The Leitch encounter

There has been one writer/blogger/consultant active in the risk management space I’ve been following and reading for years. His name is Matthew Leitch. You can find more information about him on his Linked-In page.

Early risk management research

I remember the early days of risk management, before COSO ERM even existed. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I was involved in a major reengineering project in the Belgian federal government. We were tasked to do the first implementation of a theoretical framework which had been developed by PwC. The framework was called ORCA, and on paper it looked quite relevant. In practice, it was impossible to implement. In our searches for information on this methodology, we bumped into a couple of websites, specifically Managed Luck and Internal Controls Design maintained by an independent consultant, formerly of PwC. Contrary to a lot of commercial websites which focused on pulling you into the nets of the Big 4 (Big 5 at that time) consulting companies, here was an author willing to significantly invest in high value added content. His texts were very well researched, detailed and above all, readable. His ideas were practically applicable.

Disconcerting results of surveys

While we never ended up using some of the excellent ideas on his sites, I kept following the works of Matthew, even purchasing his book Intelligent Internal Control and Risk Management. He dropped out of sight for a couple of years, only to return with a number of emailed invitations to participate in surveys he was working on. I gladly obliged, and the survey results were eye opening, but disconcerting at the same time. They pointed towards an enterprise risk management need which was quite removed from what I was working on. I’m not sure Matthew fully realized what he was seeing in his results at the time … but I choose to not focus too much on the idea that risk management could be something else than list driven.

An email? An email!!

And then, out of the blue, a couple of weeks ago, an email landed in my mailbox. The sender? Matthew Leitch. In it, he suggested to get in touch to discuss risk management, as he believed I had some ideas that may be relevant to risk management.

Imagine getting an email from someone you have been folllowing for a while in your area of expertise, whom you consider to be one of the leaders in the field. It is scary and exciting at the same time. Of course I responded to his invitation, and we ended up talking for more than three hours on Skype. The exchange was open and frank. I consider those hours to be among the most instructive I’ve spent in recent years.

While it is always wonderful to be able to interact with someone who is an expert in your chosen field of expertise, if that person turns out to be as gifted in interacting and coaching as Matthew is, it becomes an experience to remember.

A new set of articles on risk management

I will be writing a number of articles in the coming days and weeks on what we discussed. I may actually even convince Matthew to co-author some of them. These articles will discuss the way in which my perception of risk management has changed over the years and what I now believe to be the major challenges to Enterprise Risk Management.

High quality advisory

But beyond that, I want to take just a couple of lines to discuss the interaction with Matthew. As most of the readers of this blog know, I come from an advisory background, having chosen to cross over to the client side because I believe I can make more of a difference there. Being part of an organization still is different from being a consultant to that organization, if only at the level of trust. However, both as a teacher (currently at Solvay Brussels School) and as a blogger/small advisory business owner I chose to stay very close to the reality of the everyday advisory function. Over the years, I’ve encountered all types of consultants and business advisors. Most of them, sad to say, are snake oil salesmen. They are willing to sell whatever they can to whomever is willing to pay for it. Therefore, whenever you encounter a genuine person with a passion for the subject matter, it is an extremely refreshing feeling. Matthew is such a consultant. You can do worse than work with a guy like that.