Managing risk is no longer the preserve of business; it is part of every-day life. Dr Patrick Ring tells David Christie how GCU is equipping graduates to manage risk and help us all get the big decisions right.
“They say it’s the black swans you have to worry about.” So says Dr Patrick Ring, Senior Lecturer in Financial Services at GCU, referring to the financial term for a high-profile, unpredictable event such as the 2008 financial crisis. Coping with the impact of black swans is just one of the tricky tasks of Risk Management.
“Managing risk can be like reverse engineering,” Patrick explains. “Businesses horizon-scan and scenario-plan the worst things that might happen to them, before identifying what might cause those risks to happen then apply the techniques and processes to try to ensure they don’t.
“Risks to business can be economic, physical, political, even international. It’s about having the systems, processes and continuity plans to ensure things don’t go wrong, but, if they do, you have some way to manage it.
“Risk management is now accepted as its own profession and companies, as well as the public sector, are increasingly aware of the importance of having an appropriate risk culture and robust risk processes. In the past, you might have had an accountant or a lawyer in a firm dealing with risk as a side issue; now you have qualified risk managers; chief risk officers; risk analysts and risk-management departments.”
Managing risk is much wider than those we all experienced with recent events in the financial sector, as incidents from Volkswagen’s emissions scandal to MRSA outbreaks in hospitals and the European Referendum all attest.
Rewind three decades when forward-thinking academics at GCU identified the need for highly skilled risk-management graduates and established the first undergraduate risk management degree in the UK. Through the Glasgow School for Business and Society, GCU offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Risk Management as well as in Finance, Investment and Risk, while students of other business subjects can choose elements of each.
Programmes are accredited by the Chartered Insurance Institute and Institute of Risk Management and strong links with industry partners ensure graduates leave the University fully equipped for the future.
“At GCU we are about creating the next generation of graduates who are able to manage risk across all areas. We have cohort after cohort of graduates creating careers for themselves working at very high levels across all sectors and the reputation of GCU as a provider of risk-management education is solid.”
Patrick should know, now in his 18th year at the University, having previously worked as a corporate lawyer and briefing Scottish Government Ministers before being attracted to higher education, it is a move with no regrets.
“I like the people, I like Glasgow. I like being paid to do something that I actually enjoy doing, reading books I might read in my spare time anyway. It’s rewarding enabling students to achieve their goals, as well as writing and researching how the financial services sector can make the lives of individuals better.
“It’s not just about preparing highly qualified graduates; there is a broader role, in keeping with our social mission as the University for the Common Good, to help people manage risk in their daily lives.
“Recent government policy has been about empowering individuals and giving them choice, which is great, but with all of those choices and opportunities come risks. Individuals are being asked to do more for themselves in an environment which is much more uncertain. As the welfare state is rolled back, we are becoming our own risk managers.
“Part of my research looks at the gap in advice and guidance available to individuals.
“Financial advice is expensive and often unaffordable. Being a lawyer to trade, my meat and drink is complicated wording and lots of sub-clauses, but it is very difficult for people to get through all the jargon and know the right thing to do to feel secure when it comes to making decisions about their savings, insurance or loans.
“It is often found that the first place people go to for advice is their family and friends, who are probably the people in the least position to actually give them accurate information.
“However, the financial services sector in the UK still has work to do to re-establish its reputation with the general public.
“There’s also a lot of work to do to ensure it can manage its risks effectively, and that’s where our graduates come in.”