance people as opposed to purely risk managers. The battle is not about treading on each other’s toes but seeing the way through the maze of different areas of risk management. The difficulty - going back to my communication theme - is establishing exactly what we mean by risk management, risk manager, enterprise risk management, embedded risk management and the like.

What’s the current state of play with the longterm strategic plan?

One of AIRMIC’s strongest features over the last three or four years is that our council has been committed to setting strategy, with linked activity and output. Earlier this year AIRMIC council took a day and a half out looking specifically at our current strategic aims and setting new goals for the coming three years. The strategy document will be available to members shortly. Next year we will be doing some work on supply chain risks and how to plug the gaps in the supply chain.

Where would you like to see AIRMIC positioned in five years time?

I would like us to be seen as a first port of call by government, other external authorities and journalists. When risk is on the agenda, they would come to us for comment and involvement. We are getting there but we have some way to go to ensure that we are part of the developing thinking as opposed to the developed thinking. It would be great if when you Googled ‘risk’ AIRMIC’s name came up in the first 10 results. It’s about publishing more, speaking more, making relevant comments and providing interesting risk information.

Financial strength is important for an organisation though my view is that we should not be holding money back for a rainy day but use it and use it wisely. We hope that Risk Publishing Online will help us to develop another income stream but it is there primarily to do another piece of work. It would be good to see it evolve as a European and worldwide tool used by thousands of organisations to help them improve their risk management knowledge. I would like to see more members encompassing 100% of the FTSE250, as well as more members outside the UK.

What are you looking forward to most in your year as chairman? And what are you looking forward to least?

I’m excited about taking our strategic aims forward. My worst fear is someone forcing me to wear a kilt at the Edinburgh conference next year – not that I’d look bad in a kilt!

What are your personal interests?

I play the drums and occasionally do sessions in pubs and clubs. I’m also involved with a Christian Fellowship which is building the largest church built in England since medieval times. It’s a £10m project.