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Risk management's profile grows along with its challenges

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VENICE, Italy — As the global economy changes, risk management is becoming an increasingly important discipline for European companies, a panel of experts said.

But risk managers, and the insurers and brokers that provide services to them, need to adapt to fulfill the heightened expectations of board-level executives, the panel said during the 2015 Risk Management Forum of the Federation of European Risk Management Associations, which is being held in Venice, Italy, this week.

“The world is becoming more risky as we speak, and risk is growing faster than the world economy,” said Thomas Hürlimann, CEO Global Corporate at Zurich Insurance Co. Ltd. Technological developments over the past several years and the increase in global supply chain risks are major factors driving the increased exposures, he said.

As organizations become more concerned about the risks they face, the role of the risk manager is becoming more important, said David Batchelor, president of Marsh International, a unit of Marsh L.L.C.

“Creating value and remaining relevant is key to the risk manager's role,” he said.

With the growing interest of boards in risk management, risk managers should formalize their insurance strategies, said Alexander Mahnke, CEO Insurance at Siemens Financial Services, the financial services unit of Siemens A.G. in Munich.

“You have to write it down, and it has to be logical, and you have to have it signed off by the board,” he said. With the insurance strategy formalized and approved by the board, risk managers do not need to seek board approval for individual insurance buying decisions, Mr. Mahnke said.

“I'm still a little flabbergasted about how (few) insurance strategies are put on paper,” he said.

Changes are also needed in the way insurers, brokers and risk managers interact, said Rick Roberts, director of risk management and employee benefits at Ensign-Bickford Industries Inc. in Simsbury, Connecticut, and president of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. in New York.

Insurers have to satisfy the needs of brokers, who bring them business, and risk managers, who are their ultimate customers, he said. “I think there is still a problem with the insurers trying to please two customers,” Mr. Roberts said.