Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Interview with Ms. Ondine Meyer, Consultant.
For 20 years, I-OnAsia has worked with fantastic clients, providing valuable insights on risk. The Covid-19 outbreak has been the most impactful risk event of a generation.
Slow trends have been sped up by the outbreak. Business models have fundamentally changed. Now more than ever, understanding the "IF" that is risk helps leaders prepare for the "THEN" that is tomorrow's business landscape.
Ms. Ondine Meyer has recently joined our Risk Advisory team, offering fresh insights.
We recently sat down with Ondine to get her views and opinions on risk.
When we emerge from the COVID-19 period, there may be a tendency to just try to "return to normal". But fresh events are very likely to be in the headlines. Are there one or two non-financial risk sub-types that you believe will still require urgent attention at the board level next?
The most neglected non-financial risks that will require attention at the Management Board level is exactly how to navigate the transition from a fully work-from-home policy to bringing employees back into the office. First, as a society, we are only now starting to appreciate the long-term mental health issues associated with COVID-19 - lockdown: substance abuse, isolation and alienation, and even loss of a loved one. This has been both underestimated and under appreciated by many Management Boards. Second, managers are under-equipped to scenario plan for this. And why would they? It’s without historical precedent in terms of scale and intensity of its effects.
Firms must be careful that their return to business as usual plans are not a “blunt instrument” as management and staff priorities are now slightly divergent. Management is likely to push as many essential staff into the office as possible to optimize operations, while asking non-essential staff to stay at home. However, it is important to consider just how to execute this at a granular level. For staff, the thought of returning to the office with case numbers still rising in many areas, can be one stress too many.
Therefore, as we recover from the first order effects of COVID-19, we should have started months ago to develop scenarios and detailed contingency plans for the transition to a gradual modified business as usual post-COVID-19 footprint. For the firms that manage this successfully it will be a competitive differentiating factor.
Can we take a step back? Why is non-financial risk management important? How do companies gain value from better operational risk management?
The need for firms to focus on non-financial risk has never been more urgent. The first-order effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed systemic weaknesses in many firms’ approaches to non-financial risk and now the second and third-order cascading risks are starting to crystallize.
And we are only at the end of the beginning - it’s difficult to read the daily financial press without coming across an incident related to a non-financial risk-related controls failure - fraud, cybersecurity, erroneous high-value payments, and operational disruptions with a broad variety of root causes. This condition will not improve in the foreseeable future.
Firms need better mechanisms for risk identification, risk remediation, and consequence management when the inevitable incidents do occur. Unfortunately, many firms did not appreciate how fundamentally that COVID-19 had displaced the controls environment, nor did they take quick action to assess how their risk profile had changed across a broad non-financial risk aperture. Fewer firms still organized themselves for decisive risk decision making.
What companies in your mind have been most effective at "decisive risk decision making" during the COVID-19 period?
JP Morgan Chase is probably one of the best examples of a large multi-national mobilising an effective global response to COVID-19. Firstly, the firm recognised early on that COVID-19’s effects were going to be of an extended duration. Secondly, they organised themselves for a modified crisis management posture that they knew they would have to maintain for an extended period of time. Lastly, their risk identification process was exceptionally well developed for such a large firm, so they were in a position to detect changes in the firm’s risk profile.
What types of broader non-financial risk advisory work are you excited about? What will deliver long term value to businesses?
My prior work at the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program dramatically increased my awareness of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risk management as an emerging risk type. The 100RC program focused on helping cities become resilient to change, and was created based on the idea that local governments need assistance planning for the primary and (underline) secondary effects of disasters as chronic ESG risks tend to exacerbate the effects of acute, rapid onset events.
Because Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risk management is such a broad term, it can be difficult to apply a consistent framework. To those I would add Regulatory risk as a necessary adjunct as it often drives Management Board awareness of, for example, modern slavery so one can easily understand the complexities. Together, they are increasingly becoming one of the most important non-financial risk advisory activities to consider, especially after the effects of COVID-19 this year, and the still significant risk from climate change and the second and third order effects of both.
What previous experience do you have that relates to this industry?
I bring real life business experience to the table, as well as a firm grasp of risk.
Most recently, I was on the Vinson & Elkin’s deal team supporting Helmrich & Payne in their acquisition of the French company DrillScan.
One of my most formative experiences in the workplace was working at Deutsche Bank in London in a small intelligence cell where I helped the firm understand, asses, and respond to disruptive events like pandemics and other natural hazards. The firm’s crisis management program designed and delivered scenario based exercises for use by operational resilience teams globally. These scenarios were based on both external threats to the firm identified by the risk intelligence team, like extreme weather events due to climate change, and the firm’s own internal risk exposures. This experience in risk advisory and risk management seems to be especially relevant right now in light of both primary and second and third-order effects of COVID-19.
Well-managed strategic communications in a crisis is also of critical importance to both public and private sectors in the age of social media. I observed this first-hand at The Rockefeller Foundation.
I have additional perspectives on risk that are informed by other personal experiences. I am a native French speaker and I have worked extensively in both French and English. I am French-American, but I grew up in London. I studied at McGill University, where I completed a Bachelor of Arts in 2018 in Economics and Political Science, and concentrated in areas such as International Political Economics, Security, and the Underground Economy.
Thank you, Ondine! We are so pleased to have you on our team!
Thank you! I am very keen to help integrate the Remote Capture technology into overall Enterprise Risk Management programs. The Nov. 2015 Bataclan terrorist attacks and COVID-19 both demonstrate in very different ways the severe limitations of on-site management of facilities by human beings. Staff and public safety require smarter application of technology.
I am also excited to use my experience and background to work with European clients to support them in crisis management and risk advisory, while upholding a stellar level of customer service. It has been a pleasure joining I-OnAsia’s UK and European team, working alongside Mr. Oliver Laurence, the Managing Director for the region.
Please contact I-OnAsia if you have more questions about our risk advisory services globally.