Managing Risk From Home

Last week, I received my American Airlines AAdvantage Frequent Flier statement. The airline was nice enough to let me know that after averaging flying 148,709 miles each year over the past ten years, I have traveled 0 miles on 0 trips in the past twelve months.

No business trips, no holiday travel, no family get-togethers. Just one example of the immense change that 2020 and now 2021 have brought upon all of us.  

Even with all that change, we have been pleased with how efficient KRM22 is working in a de-centralized, travel-restricted environment. Our ability to support clients, add new products, build new features, sell, and onboard new customers have all kept pace and even exceeded our expectations.    

While happy with how KRM22 is working, I thought I would spend time discovering the impact of working from home on the risk teams we support. I reached out to several of our customers over the past few weeks and learned quite a bit.  

No doubt the overriding feedback had to do with the increased reliance upon systems. The sometimes-fragile relationship between the world of home and office computing was solidified early in the pandemic by all.  Some groups set up special IT support teams for “home offices” and shipped standardized modems and cellular-based back-up internet systems to their employees.  

Collaboration software became a new standard for all. New rules were quickly adopted on the use of video and chat features. The overwhelming dependence on Zoom and Teams meetings have become critical to success. But those changes have come with new challenges. Some are concerned that a “business as usual” approach has taken permanent hold. Managers are very concerned that creativity and innovation are being stifled.    

Many reported a lack of agility in their organizations and the ability to cover up “real issues” behind “process” and a “lack of accountability”. Reports of poor performers being able to “hide” seem to be exacerbated in this new environment. The process of giving feedback toward performance improvement is difficult enough in normal settings, even more so in this new environment.  

Blurring the lines between home and office is increasingly difficult. While the “always-on” home office environment has worked well to quickly react to major market moves and key client issues, team “burn-out” and making sure resources have proper downtime is of key concern. One executive said he had to force himself into a new time management discipline as it is just too easy to “get up, start working in your PJs and forgetting to pause until the US market close.”  

No doubt work/life balance has a new meaning for our risk teams. Work is no longer a “place we go to” but “what we do”.    

No one surveyed ever thought this process would still be going on well into 2021 when the crises started last year. No one seems to be too sure how, when, or if this ends or if it does what that even means?    

One spoke about how their bank’s infrastructure team has spent the last decade or so shrinking the size of their workplace to fit in multiple resources where one used to exist. They could not conceive the bank having enough space to bring people back if they had to return to an environment that gave people “proper distance” from each other.    

Some opined a future with a completely new work environment.    

One envisioned a “university-like setting” where they would come and go and organize into groups as required. Others saw the next office environment to be exclusive for meetings and group communication sessions while leaving individual contributions to the home environment. Some just thought they would return to what they had before.    

The biggest takeaway from all these discussions is two things. First, everyone I spoke to is honestly looking forward to changing their current situation.  Second, there is nothing stronger than the connection we make together, as humans. The lost office environment means a loss in human-to-human touch. The laughs, emotions, clearing the air, engaging in productive “what ifs” are all part of a work environment that is as important to a risk team as any other.  

In an age where funding Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is the rage of all our new SPACS (more on that in a future issue), finding ways to keep our human connection vibrant while on our way to the next “new normal” is the key to managing risk from home.

We need that connection to inspire, learn, and fuel growth. Plants grown in isolation don’t thrive like plants grown in a field.  

We need our fields back – hopefully, we can get them soon.    

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