We spoke to David about everything from classic motorbikes to his terrible memory for faces, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and keeping an eye on the horizon

David hill

What are you thinking right now?

With a succession of major risk events in the past year, together with some serious ongoing exceptional situations, there hangs a question of whether this is now the norm for which we need to adjust, or is it a ‘risk bubble’ that will reach its tipping point and normalise. Unfortunately, with the broad spread in the nature of risk, we currently see manifest around the world there’s limited correlation; pandemics, natural catastrophes, terrorism, corruption destabilising governments, etc, do not derive from common factors, so there’s neither a cause to the run of events, nor a trigger to end it.

It’s all too easy, at least in my experience, to be distracted by the prevailing risk topics and take one’s eyes off the dormant and emerging issues. While we’re all responding to, or scenario-planning for, the many headline issues which are shaping our near-term strategies, we still have to keep honing our traditional controls and keep a watch on the horizon too.

What is your most treasured possession?

I can’t say that I have or crave particularly grand possessions, but I do treasure a couple of old classic motorcycles that were already old when I laid them up 20 years ago after many hard miles. They are owed a re-restoration and, I will shamelessly admit, some fair weather-only outings to follow.

What’s your greatest achievement?

It’s said too often that when a firm is managing its risk well, no one notices, or the corollary that it takes a disaster to bring risk management to the fore. This is why it’s so important to apply risk-based approaches in projects and processes where impact is tangible – getting lessons learnt embedded into new projects, having ready and invoking a continuity plan when needed, bringing a sound argument to the board endorsing a new venture etc, each demonstrate the value risk management brings, and with it a greater sense of achievement.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

I’m reasonably thick-skinned but do have a terrible memory for faces, which can result in some awkward moments. It’s a cruel condition, just as bad thinking I’ve met someone that I haven’t as forgetting a face. Appalling – it generally takes two meetings to commit to memory.

What makes you happy?

Family, particularly pride in my two children. Beyond this, I am a keen runner and swimmer and enter occasional triathlons and other competitions. I have a second and longstanding enthusiasm for fine food and wine. These seemingly opposing pastimes probably represent my most effective and pleasing hedging strategy so far.

What makes you unhappy?

Meritless effort, ‘wheel-spinning’ old-style bureaucracy, futile or pointless conflict which impedes progress or drains value.

Who is your greatest hero?

It is impossible for me to be definitive on my single greatest hero, but I am awed by the achievements of the pioneers of the industrial age. So much is attributable to Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and James Watt to name a few, but Isambard Kingdom Brunel demonstrated incredible practicality and innovation in design as well as leadership to get his concepts implemented.

What is your greatest fear?

Uncertainty – in the widest interpretation, not only the risk analyst’s perspective. If the threat is known and visible, it is generally possible to control or mitigate it, so I am basically saying the ‘unknown unknowns’.

Tell us a secret?

I am a closet techie and would-be inventor, very much in a hobby capacity. To be honest, I will not be patenting or even publishing my latest automated chicken coop design. Ultimately, the main upside risk favours the fox! My original qualification and early career were in engineering, so these hobbies provide an outlet for my ‘inner engineer’.