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Cheryl Forster, MIRM: Operational Risk Manager, Atom Bank

Cheryl Forster, MIRM
(Runner up in the IRM's Global Risk of the Year Awards - International Diploma Student of the Year category)

Operational Risk Manager 

Atom Bank


How did you get your job?

To be honest I didn’t fully know what risk management was. I was previously a Money Market Treasury Dealer in a bank, and decided I wanted a change (I didn’t really want to pigeon hole myself into Treasury roles with living in the North East of England where there are not many Treasury functions).

I saw the job advertised internally and thought it sounded very interesting. I am a naturally inquisitive person, and love being able to learn new things, so I thought this type of role would suit me. Also from my time in Treasury I had good knowledge of Treasury and Economic Risks, and how Treasury helped to manage other business risks (e.g. interest rate exposure, product pricing).

Having good Treasury knowledge, stood me in a good position for the risk management role within the bank, as Treasury can be quite a complex function to understand as an outsider.

What’s a typical day like as an Operational Risk Manager?

I now work as Operational Risk Manager in a new digital bank – As a start-up company it is probably safe to say that no day is a ‘typical day’.

As we launched in April, there are some regular activities that I am involved in such as monitoring and reporting of Operational Risk Losses, Key Risk Indicators, Risk Control Self Assessments, Risk Events etc. I also spend a lot of time doing activities which will ensure the bank continues to grow, widen its customer base, and roll out new products in an environment where risks are minimised, understood and managed.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety of activities that I get involved in – this gives me the opportunity to continually learn new things and meet new and interesting people!

I also enjoy that as a new bank, I am able to design new processes and ways of working so I get to be creative.

What are the challenges?

Time! There is always so much to be done.

In what way is your IRM qualification relevant?

Doing the IRM qualifications has benefitted me in a number of ways:

  • Increased my risk management knowledge over a wide range of different areas/topics
  • Provided a wealth of different tools and techniques, and a good understanding of when/how they are best used
  • Provided great insight and tips how to better develop your ‘softer skills’ to become a more effective risk manager
  • Helped me to better identify and overcome any challenges that risk management can bring

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

My risk management roles over the last 12 years have seen me move in and out of the financial sector; move between Operational and Group Risk roles; and, move between FTSE 100 and start-up companies. Each role has given me the opportunity to learn and apply a different skill set and has continued to develop me as a risk manager. I want to continue on this learning journey and never get to the point where I feel ‘bored’ or ‘unchallenged’ in my role.

Top Tips

Believe in yourself, look for a risk opportunity and just go for it! Many of the skills needed for risk management are used in many other roles so you may already be more qualified than you think (e.g. interpersonal, problem solving and analysis skills).

Become qualified. The IRM qualifications are a great way to study. They teach you everything you need to know to become an effective risk manager and are recognised by employers worldwide. Studying at home gives you full flexibility to fit it into your own circumstances – I began my studies when I had just given birth to my second child, so it was perfect for me to be able to study at home (when my children were asleep!) rather than have dedicated days on training courses to attend.