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An interview with Sam Brandom, IRM Cert Risk Manager at Shawbrook Bank

The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) asks its members what working in risk is really like and what hints and tips they'd share with people looking to move into the industry.

Sam Brandom, IRM Cert

Risk Manager at Shawbrook Bank

How did you get your job?

I joined Shawbrook Bank straight after finishing my Master’s degree at The London School of Economics, as part of the bank’s initial graduate scheme offering. My initial role was within the underwriting department within our Business Finance division, where I developed a strong risk understanding and a drive to learn more. Following a period of time, I was offered a role as risk manager, and have been in the role now for two years.

What is a typical day like as a risk manager?

It is difficult to say what a typical day of a risk manager is like, as every day is different. But this is a key reason why I enjoy my role – it’s about thinking about a situation when it arises, and determining the best approach to take. Activities could range from considering risk registers to formalising procedures and controls, determining risk appetite to remediating risk issues. But as I say, every day could bring a surprise!

What do you enjoy most about your job? What are the challenges?

The fact that there are challenges as a risk manager is the main reason I enjoy my job. At heart I am a problem solver, keen to delve into an issue and determine the best way forward. By facing challenges, such as disagreements between stakeholders, it helps to not only increase my understanding of risk issues themselves, but also helps me develop the skills required to overcome these challenges. I’d say that for anyone working in a risk position, the biggest challenge is ensuring Risk teams are not seen as an opponent, but are rather there to assist, guide and protect.

In what ways are your IRM qualifications relevant?

As a relative new-comer to the risk profession, the International Certificate in Financial Services Risk Management provided a framework within which my prior experiences could be applied. Not only did it help me to understand a lot of the conversations which were taking place around me, but also gave me the knowledge and skills to engage in these conversations myself. The qualification provided me with a real stepping stone upon which my career could start to progress.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions? Has being linked to the IRM helped?

I have only recently completed the qualification, but already my increased understanding of core principles and tools has allowed me to drive forward some key changes. In addition, the support network and training sessions the IRM provides are incredibly useful, and offer not only an ongoing refresh on knowledge, but also allows for vital discussion across the risk management profession.

As an individual I always aim high, and so I aim to progress further within the risk management space, particularly if I can make a difference to businesses and customers as a result. I have a way to go, but to one day be a CRO would be fantastic.

Top tips:

I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of young people going into business may not necessarily be excited by the prospect of working in risk. However, for those starting their career, I’d say that you should look at a role in risk if you align with the following three things:

  • You enjoy solving problems – risk management, at its core, is about looking at problems and determining solutions. Sometimes the solution may not be the most obvious choice.
  • You have a particular attention to detail – sometimes a risk issue could be a very small point which is having a larger impact. You should be eager to delve into the information and find the source of a problem.
  • You’re resilient – sometimes the solution to a risk issue doesn’t arise straight away. Being resilient and driving actions can make all the difference.
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