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A proselyte for a holistic view of risk: leaving the minutia of spreadsheet-clogged white papers where they belong: on the shelves.

The persistence, even popularity, of analogue watches and clocks, even those without numbers, is testament to the fact that telling time is more about the spatial relationship of the hands on the face and less about the exact hour and minute.

The same underlying truth is behind the innovation of Bob Morrell's latest technology foray, Riskonnect. It uses an advanced software package to present risk considerations in an intuitive way. It also follows a strong legacy. Morrell's previous software project, the Risk Laboratory, was launched in 1994 and was acquired by Aon in 2003. Today that risk management information systems application has more than 100,000 users.

"Enterprise risk management is ripe for innovation all over the place," said Morrell. "Anyone who takes a process or a program and says 'this is the way ERM is done' doesn't know what he is talking about. This is still very much an evolving field."

Putting an even finer point on the need for clearer communication and comparison of risk Morrell added, "We are living today with the utter failure of interconnection. Risk professionals ask why the board of directors and company executives have not understood the big picture."

His response is Riskonnect. "We have filed for patent protection on the way we took a business process and wrapped technology around it. We help people visualize and understand risk at very high levels. This is essential because too many consultants only use complicated calculations. But many people don't need that. ERM is not about quantitative analysis."

Riskonnect is an online service. Morrell said that once users have registered, they upload technical current risk data. The application then allows users to drag and drop information to compare risks visually. "We even put the visuals on the left of the screen so that the right side of the brain can interpret them. Users can define how risks relate to one another. For example, if one factory goes down, how other factories and the supply chain would respond."

Although he does not specifically quote the line from "Cool Hand Luke," Morrell's premise is that the main problem with enterprise risk management is a failure to communicate. What he does say is that "we are changing the way people think about enterprise risk management. Implementing practice is much better than just writing white papers."


Make no mistake, though. Morrell believes in hard data behind the graphics and is a leading proponent of higher data standards in insurance and risk management. "In other parts of the financial sector, they refer to the risk and insurance people as the Amish of data standards because we are so far behind the current technology," he said.

Karen Fleming is a long-standing Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc. colleague of Morrell. In her current capacity as risk manager for the Secure Border Initiative Tactical Infrastructure for the Department of Homeland Security she has a unique perspective on Morrell.

"I practice pure risk management," she said, "no insurance, no claims, no brokers. Just a $1.5-billion operation. Bob looked at all aspects of my business from contractors to management after I went to him and said I could not find a database that was not based on tracking claims. Six months later he called me to look at what he had built."

Application, not measurement, is the key to enterprise risk management, said Fleming. Morrell could not agree more. He's already a convert.
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Author:Morris, Gregory D.L.
Publication:Risk & Insurance
Date:Sep 15, 2008
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