Alain Lemaire says risk managers need to be seen as risk specialists rather than insurance specialists.
Beyond even the construction of the Europe Union, the globalisation of commerce is plunging us into the throes of the greatest social, economic and industrial change since the first industrial revolution of the last century, barring the cataclysmic upheaval of the two world wars.
Globalisation has, among other things, given birth to a quantity and speed of information never before experienced. At the same time, it is increasing competition; protected markets have disappeared. Industry, therefore, finds itself confronting new risks, and as a result, the indispensability of risk management becomes apparent to everyone. The danger is just because people are talking about risk management, then everyone would like to do it. This is not a bad thing in itself, so long as it is correctly done.
It remains the role of the risk manager to master these new risks, so as not to deprive himself of a subject with a bright future. For this, the risk manager will have to advance his expertise, both in terms of technique and experience, and that expertise will need to be recognised.
It is also appropriate for the risk manager to be regarded as a specialist in risk and no longer as a specialist in insurance. He must know how to gather and manage information, bringing all his powers of persuasion and communication skills to bear on his job.
For my part, I encourage the sharing of skills with managers and professionals in other disciplines which also deal with risk, for example:
* With the legal director in the construction of contracts.
* With the production, distribution and quality control managers for products.
* With the marketing manager for promotional activity.
* With the human resources manager in terms of work accidents, and so on.
I do not think that these characteristics are very different from those which exist in the countries around us.
Professional associations like RIMS in the United States or AIRMIC in the United Kingdom, as well as AMRAE here in France, have a fundamental role to play. They must be more than just organisations which represent the interests of commercial insurance buyers to insurance markets and to public bodies. Our associations must also bring to their members the means of coming together and exchanging ideas, so they become better informed and better educated, which as I have said above, has become essential. Lobbying and training are, therefore, the two major lines of action for AMRAE.
AMRAE may be only five years old, but it is the result of bringing together two similar associations. At the time of the merger, each had already been going about 20 years, so they contributed their respective experiences to the new organisation. Today, AMRAE represents about 300 members belonging to more than 200 organisations, which include some of the large French groups and international companies with operations in France.
With the two lines of our programme established, AMRAE needs to develop by attracting more businesses and providing itself with the means to strengthen its services to its members, particularly in terms of training. For this, we have a dozen working committees, some oriented toward particular risks, such as motor, liability, environment, transport, construction and physical damage, and others towards means and solutions of managing risks, such as alternative risk finance, organisation, legislative surveillance etc.
AMRAE organises outward looking events; that is ones which involve participants from the insurance market and official bodies. In this way, we regularly hold working breakfasts, morning debates, clubs and, naturally, our annual conference, which traditionally takes place in January in a different provincial city each year where we are host to around 800 people. We have direct contacts with a certain number of education institutions which are involved with teaching risk management. To organise all these activities, we have an office in Paris with three full time staff.
Finally, a word on the term of office of the president of AMRAE. If we have reduced it to one year, which appears too short to achieve longer term objectives, it is to allow a better rotation of members at the head of the association and to give younger members a chance. At the same time we ensure the continuity of our activities by relying on the advice of what we call the bureau, which is made up of the president, two vice-presidents, a secretary general and a treasurer.
In line with our goal of creating a forum in which risk managers can meet and exchange ideas, we call our annual conference Les Rencontres or meetings. The next annual Rencontres of AMRAE will take place in Montpelier from the 20-22 January 1999 with the principle theme of health. Prominent figures from a number of sectors will address us on the problems generated by the need to finance health and healthcare now and in the future. A series of workshops will deal with other topical issues, such as shareholder value, mega-brokers, managing US liability risks, ART, crisis management and D&O and corporate governance.
Alain Lemaire is president of AMRAE and risk manager for Nestlé France. Tel: 33 (0) 142 89 33 16. Fax: 33 (0) 142 89 33 14.