Risk Management―The Revealing Hand

by Robert S. Kaplan and Anette Mikes

Executive Summary — This article explores the role, organization, and limitations of risk identification and risk management, especially in situations that are not amenable to quantitative risk modeling. It argues that firms can avoid the artificial choice between quantitative and qualitative risk management, allowing both to play important roles in surfacing and assessing risks. Managers can then make decisions and allocate resources to mitigate the risks in a cost-efficient and moral manner.

Author Abstract

Many believe that the recent emphasis on enterprise risk management function is misguided, especially after the failure of sophisticated quantitative risk models during the global financial crisis. The concern is that top-down risk management will inhibit innovation and entrepreneurial activities. We disagree and argue that risk management should function as a Revealing Hand to identify, assess, and mitigate risks in a cost-efficient manner. Done well, the Revealing Hand of risk management adds value to firms by allowing them to take on riskier projects and strategies. But risk management must overcome severe individual and organizational biases that prevent managers and employees from thinking deeply and analytically about their risk exposure. In this paper, we draw lessons from seven case studies about the multiple and contingent ways that a corporate risk function can foster highly interactive and intrusive dialogues to surface and prioritize risks, help to allocate resources to mitigate them, and bring clarity to the value trade-offs and moral dilemmas that lurk in those decisions.

Paper Information