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Carla Knight: Risk Management Specialist, Exxaro Solutions

Carla Knight

Risk Management Specialist

Exxaro Solutions


How did you get your job?

In 2005 my journey in risk management started, when I decided to study B.Com Risk Management at the North-West University in South Africa.

After completing my Honours in Risk Management in 2008 I started working as a risk management intern at Statistics South Africa which was a very good learning experience, especially being fresh out of University. I continued working in the risk management department until I was offered an opportunity as a junior risk specialist on a mega project for Exxaro Resources where I gained a lot of experience in both mining and construction. In 2012 I joined the Exxaro Risk Compliance and Assurance team as the Senior Risk Specialist. Looking back at where my risk management journey started I am proud to say that I have come a long way and so has our Exxaro RCA team.

What is a typical day like as a Risk Specialist?

There is not one day which is the same as the other, exactly one of the reasons I absolutely love my job. Risk management is an extremely dynamic, evolving field and my interest in macro and micro economic affairs, what happens on the world stage and innovation makes my job fascinating.   

Some of my daily activities are to facilitate risk workshops, conduct risk review sessions. One of the most crucial but difficult tasks is to continuously create a risk aware culture. I am also very involved with the risk champions that sit across the country at the different business units to guide them in the right direction in terms of our risk management process and how to input data into the SAP GRC Risk Management tool.

Reporting of risks up and down the organisation is also performed by our team. An area that I regard as very important is to identify signals of change and opportunities to test the robustness of our strategic processes. Risk management is key in our team to ensure that our company remains sustainable in the long run.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Risk management requires a lot of creativity and interaction with all layers of the organisation, therefore the interaction with other people from different departments is a huge advantage in my day-to-day life. In risk management it is important to build bridges between the operations and the corporate headquarters. It has taught me that without buy-in risk management can never be integrated in the business processes of the company to really ad business value.

I have a keen interest in the systems that enable execution of our risk management processes and our risk appetite framework and I have realised that this is an area that I really enjoy! A system will only enhance a good process, but if implemented correctly it will give information that is crucial in making sustainable decisions to achieve our strategic objectives.

What are the challenges?

I think my challenge is no different than any other risk team’s challenges. It takes some time to get the buy in at all levels in the organisation. Please do not give up we have been working on it for almost four years and we are definitely starting to see positive changes in the behaviour of people. Never view this as a project, but rather view it as a journey to improve the organisation at strategic, tactical and operational levels.

In what way are your IRM qualifications relevant?

They provide you with the correct foundation that is necessary to be a successful risk specialist or risk manager.

IRM qualifications are also an excellent way to ensure that you stay relevant and on top of the ever so changing risk management field. It has taught me so many things especially in the areas where I do not see myself as an expert e.g. Insurance.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

From being an Intern and not having a lot of experience to being a risk specialist for the last five years I would have to say a lot has changed. Thanks to the experience I have gained over the years and my mentors guiding me in the right direction.  I want to become a risk manager and I would like to be a leader that my team looks up to and strive to be like (the best example of what a good leader is all about that is what I would like to be).

Top Tips

  • Be creative and flexible
  • Understand your customers needs
  • Interact regularly with all risk owners and risk champions and obtain their buy-in
  • Realise that it will take time to truly integrate risk management in all business processes