Blair Anderson IRMCert, Relationship Manager - Finance Central Controls, NatWest Group
Risk in Focus
We speak to expert risk management professionals from across different businesses and industry sectors to get a better idea of what working in risk is really like and what hints and tips they'd share with people looking to move into the industry.
Blair Anderson IRMCert (Financial Services Risk Management),
Relationship Manager - Finance Central Controls, NatWest Group
How did you get your job?
After leaving university, I started out in a customer contact centre in Fraud Operations at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) recording customer notified incidents of fraud. At this stage, I was generally unaware of risk and risk management.
As I moved up into a management role, I became increasingly aware of the risk management activity involved in managing the call centre e.g. call monitoring, customer demand forecasting, overtime budget management, and got involved in operating controls. This really piqued my interest in risk and gave me the realisation that no matter your role, or where you work, risk management is part and parcel of daily operations. From this point on my career focussed on risk management.
I worked primarily in Anti-Money Laundering and sanctions risk for a number of years at RBS before moving on to Lloyds Banking Group where my role was more focussed on conduct risk. A stint at Tesco Bank, with a bank-wide view of key controls covering all areas of risk, followed. My goal was to get as broad a view of risk and risk management practices as possible. As part of this, during my time at Tesco Bank, I started to investigate professional qualifications in risk management. I landed on the IRM’s International Certificate in Financial Services Risk Management which offered the opportunity to get a good insight into the broader aspects of risk management including, Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) and the COSO risk management framework.
Ultimately, I landed back at NatWest Group (formerly RBS Group), in a promoted role, as a Financial Reporting Risk Relationship Manager, with an opportunity to learn another area of risk. This was aided by the skills and knowledge I learned through completing the IRM Certificate.
What is a typical day like as a Relationship Manager?
As a Relationship Manager my primary role is to engage with the various franchises and functions within the Group to support them manage the financial reporting risks inherent in their business areas and ensure that risk systems reflect the current position. An element of this is designing and delivering training on the key aspects of financial reporting risk. Also, I report progress on day-to-day activities through relevant forums and committees to ensure strong governance is maintained and any issues are highlighted and escalated for prompt resolution.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
For me, it is about playing a fundamental role in the success of the Group by ensuring we achieve our strategy in a safe, compliant and controlled manner, with customer outcomes at the forefront. Also, building meaningful relationships with my network so there is a collaborative approach where all parties are working in the same direction, and creating an environment of open and honest communication in which constructive challenge is valued, is a satisfying element of the job.
What are the challenges?
The most challenging aspect of the job, often, is reaching a consensus. Risk management can be quite subjective, and opinions can differ based on experience. So, it as an essential part of the job to have a good plan before meeting with stakeholders i.e., think about what challenges may arise and how you will address them, what elements are non-negotiable and what are negotiable. Therefore, pragmatism and influencing are important soft skills for any risk manager, in my opinion.
What would you say to others thinking about taking the International Certificate in Financial Services?
Go for it! The certificate is an excellent platform to learn more about the most common risk management frameworks, techniques, and practices in use worldwide. It will give you a greater appreciation of the wider risk management landscape and the knowledge to be more effective as a risk manager. It is a challenge, but most worthwhile things are.
What have you been able to put into practice in your job as a result of what you have learnt?
My role supports the implementation of a project, the output of which is based on the COSO internal control framework. The certificate has given me a strong foundation to talk confidently and educate people on the requirements of the framework.
The best way to get into risk management is get educated and empower yourself with the knowledge required. If you are interested in risk management, make it known. Put it in your personal development plan and discuss it with your line manager. Every aspect of a business should have some aspect of risk management in its day-to-day activities – take the opportunity to get involved and build up your knowledge. I would also highly recommend getting a mentor who is an experienced risk manager to guide you and give you the insight and tools to further your education.
In conjunction with educating yourself, focus on the required soft skills; communication and influencing are particularly important. Quite often hiring managers will recognise that technical skills and knowledge can be taught/ learned on the job. Therefore, make sure you have the right competencies to do the job and that you can demonstrate these clearly.
If you have some experience in risk management and are looking to progress in your career, then look to get qualified; it makes you stand out in the crowd. If you are looking for an overview of risk management then I would look no further than the IRM. However, there are other subject matter specific qualifications out there. Research it and pick the right one for you and your career aspirations.