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Five areas of focus for Asian risk managers

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SINGAPORE — Risk managers in Asia need to become more strategic as once-unthinkable risks are occurring with increasing frequency and the cost of catastrophes skyrocket, said David Fried, CEO of emerging markets for Australia-based QBE Insurance Group Ltd.'s Hong Kong office.

Mr. Fried said risk managers and insurers operating in the region's emerging markets must anticipate and mitigate a diverse range of potential risks through strategic planning involving all departments in their organizations.

“Our success in emerging markets business rests perhaps more on our risk management capabilities than on any other aspect of our business,” Mr. Fried said Monday during Pan-Asia Risk & Insurance Management Association's PARIMA 2015 Conference. “Every business will need to increasingly rely on risk management experts to be successful and sustainable.”

Mr. Fried outlined five areas on which that risk managers in Asia need to focus:

1. Advocate the right risk culture in the organization: Risk managers must become adept at functioning in unfamiliar areas of risk and work to achieve a consensus among their organization's stakeholders even if they have divergent interests and conflicting agendas. They also need to have in place mechanisms to measure their success in managing risks.

2. Apply analytical skills to use data more strategically: Risk managers need to use data more effectively in identifying and selecting risks and identifying risk trends. Also, insurers need to share this data with agents to better create appropriate solutions for buyers.

3. Adopt a forward-looking approach: Risk managers must anticipate the outrageous and unthinkable before it happens. Mr. Fried cited the explosions at China's Port of Tianjin in August, which caused an estimated $3.3 billion in damage, according to estimates by Guy Carpenter & Co., as a risk that nobody had anticipated.

4. Adapt to an environment of continuous change: Risk managers and insurers must anticipate risks before they happen, and insurers need keep pace with the changing demands of clients, intermediaries and regulators as risk management and insurance uptake increases in Asia.

5. Aspire to higher standards: Risk managers need to position themselves as not just another job function, but as a profession in Asia. This region is not at the same point of development in risk management as other parts of the world, and only 15% of Asian risk managers have more than 20 years experience.