Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Elevating the Roles of Risk Analysts and Managers

The ongoing economic crisis has brought with it a heightened interest in risk analysis and management. Yet, something seems awry at the risk management desks of our nation’s largest banks and financial institutions. Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd C Blankfein was recently quoted as saying, “too many financial institutions and investors simply outsourced their risk management -- rather than undertake their own analysis, they relied on the rating agencies to do the essential work of risk analysis for them.” Mr Blankfein contended that banks and financial institutions must elevate the status of risk analysis in order to alleviate the “systemic lack of skepticism” that he alleged was precursor to the ongoing economic crisis. Mr Blankfein suggested that banks and financial institutions redefine the roles of risk managers, including giving them equal stature “with their counterparts in revenue producing divisions.” This redefinition of roles includes delegating greater responsibilities and authority onto risk managers, whereby “if there is a question about a mark or a disagreement about a risk limit, the risk manager's view should prevail” (WSJ, April 7, 2009). My personal interpretation of Mr Blankfein’s statements is that those trained and charged with risk analysis and management were apparently left standing outside the boardroom as our nation’s banking and financial “executives” undertook investment policy-making in isolation. Let us hope that the regulatory changes to come might at least mandate that risk managers and analysts get a seat at the table.

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