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Interview with Alexander Larsen

by | May 13, 2021 | Interviews,

Alexander Larsen

Alexander Larsen

Key Topics:Risk Management, Building a positive Risk Culture, Project Risk, Reputation Risk, Emerging Risks, Business Continuity
President of Baldwin Global Risk Services Ltd, founder of Risk Guide, and host of "Risk Managers Getting Coffee", I am a Risk Management practitioner with 20 years of experience in various industries and in countries such as Malaysia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UK, UAE, Pakistan and Nigeria to name a few. I am a Fellow if the institute of risk management as well as one of their certified trainers and hold a risk management degree.

How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?

Growing up I have always had an interest in challenging the norm and the way “we always do it around here”. Being half Scottish and Half Norwegian (whilst being born and raised in Greece for my first 10 years), I had no problems leaving Norway and travelling which led me to finding a degree that was an ideal fit for my interests, Risk Management.

Glasgow Caledonian University was the only university in Europe offering this degree at the time which tells you how new the subject was. The degree equipped students with the ability to learn, question, network, communicate and lead teams. It also focused on breadth of knowledge in various disciplines which made the transition into a business role a lot easier.

The first 7 years of my career was as a consultant, working for Marsh and Zurich Municipal in the UK, before joining Det Norske Veritas (DNV) in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia. The consulting gave me exposure to some amazing consultants, not just within risk, but also IT, HR and Supply Chain, which really added to my skill sets. This, on top of the fact that DNV took me to the Middle East and Asia where I worked with clients in Kuwait, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia, which challenged my cultural and communication skills, prepared me immensely for all my future roles I ended up in. From setting up ERM for Saudi Aramco, to working on the ground in Iraq on the largest undeveloped oil field in the world, the skills I learned early on laid an excellent foundation for further growth.

What sub-topics are you most passionate about?

I believe passionately that Risk Management is only as good as the people in the organisation. They need to fully understand the concept. It needs to be easy enough for them to use in decision making and it needs to be supported and communicated from the top. Therefore, Risk Culture is a key area that I like to focus on and drive.

I also firmly believe that we spend too much time looking at the downside of risk instead of the upside/opportunities. Too often we come to senior management with problems instead of solutions and opportunities for growth. Its not about avoiding risk, its about optimising and taking risk.

Another area of interest is encouraging risk managers to get out into the business and talking to people. selling risk management, networking and building relationships within their organisation. Risk Management practitioners are in an excellent position to break down and bridge silo’s that are too common in many companies.

Who influences you within these topics?

I look to the great entrepreneurs and historic figures of the world to find inspiration. People like Richard Branson, who started off with vinyl records, before successfully entering into aviation and eventually looked to space, all the while striving to improve the workplace environment. They are faced with some of the greatest risks, challenges and constraints and rather than shy away from it, they seek to innovate and manage their risks in a positive way. Equally, in Battle, when Robert the Bruce with his under skilled and under equipped army, faced a professional, confident and undefeated English Army, he used risk management, not to limit damage, but to win the battle. These people inspire me and influence me.

What challenges are brands facing in this space?

When it comes to Risk Management, internally, as a function, one of the biggest challenges is visibility and credibility. Too often Risk Management is either seen as a tick box exercise or a process that needs to include various layers of bureaucracy that never stands a chance of being effective. For Consulting firms/brands looking to sell services in the space, many of the larger brands are beginning to run into resistance from organisation’s who don’t want a one-size fits all approach to risk management. They are looking for a personal touch. they are looking for consultants and advisors who take time to understand their business and develop approaches that are fit for purpose and that consider the organisation’s culture, structure and aspirations. As a result, more and more boutique risk consulting firms have started up. Whilst there is plenty of work for everyone, and many work together on larger clients and projects, the main challenge is getting their name out to potential clients.

What do you think the future holds in this space?

Risk Management is a hugely exciting space. Not only has the pandemic raised awareness of the need to be prepared, but the fact that we are facing a major change in what normal looks like, means organisations need to be better prepared. Organisations are realising that we need to look forward at what the next few years hold. From prolonged pandemics, to new pandemics, new technology and climate change, organisations should be looking at how these changed/trends influence their business model. They need to be planning now to prepare for the future. Risk Management plays a key part in this. Horizon scanning exercises and Scenario Planning can bring out threats and opportunities for the organisation that allows them to develop risk based strategies and plans which leaves the organisation more resilient, agile and successful. The upside of Risk Management is beginning to be realised. Companies have gone out of business due to poor risk management and not taking enough risk, whilst others have thrived and taken over markets just by taking the right risk. No company wants to get left behind.

What brands are leading the way in this space?

I believe there is a growing number of Risk Managers themselves who are leading the way in this space. This is not about a consultancy or brand pushing boundaries, but rather there is an organic growth. Risk Managers are realising they need to push things further to show the value of risk management and to move it away from a tick-box mentality. Using quantitative analysis, visualisation and communication to greater effect and focusing on building a positive risk culture. Risk Management is creeping into MBAs, university degrees of all disciplines, films and tv series as well as in the media. This is only positive and continues to drive understanding of risk management and further encourage progress and new ideas in the space. For me, any brand that is sharing ideas, concepts and knowledge is doing it right. The Institute of Risk Management encourages learning and proper education. Risk Leadership network is brining risk managers together several times a week from across the globe to discuss key risk management topics in a round table environment whilst also sharing best practice and member approaches through articles and chat discussions on apps. It is this kind of sharing of knowledge and Education that drove me to start Risk Guide, which is a free resource of articles as well as “Risk Managers Getting Coffee”, a video series where I meet with risk practitioners from across the globe to discuss how they got into risk management and what their expertise is. They share challenges and views on risks so that others can learn from them.

If a brand wanted to work with you, which activities would you be most interested in collaborating on?

I love the idea of podcasts and webinars as well as speaking opportunities and video interviews. I have already taken part in one podcast (Risktory) and have a video series “Risk Managers Getting Coffee”.

What are your passions outside of work?

I love music, film, animals and taking part in sports. Since moving to Portugal here on the silver coast, I am hoping to learn how to surf and successfully ride a decent wave.

What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?

Please contact me via LinkedIn