Global trends impact South Africa's Risk Management landscape

Risk is not the same as it was five years ago. The growing importance of intellectual property and human capital, and trends like globalisation, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), outsourcing and the explosion of social media, has changed the face of risk management for good. No longer is it restricted to protecting physical property from a criminal with a gun and guarding against common liabilities. It now involves more complex considerations to ensure business data is kept safe.

It makes sense that risk management is climbing higher up the list of senior management priorities. The Risk and Governance Conference, hosted recently in Johannesburg by the SAS Institute, provided a forum for local business decision-makers to examine the changing face of risk management.

The potential impact of Basel 3

Charles Freeland, former deputy secretary of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, noted in his keynote that "risk management is changing because risk is getting bigger, more complex, and more technical". He highlighted the importance of a culture of responsibility and ethics, a lack of which led to the 2009 financial crisis, effects of which we are still experiencing. Freeland said that fraud is currently one of the biggest threats to financial institutions and that the 'Four eyes principle', where all business decisions and transactions need approval from both the CEO and CFO, is not practised enough to prevent internal fraud.

The local risk industry

Klaus Kristensen, Head of Risk Practice for EMEA at the SAS Institute, took delegates through an electronic voting session, where they responded to several questions on risk management in South Africa. Results indicated that the top two barriers to effective risk management experienced by delegates include 'inadequate real time risk management' and 'poor communication across departments'.

Risk management must add value

ABSA Risk’s Chief Operating Officer, Gideon Serfontein, emphasised the importance of being able to demonstrate the value risk management provides to the organisation. According to Serfontein this is relatively simple, “You just need to find out whether your CEO is actually using the information the risk department is providing”.  Despite the changing nature of banking, Serfontein says many financial institutions are experiencing the same problems now than those they had more than a decade ago: poor communication, and bad data quality.  “When developing a risk management strategy, it is critical to take an integrated approach. You cannot separate IT and risk anymore”.

International economy poses biggest risk to SA

Dr. Azar Jammine, Director and Chief Economist of Econometrix, outlined the huge education challenges facing South Africa, saying that the biggest impediments to job creation are the inadequacy of education and skills, the unfriendly labour market environment, and the insufficient focus on small business and entrepreneurship. He predicted a 'cool down' in local consumer spending, and is fairly optimistic that the inflation rate will not continue to rise. However, the potential ramifications of a Greek exit from the Euro, and the possibility of a major global recession are risks that need to be taken seriously. "Despite the country's many challenges, the biggest risk to South Africa's short-to-medium outlook is by far the international economy", said Jammine.

Says Colin Hill, Senior Solution Manger: Risk Management and Financial Crimes at SAS South Africa, “Risks are increasing both due to the evolution of the business landscape, new technologies and the interconnectedness of global and local economies.  As a result, companies have access to vast quantities of data. And fortunately, this has been met with advances in technology that allow businesses to use this data to make intelligent decisions in the face of the new risk environment, where fast decision-making has become critical to survival.”

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