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Corporate or enterprise entities do not make mistakes or create a bad business culture, executives do. Illegal, unethical or bad business practices arise because that’s the way executives want a company to achieve corporate objectives. Executives may or may not consider their business practices as bad or unethical, but the result is the same – corporate misbehaviour.
Understanding corporate misbehaviour
It may be a pointless waste of money undertaking a business health check if the executives are going to be unreceptive to the final risk management report, or simple pay lip-service to the outcomes.
Many CEOs know what game needs to be played with enterprise risk management ERM before they can return to their own agenda for the business. Internal or external risk management audits can just play into the CEO’s attitude to risk management. Such executives short-term philosophy seems to rely on the hope that the shit doesn’t hit the fan during their time as CEO and whatever happens after they move on is not a concern for some incumbent CEOs.
Much of executive misbehaviour, and therefore corporate misbehaviour, is a direct result of executive pay and associated benefits. Misdirecting executive pay and rewards drives most if not all catastrophic corporate collapses. Before the collapse poor executive pay and rewards strategies poison business innovation and employee motivation.
To anticipate which companies will survive sustainably you could look at how executives are rewarded. It is the single biggest driver of corporate culture and long-term success, or not as the case maybe.
Executive managers cause corporate scandals, corporate scandals are not externally driven. The proximate cause of the corporate scandal or collapse doesn’t start further down the organisation nor does it start from outside the company. CEO bad behaviour is normally the proximate cost or the catalyst for corporate collapse.
Corporate scandals aren’t a surprise to most executives, never mind the CEO. They take the level of risk they think is required to achieve their business objectives. They roll the dice and sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.
For example, many in the banking and finance industry look upon the financial crisis as an external risk that impacted on their business strategy. No, or little, blame can be placed at the bankers door! It was all the other bankers and financers who were at fault for their share price collapse, mass redundancies and lost business opportunities – not their fault as their business was doing just fine until the financial crisis tsunami hit their business.
Such egotistical responses stem from either self preservation, or lack of care for their part in the near global systemic financial collapse of the banking and financial sector and the very near global anarchy which would have ensued. Politicians, who were part of the problem, became part of the solution – make money as cheap as possible via low interest rates and massive almost unremitting quantitative easing QE.
Mothers forget how bad childbirth was
More than a decade after the start of the financial crisis there is still mass unemployment in the developed world and the developing world lost a decade of opportunity to crawl out of poverty. However, the key decision-makers in the business world have either forgiven themselves or reinvented themselves in position of power. In addition, a new raft of politicians are in place, or about to find positions of power, to facilitate the next financial crisis.
At its least useful, enterprise risk management ERM is a tool to spread the blame should the shit hit the fan, so one would have thought that ERM could be more popular than it is. At its most useful it helps business leaders make business decisions that are more likely to be good ones for the long-term sustainability of the business for the benefit of all stakeholders in the business – including the CEO.