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The evolving career of risk management

The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 fundamentally changed the landscape of risk management in the financial services industry. The effects of the crisis are still apparent and have cast a spotlight on risk professionals. Robert Walters continues to witness increased demand for risk management professionals at all levels of experience throughout the financial services sector in Ireland. Now, more than ever, financial services firms are coming to grips with the idea that risk management is a necessity of the business.

Pre-2008, few institutions were able to holistically view their overall risk profile and truly understand the impact that catastrophic events would have on their organisation. Employers now recognise the need to invest in sound risk management frameworks instead of relying on piecemeal approaches across the various disciplines of risk. More specifically, financial services firms in Ireland are developing and investing in risk management tools, policies and people more than ever. As a result, more young professionals have shown a genuine interest in risk management as a viable long term career choice.

Here Robert Walters look at what career options are available for those in risk management, current trends within risk and how to identify risk disciplines poised for growth.

A combination of natural attrition in a more active market, increased budgets to hire and more pressure from regulators have all contributed to more opportunities at the senior end of the market.

Firstly, a background in financial services is critical for a career in risk as risk managers need analysts with a strong grasp of financial and economic concepts. Secondly, identifying with a discipline in risk management and developing your experience around it will open up avenues for specialisation and position candidates more favourably. For simplicity, we focus on three disciplines – credit, financial and operational.

Credit risk: the analytical side of credit risk includes impairment modelling and risk model analytics. These roles have become highly specialised in recent years and typically require knowledge of a programming language (e.g. SAS, MATLAB, R, SQL, etc.). Banks have struggled to find the right combination of financial services experience with a technical skill set and understanding of a programming language.

Financial risk: refers to the financial instruments that pose a risk to a firm and can include market, liquidity, interest rate and banking book risk. Specifically, it includes the risk from the four asset classes - equities, fixed income, currencies and commodities. Typically, candidates coming from treasury, trading or investment banking backgrounds are well suited to begin a career in this discipline as their product knowledge is quite strong.

Operational risk: a large segment of risk management which places the importance on having sound risk frameworks in place. More institutions have integrated strategic, operational and financial planning goals into operational risk frameworks. Hiring managers have looked for junior candidates with a strong understanding of business operations and assurance when hiring in this area. Operational risk is sometimes used interchangeably with enterprise risk, both referring to risk management designed to identify potential threats to a business and frameworks to troubleshoot these threats.

This year has witnessed the resurgence of the senior risk market. A combination of natural attrition in a more active market, increased budgets to hire and more pressure from regulators have all contributed to more opportunities at the senior end of the market. Similarly, multinational and domestic firms have undergone an increase in head count and are under pressure to be more accountable for managing the regulatory agenda. This is noticeably different from five years ago when these firms relied on group frameworks and a ‘shared’ management of their regulatory responsibilities across several functions.

Ultimately, in a post-crisis world, it is imperative to have a robust risk framework in place. Banks, insurance companies, asset managers and trading houses will all increase the significance of their risk management functions over the coming years. While the discipline has grown in awareness and less experienced candidates are increasingly specialised, there will continue to be a growing demand for experienced risk professionals across all specialisms.

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