Interview with Jim Wetekamp, CEO at Riskonnect

This is a transcript of our interview with Jim Wetekamp, CEO at Riskonnect.

You can watch the original video interview here

Boris: Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our interview with Jim Wetekamp. Jim is a CEO at Riskonnect, Riskonnect is a global leader in integrated risk management technology and the world’s largest risk information and system provider. Jim, thank you for coming to our interview today. Could you please tell me a short story about Riskonnect?

 

Jim: Sure, I appreciate the time today Boris, thanks a lot. So, you know, Riskonnect was founded from the beginning back in 2007 oriented around being a SaaS first, agile and innovative company. And that aspect around the technology was really formulated under this idea that there needed to be a platform for all risks. And I think one of the things that makes us unique in the way we approach the market, is this idea that we’ve got a single way for an organization to manage their strategic, operational and extended enterprise risks all in a single platform. So the journey we’ve been on over a dozen years or so, as we built up the company, has been one where we’ve seen a lot of different starting points on how organizations are trying to tackle risk.

 

And we’ve got to experience the journey then of how those different pieces have started to link up over time and become joined into a singular initiative, and that’s what’s been exciting and fun about being a part of Riskonnect and watching it grow is kind of the maturity of the risk management world and organizations, it has grown at the same time as the company kind of step by step with each other.

 

Boris: So how can you explain what Riskonnect offers to the industry and how it differs from other risk software providers and what are some examples of your customers’ user cases?

 

Jim: Sure, in terms of organizations that I think get a lot of value out of Riskonnect and what kinds of organizations tend to look for Riskonnect as their trusted partner, there are generally 5 things that they see value in.

 

One is as I mentioned previously that ability to correlate all risks, so it being able to trace the impact of risk from anything like an individual incident or an occurrence or a problem that happened in a location, in a retail outpost, on a manufacturing floor to it, an employee to a customer.

 

All the way through the various layers of how that risk may or may not have been transferred or compensated for into the library of controls and mitigations that they have planned around keeping that risk from happening all the way up to their local enterprise risk management strategy, being able to correlate all of those things and see the impact from common drivers across the organization.

 

The idea that you can do that in an easy and agile application that conforms to the way you work as an organization, is the second reason.

 

The fact that by having a single platform where you can automate it in the end and that kind of final capstone on top of that is driving powerful analytics off the back of it and then being able to leverage the industry expertise of our 500+ employees that have deep domain experience across retail, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, the insurance industry itself and other risk domains such as GRC, are the top reasons why top organizations choose Riskonnect.

 

We have over 950 customers to kind of give you an indication of some of the use cases. It can go all the way from an organization looking to again capture and manage the intake of incidents related to harm or near harm to employees, customers, patients if you’re thinking about a healthcare organization into then how I’m understanding and quantifying that risk over time as far as my total exposures and manage that exposure and overall mitigate and manage my cost of risk into other use cases. If you look at an organization that’s attempting to use it to actually run their 3 lines of defense in governance process from a governance risk and compliance standpoint.

 

So do I have my top enterprise risks? What are my likelihood impacts of those? What are my controls? And have I assessed those controls, tested them? And what’s my assurance process on the back end of it? Those are all use cases that live and exist inside the Riskonnect platform.

 

Boris: We are currently in the midst of a major crisis, like Richard Branson, the Virgin group finder said recently: ‘Over the 5 decades I’ve been in this business this is the most challenging time we have ever phased. All without knowing how long this will last.’ I want to start with a broad question: What do you see as the biggest challenge for risk managers during this time?

 

Jim: I think Boris, you might find my answer to be a little counter cultured a lot of the things you are reading and hearing right now. Because I actually think that the challenges that risk managers are facing right now are the exact same challenges they faced before.

 

What you’re seeing, are rapid fluctuations in them, so acceleration in some areas, deceleration in some areas of the traditional already existing challenges for those risk managers, and it’s now overlapping with short horizont objectives of the company. So that’s actually what may be changed is the agility necessary what the risk manager is doing to aligning with rapidly changing the environment around them.

 

But there are 4 long-standing trends that I think risk managers been having to deal with thoroughly accelerated right now. One is the digitalization of risk, so the thing is tied in the risk management function being automated and the impact of that automation from an eco-system standpoint. It's just accelerating right now, you’re seeing it as people are working from home, as organizations become more decentralized in their locations and how they serve their customers.

 

The evolving of an alliance on data and analytics, the power of decision making was already a trend, now it’s even more powerful and you need even more data. Where are Covid cases evolving? Where are we on the different stages or phases of the recovery curve? How has that impacted my product lines and my locations?

 

The third area is, and you can see it across organizations, is the rising pace and scope of policy compliance and procedure change, that was already something happening but now it’s happening daily or weekly as people reassess travel policies, work-from-home policies, governmental reimbursement, and payment plan policies, credit, etc.

And then the final point is the growing importance of risk management in corporate strategy, I think we are already seeing risk management continues to evolve and its impact on organizational performance, that has never been more true than it is right now. Because how we return to work, how we reaccelerate our service of our employees, that’s all sitting front and center with risk management at the table helping to develop these strategies. It’s kind of a circle back. I don’t think there’s something new necessarily. I just think that some swing lanes are moving more rapidly than they have in the past, while others have stopped in totality.

 

Boris: You guys recently created a very comprehensive handbook for risk and compliance managers related to Covid-19 containment that will help them to stay on the course during these times. Could you please elaborate more on this resource or others you might be working on?

 

Jim: Yes we’re really proud of being able to have produced that handbook and it’s also the fruit of a lot of input from our customers, so being able to kind of span the insurable and non-insurable sides of risk we are pretty wide-spanned of visibility across how organizations are handling these particular challenges. That handbook is a lot of real tangible feedback we’ve gotten from our advisory board, from our industry forum calls, from different webinars we’ve led as it relates to responding to this particular environment and it’s just one of a series of resources.

 

Through our customer services and in the client services area we’ve developed a specific Covid-19 service menu for adjusting the application to be able to make rapid changes and adjusting take of Covid related incidents of reporting.

 

We have been able to accelerate the data management, analytics changes from them to be able to incorporate this data and incorporate trackers and other elements to their environment. From the overall relationship management standpoint, we’ve been operating kind of a task force mode; talking to our customers more actively, engaging with them in terms of where they need more agile support from us.

 

And then from a product standpoint we’ve released a COVID-19 tracker, new incident types on intake, stand-alone COVID-19 solutions for them to use in their organizations to track incident entry, a pandemic response assessment for them to use in compliance and temporary policy management changes and templates along with a process for engaging the COVID-19 impact from their third parties and vendors.

 

So not every customer is using every tool but we’ve tried to be really expansive to catch a customer wherever they might need support across that scope.

 

Boris: It seems to be a time when there is going to be an intense focus on every risk manager’s action. So probably this role will be more in the focus now than it was during the “better days”. What tips do you have for risk managers to communicate effectively at times like these?

 

Jim: We’ve been spending a lot of time with organizations and trying to work with them. It is to think about risk management in the different phases and part of that is linked, as I mentioned before, on what the shape of recovery will look like. But before you get there it’s just in terms of traditional crisis management phases. Phase 1 is looking and assessing and evaluating and reacting and responding - a triage type mode. Then as we kind of get into phase 2 looking at redirecting our resources, our time, and our energy in the new reality. And then what is our rebound and kind of transition process into the future look like and placing that on a matrix as it relates to thinking about risk in a different way and that is with one side of the matrix being agility perhaps where in the past it might have been cost as it relates to your risk appetite.

 

And right now you see organizations that are thinking about cost in a different light as it relates to maintaining flexibility, being able to adjust in new things, be those commercial elements, employee elements, and engaging across that. We believe that the overall environment for risk management was heightening already, we believe that now risk management, we’ve seen it from our customers is playing a key role in managing those phases with the organization from an executive level. In our expectations, they will maintain that position and that influence and impact on organizations post-pandemic as we think about the new reality of businesses exiting this and what kind of situational planning we need to make to be ready and agile for the next type of event like this.

 

Boris: Alright, so you guys are based in Atlanta, Georgia so you might want to give us some advice on how we are supposed to get back to work because you are some kind of pioneers. So what is your biggest primary piece of advice to give any business out there today?

 

Jim: I think it’s thinking a lot about the shape of the recovery. Will it be a U, will it be a L, a W? Will it be a secondary impact, a tertiary. I’m not certain that’s going to be the same answer on all locations and for all industries.

 

In some cases, it’s going to take longer than others and in some cases, it’s going to come in waves, so I think it will be really hard to say that return to work for financial services looks the same as a return to work for retail or manufacturing. So I don’t think there is ‘one size fits all’ answer.

 

What we’re trying to focus on is, when as we return to work and as we kind of get to our new normal; what does that look like in the face of focus on operational resilience for the future. So have we thought true and mapped and prioritized all of our risks as we experienced them and taken an inventory of the things that we didn’t know and we should’ve known or we could’ve known and now how do we fast forward that to our in-state of what returning to work looked like.

 

So we’re recommending as people think about returning back to think in terms of key steps and that is to reevaluate the criticality of their business services. Do they have a good inventory of them? Do they have upper or lower tolerances for risk for those services that they are providing either externally or internally? Have they mapped them into end on what the different stages of return to work might look like and doing so in a safe environment to effectively avoid a W recovery were they experience another interruption due to the resurgence of the virus? Are they keeping a priority on employing customer health and safety as they progress through it? And then leaving behind that on a program where they can do this repeatedly as we think about new events in the future.

 

Boris: Alright, the last question is what would you suggest of how global risk community can contribute to the process of a better understanding of this complex world of risk?

 

Jim: I think it’s where forums such as yours have a tremendous opportunity in the world to play. I think the biggest ask we have seen from customers and the areas where we’ve gotten the most responsiveness is the ability to benchmark. I don’t think any single one of us thinks we’ve got the one and true template for what the answer is and I don’t think there is one answer that works for all organizations.

 

But do we all have the inventory of each other's playbooks on what we think success looks like so that we can really understand the superset of creativity on some of the different tactics of these different phases?

 

And we can then choose the right path for us, and I think Global Risk Community has a great opportunity to help facilitate and accelerate those learnings and will put us on a total path to a more rapid recovery where we’re able to accelerate sharing those resources. That’s what I think has also been great about the vendor community, it hasn’t just been Riskonnect. I think to see the responsiveness of broader risk tools and applications, making resources available to their customers, sharing, and investing in that has been great to see and I hope you continue that for some time.

 

Boris: Thank you, Jim, I wish you great success with your future growth plans and hope that our members will listen to this interview and will start using your tools and your manuals. Thank you for your interview, Jim!

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