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Interview with Simon King, CMIRM, Chief Risk Officer at the Ministry of Defence (MOD)

Interview with Simon King, CMIRM, Chief Risk Officer at the Ministry of Defence (MOD)

By the Institute of Risk Management’s Armed Forces Community Group Chair, Chris Blockley-Webb, IRMCert


Simon King CMIRM (pictured above) is the CRO for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and a senior member of the IRM. I have been fortunate to have worked as his Assistant Head of Risk Management for the last three years and being able to take the opportunity to catch a few reflective views on what it’s like being at the top of the risk management discipline in such an important government department.

What do you see as your outstanding achievements and challenges whilst in the role?

As many in the Armed Forces Community Group will know, working in MOD we accept that often we can’t tell our friends and families the specifics of what we’re involved with and are influencing, and that’s part of my answer. I know that I’ve played my part in shaping understanding, decision making and how policies are implemented that have made a real difference. I’ve been extremely respectful of the access and voice I’ve been allowed to have and hope that I challenged with humility. Being asked to help brief retired 4*s ahead of certain public events suggests I got some of that right.

A couple of things I can refer to are having introduced risk deep dives at the Board recognising the conversations and understandings they generated, and the role I played in updating the Orange Book and issuing its risk appetite guidance. I’ve also really appreciated the insights people considered it worth giving me to some of our capabilities.

The main challenge of the CRO role which I continue to experience, and which is not driven by MOD, is finding the right time and tone to highlight areas of concern.

Rather than be seen as process obsessed, or cavalier with my ‘right’ to inform people, it’s the same challenge but a different judgement needed each time to be able to put what may be legitimate issues into the right strategic context, to not catastrophise the consequence, to recognise where senior and strategic governance may already be active and then decide whether nudging a particular 3* or executive is more efficient that taking air-time in committee.

How have you seen risk management change, not only in the MOD but across government?

There is now a community of risk leaders in government which didn’t quite exist before, although the strong grass-routes Risk Improvement Group is still there.

There have been changes across government in reporting processes are being used to raise awareness and inform choices. Covid and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have both reinforced that things we know could happen but don’t expect to, actually do happen and we may not be able to react effectively enough quickly enough (not that we haven’t responded spectacularly to both).

We should be careful to not confuse process with outcome, and there is growing demand for insight. We have an obvious need to make sure that the policies of the elected government get delivered, and a specific and positive outcome from Covid is that risk management is being encouraged to help consider risk events which are more remote and not necessarily directly connected to today, or current policies and plans.

You have overseen the busiest time in the MOD for many years, covering a huge range of activities, what keeps surprising you?

Several things:

  • As a civilian, what military planners do at their best.
  • The professionalism of the British military.
  • Generally, the breadth, complexity, interdependencies, and care that needs to be taken to not oversimplify things.
  • The way the whole workforce can come together.

You are leaving the top risk management job in the MOD, where next for Simon King?

Who knows? It’s a real privilege to be selected to attend the Royal College of Defence Studies; it’s not about getting any particular qualification, rather gaining the understanding of international security and strategy and being able to apply those back in MOD, or wider government, depending on the roles available at the time.

A significant part of learning at RCDS comes from actively sharing and challenging perspectives and understanding among the 30-odd countries represented. Will I ‘just’ do risk with greater grand-strategic insight or something more risk-based in international security?

What I do know is that the journey between here and there is going to be a good one.

IRM and the Armed Forces Community

The IRM was recently awarded Silver Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS). The Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) encourages employers to support Defence and inspire others to do the same. The scheme encompasses bronze, silver, and gold awards for employer organisations that pledge, demonstrate or advocate support to defence and the armed forces community, and align their values with the Armed Forces Covenant. The award has been bestowed on the IRM by the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for Greater London (GLRFCA).

Find out more here: IRM Awarded Silver Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) (

Find out more about the Armed Forces Community Group: Armed Forces Community Group (

ELCAS funding is available for the Institute of Operational Risk (IOR, part of the IRM group) Certificate in Operational Risk Management, more here: ELCAS Funding for Service Personnel – Institute of Operational Risk (


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