The Many Paths to a Career in Risk

Experiences across an array of business functions can help prepare for a career handling the variety of risk exposures that must be managed.

Over the years, I’ve had no shortage of people ask me how they can get my job as a senior risk leader. They get a glimmer of the possibilities from a distance and develop a strong sense that risk management just might be a pretty interesting career track. Those in manufacturing, healthcare and some other sectors insisted that any leader in their ranks, most especially a risk manager, needed to come from within their industry. They were the true believers and were typically inflexible about this minimum requirement. They believed their industries were just too specialized for a risk manager from another industry to succeed. Needless to say, I disagreed vehemently with this view and with others in the insurance industry who take these inflexible positions. Happily, in the last five years, some more progressive leaders in certain industries like healthcare are beginning to revise these positions in favor of seeing the value in having the new eyes, ears and perspectives that can only come from those experienced in industries other than their own. A good trend, indeed. My forte since 2001 and the future of the discipline, enterprise risk management, calls for a very specific move in a strategic direction that aligns with the long-term interests of enterprises. So is there a preferred best strategy to preparing for a career in risk management? The truth is that, while many of us developed the skills and experience that have been most valuable by rotating through the various insurance industry disciplines, there are now a myriad of ways you can find your path into risk management and make it a career. From finance to legal to audit and especially to operations, all these experiences pave part of the way toward success. They are a portion of what risk leaders need most to succeed in this era of a broader more diverse practice of risk management, call it ERM, SRM, IRM or just plain risk management, as I prefer. In fact, a successful risk manager is one who needs a broad exposure to most core functions common to most entities of any complexity. At the end of the day, it’s hard to go wrong in preparing for a risk career, no matter where you spend time getting knowledge about the many sources of exposure that must be “risk managed.”

Christopher Mandel

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Christopher Mandel

Christopher E. Mandel is senior vice president of strategic solutions for Sedgwick and director of the Sedgwick Institute. He pioneered the development of integrated risk management at USAA.


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