He who innovates moves forward: he who stands still stifles progress. Innovation, chosen as the theme for this year's AIRMIC conference, is a critical ingredient of success today and in the future, says Ina Barker.

Every enterprise, whether an FT 100 company, an NHS Trust, a university, a police authority or local authority or a small business has to respond to the challenge of "Doing things even better, cheaper and faster" than before.

Innovation is a critical ingredient in this type of environment and in the achievement of successful operations. This applies to:

* The development of new products and enhancement of existing ones through new science and technology.

* Streamlined and improved services, for example from financial and legal services to transportation and other delivery systems.

* Methods of operating and doing business whether by use of improved IT systems or better process and handling systems.

* Improved use and skills of the workforce.

* Business systems and procedures for compliance.

Where does risk management fit into this scenario? There is no disputing that risk management creates opportunities for innovative thinking in the business process which can help achieve successful results.

It is for this reason, therefore, that the chairman of AIRMIC, Richard Reddaway, chose Innovation - Blueprint for the Future as his theme for our 1998 conference which will be held at Nottingham University from 30 March to 2 April.

Risk managers need to think the unthinkable and improbable. Being part of the strategic business management team, they are in a unique position of knowledge having an overview of the key risks and their likely impact on the business. This enables them to propose new solutions to reducing risk which often can create beneficial cost savings. An illustration is the identification of alternative external contractors or suppliers who might be used to maintain the business in the event of a disaster. This information may well show up competitive pricing which gives the opportunity to make changes before the disaster and save money.

Working and co-ordinating with so many disciplines also brings with it the opportunity for improving and simplifying information systems and data collection and exchange.

For service providers, particularly in the insurance and reinsurance market and brokers and consultants - innovation is vital for survival.

The conference programme has, therefore, been designed with all these types of issues in mind and with the aim of providing deliverables to those attending so that on their return to their business they will be brimming with innovative ideas!

Sir Tom Farmer, one of our first keynote speakers and founder of Kwik-Fit, is highly qualified to talk about Innovation - New Business Opportunities. Professor Michael Gell will help delegates to fully understand how Innovation in Business and Technology can improve competitive edge. Risk financing solutions have to be creative to meet clients' needs in today's world of satisfying the shareholder. Cees Schrauwers of Commercial Union and Michael Butt of Mid Ocean Limited, two highly respected professionals in this field, bring their innovative ideas to the audience.

Mega mergers are very much in the news, and all risk impacts of such mergers and acquisitions will be played out in drama form, which helps to imprint the key messages in peoples' minds.

Case study workshops will focus on helping risk managers to increase their innovative skills and thinking in areas such as:

* Balance sheet protection.

* Extending the ability to analyse and quantify business risks.

* Handling environment risks and business continuity planning.

* Product contamination attacks.

An international panel debate with representatives from the risk management associations in France, the United States, India, Hong Kong and UK should bring fresh and stimulating innovative thought processes to the forefront.

In all, there will be lots of innovation in an exciting and valuable learning experience at the AIRMIC Conference. It is not to be missed by those who want to demonstrate innovative risk management skills to their top executives.

A view of AIRMIC

As this will be the last article that I will pen for Global Reinsurance as executive director of AIRMIC, it gives me an opportunity to highlight some of our achievements over the past three years.

Like all businesses, AIRMIC had to take a hard look at its strategic direction and from that came our plan to refocus and redefine. The key outcome was our new definition of risk management - the activity of protecting and profiting from corporate resources and assets and especially our new mission - dedicated to raising the standards and profile of risk management. Our new corporate identity gave a clear message that risk management is at the heart of AIRMIC, and it distinguishes us from other trade and professional bodies.

Changing the culture of an organisation which relies on voluntary support from its members is not as easy as in a commercial enterprise. Nevertheless, with our new core values of responsiveness, being forward looking and yet having stability, it has been truly encouraging to see so many of our members becoming actively involved in task groups and special interest and industry groups. The new integrated risk management group brings together the experience, expertise and wisdom of at least 20 of the top risk managers who are actually practising this technique, and they will be providing guidance shortly on integrating risk management into the business process to other members who are exploring and keen to pursue this important development.

The employee health group aims to bring forward quite soon some innovative ideas and models which will help management to reduce the cost of employee absence and under-performance due to ill health.

Some key performance indicators of AIRMIC's success over the past 12/18 months include:

* Growth in membership to over 830.

* Recent addition to members of over 40 universities. This new and growing sector are very enthusiastic about the benefits of being members.

* Growing number of NHS trust members.

* Individuals from a wider range of disciplines coming into the membership within our existing members. These are corporate treasurers, finance directors, occupational health managers, human resource directors, company secretaries and environment managers - all recognising their role in the ever widening spectrum of risk management.

* Our higher media profile. Articles about AIRMIC and by our members appearing in a wide range of publications such as The Director, Management Today, Charities Times and engineering and safety magazines have resulted in our opinion being sought on a significant range of topics.

With the ever increasing focus on corporate governance emanating from the Hampel report, legal reform, new legislation and the new regulatory changes, not to mention taxation and insurance premium tax, there are numerous issues on which AIRMIC has carried out effective lobbying and there is no doubt this activity will increase. The year 2000 challenge is one of the top priorities for risk managers at the present time.

This year has seen the first Management Risk Exhibition aimed at smaller and medium sized companies which AIRMIC was delighted to sponsor - all part of raising the profile and standards of risk management to the wider community.

All these successful developments could not have been achieved without the enormous support and input from the chairman, council and numerous members of AIRMIC as well as many friends in the insurance and risk management community. For me it has truly been a privilege to have been the executive director for the past three years. It has enabled me to bring my particular skills and experience to help to build on the excellent foundation and platform set by my predecessors, Roger Miller and Alan Fleming.

AIRMIC, which was founded in 1963, is now a highly respected and dynamic organisation and I believe has the opportunity to go forward with confidence in the changing world of professional trade associations.

As I hand over at the end of April to David Gamble, I know that he will have the vision, energy and business experience which will be needed to meet the new challenges for growth and development which lie ahead.

As I said at the beginning, no one can afford to stand still today. AIRMIC will need, like any business, to "do better things, faster and even more cost effectively" and be a force to withstand any competition. But more importantly, it must continue to be recognised as the organisation providing and promoting the high standards of risk management needed for the success of UK plc into the 21st century. I am sure that David Gamble is very capable of meeting this challenge and I wish him and AIRMIC every success for the future. Through this magazine may I express my thanks to AIRMIC members and all those throughout the international risk management and insurance community who have supported, guided and challenged me as I have spearheaded AIRMIC forward. It has been fun!

Ina Barker is Executive Director of AIRMIC. AIRMIC contact details are Tel: +44 (0) 171-480-7610. Fax: +44 (0) 171-702-3752. e-mail: airmic@dial.pipex.com