Up until about a week ago, companies were so busy handling the immediate issues related to COVID-19, they were putting off thinking of future risks.
Enterprise risk management professionals are paid to look into the future and help companies prepare for it. But COVID-19 changed all that. “Too soon,” was the answer from most members of NeuGroup’s ERM peer group two weeks ago when we asked them about post-pandemic planning and their thoughts about the future.
- One member back then said he was eager to get into longer-term thinking and “scenarios for one or two or three weeks or more.” However, the reaction he got from management was, “Now’s not the time.”
Today, though, that attitude is changing as senior executives adjust to the new normal. For example, one member in late March was delaying his annual risk outlook program, where heads of business units and direct reports suggest the biggest risks they see in the next few months to a year or more. This member was also hesitant to ask people to name their biggest risk “because they’ll just say pandemic.”
- But in mid-April, he said the program is starting up again, with C-Suite interviews and the creation of a heat map to present to the board in September.
- Another member said he was now assigning teams to look at what happens after the crisis abates. Likewise, a member of NeuGroup’s Internal Auditors’ Peer Group, who also oversees ERM, said identifying post-crisis risks was getting a “better reception” among senior leadership.
- “We’re starting to ID things that will need to be addressed,” she said. “What will it take for a recovery?”
Along with thinking about future risks, ERM at some companies has been assigned the project of updating the business continuity plan with takeaways from the pandemic. At another IAPG member’s company, the lack of a good BCP plan “is very top of mind” and managers are asking themselves, “How did we miss this?” He added that the company’s response has been “on the fly” and has been effective so far, but they don’t want to be as unprepared next time.