In “Chicago,” Roxie Hart becomes a celebrity after murdering herlover, yet no one notices her protective husband, Amos, who lamentshis lack of visibility in the classic show tune, “Mr. Cellophane.”Unfortunately, too many risk managers are suffering from the sameidentity crisis, as the only time anyone notices them is whensomething goes wrong.

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That revelation hit me whilelistening to a speech by Carol Fox, senior director of riskmanagement at Convergys Corp., during the Risk and InsuranceManagement Society's annual conference.

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In accepting the Harry and Dorothy Goodell Award for lifetimeachievement–RIMS' highest honor–she noted that risk managementtriumphs are usually invisible to all but the keenestobservers.

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In reciting all the good risk managers do every day, Ms. Foxemphasized the workers who aren't injured, the properties thataren't damaged, the lawsuits that aren't filed and the hits to thebalance sheet that never occur.

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When was the last time a risk manager was called withcongratulations for something that didn't happen? Morelikely, they only hear from the top dogs when disaster strikes,demanding to know why a loss wasn't prevented and warning that thecompany had better be insured!

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It's no secret risk management can be a thankless job. Riskmanagers have improved their visibility in recent years, sometimeseven rising to the coveted “C-suite.” But the majority must stillcall attention to everything they do as corporate guardians anddocument their bottom-line contributions.

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They also have to make certain risk management is a core valueacross the company. Such commitment was clearly lacking at firmsthat claimed to cherish enterprise risk management but tossed theconcept out the window to deal in reckless credit defaultswaps.

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Axel Lehmann, chief risk officer of Zurich's global insuranceoperations, lamented during a press briefing that too many firmspay lip service to ERM.

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“ERM is not something you can just come up with after settingyour strategic growth plan. It has to be ingrained in the entireprocess,” he said. “Risk management is not something someone elsedoes. It is a discipline everyone must practice.”

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This isn't to say risk managers are innocent victims or freefrom blame when it comes to their lack of visibility and authority.A number of speakers urged risk managers to raise theirprofiles.

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At a session on “Forging A Risk Management Career Path,” BruceZaccanti, a partner with Ernst & Young, said risk managers“must be able to motivate and lead a team of people and anorganization. They have to be viewed as part of top management, nota midlevel service department.”

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RIMS President Joe Restoule echoed that sentiment during his ownspeech. “Perhaps being viewed as a leader is not how you conceivedof your career in risk management,” he conceded, while warning thatrisk managers are being called upon to go beyond technicalanalysis, insurance purchasing and claims monitoring to become trueleaders in their organizations.

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Joe knows what he's talking about, not only because of his cooltitle–”Leader, Risk Management”–at NOVA Chemicals Corp., butbecause he's been able to rise through the ranks to lead hisprofession as RIMS president while keeping up with his demandingday job as a full-time risk manager. “Do you have the courage tolead?” he concluded, throwing down the gauntlet at the feet of hiscolleagues.

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What's your response? Would you rather be “Mr. Cellophane,” or“Leader, Risk Management”? It's up to you.

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Sam Friedman is NU's Editor In Chief.To contact him, e-mail [email protected] or go to hisblog at www.NUSamSoapbox.com.

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