‘Network of local risk management consultants is the future'
28 july 2020
A multi-episode series takes us on a journey to Riskonet’s expert partners all over the globe. What does risk management look like in their region? This time around, we find ourselves in Asia and Australasia -Vikram Kalbag’s market. He has recently entered a smart consultant network partnership with experienced local risk management consultants to enable him to service the region.
India, China, Indonesia and Australia have little in common when it comes to language, economic prosperity, customs or traditions. And yet, they are logistically grouped together. A single risk manager armed with the necessary Air Miles, could ideally cover the entire area. Unfortunately, the diversity in the region make it difficult for one person to be equipped with the knowledge of local standards and practices to manage the risk. To add to this, the pandemic situation has made national and international travel difficult. These are some of the factors that have driven Vikram Kalbag, owner of Mimansa Risk Consulting and a partner at Riskonet, to form a consultant network partnership. He recently joined forces with several former colleagues – all local risk management consultants – to create a network of experts with often more than 15 years’ experience. “We share each other’s expertise and resources in order to serve our clients effectively and efficiently”
Based in Bangalore, Vikram focuses on India - mostly clients in the various industries such as pharma, auto and auto auxiliary, warehousing and petrochemical industry. A network colleague in China does the same for their China and Hong Kong. Similarly, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, all serviced by local experts. Each consultant has their own area of specialisation and continue to support the consultant network partnership. “While we are part of a network, currently we do not operate under a uniform name, but continue to support each other in the network. When it comes to our clients, we emphasise the fact that we have multiple experts, each with their own fields of expertise and knowledge of local legislation.”
Consultancy pool of six
The idea for a consultant network partnership had been around for a while, but the current Corona pandemic acted as a catalyst. Kalbag: “We can’t travel, so we need each other’s regional presence and expertise now more than ever. Additionally, this network partnership offers a lot of benefits in a normal situation as well. Everyone knows their own country best: cultural, local risks, legislation, language, and more. Essentially, we are a pool of consultants”. As a team, the various experts strengthen and learn from each other. When you know, for example, that a certain fire prevention standard is being used at a factory in Australia, you can compare and contrast it to the Indian standard and convey the pros and cons to the Australian client with facilities in India, a very useful support for the risk manager.
“This alliance offers a lot of benefits in a normal situation as well. Everyone knows their own country best: customs, local risks, legislation, language, and more.”
According to Kalbag, clients are responding to the new situation by trying to improve the resilience of their organisations, for example, by opting for multiple production facilities across various geographic areas. “Our network offers clients a single party that consists of specialised consultants who all work according to the same high standards. Though we are working across multiple areas, the advice they get remains seamless.” The alliance works according to the one-stop-shopping principle. A client shows up with a complex problem and behind the scenes, multiple specialists work out a ready-made solution. Industry-wide, integrated and cross-border if necessary. “The fact that we travel less, saves both time and costs to the benefit of the client.” Mimansa is currently able to respond substantively to a risk management question within two to three days. The same request would take an insurance company two to three weeks, which is nowhere near fast enough for running projects. When building a new factory or production line, you want any encountered risks addressed right away.
Insurance as risk management
Risk management is not equally mature across regions. Especially when it comes to property loss prevention, major differences remain. In most countries the idea persists that risk management revolves around transferring the risk to an insurer at a minimised premium. Not all regions understood that business continuity is what businesses should be thinking about. “Risk management is typically focused on legal and financial risk whereas property loss pertains to local legislative compliance. Multinationals tend to give risk management its due and as a minimum comply with legal requirements, but local risk managers aren’t as keen on improving the risk quality of their facilities to Corporate or International Standards since insurers often fail to reward enhanced risk management practices. Many organisations believe that good insurance is sufficient for proper risk management.”
“In most countries – with the exception of Australia and New Zealand – the idea persists that risk management revolves around outsourcing the risk to an insurer at a minimised premium.”
According to Kalbag, there is no doubt that risk management has been gaining ground. His home country, India, has moved towards a freer market system in the new millennium, which quickly resulted in Wild West-like situations. Competition in the insurance market was so fierce that 90 percent discounts in an attempt to lure customers, were not unheard of. The price war put great pressure on profit margins and the government recently decided to regulate the market, eliminating discounts and incentives. As a result, premiums are now up to ten times higher. These are good times for risk experts, because companies are now repeatedly forced to reconsider what assets to insure. Taking out a bunch of cheap policies randomly, is a thing of the past.
Eyes and ears
Multinationals in the region are seeking risk experts like Mimansa as well. Multinationals have their own high-quality processes and procedures, clearly formulated in operational guidelines. Local branches are expected to follow them to the letter as much as possible. At the same time, local branches need some flexibility to implement the local management philosophy and ensure compliance with national regulations. This is a catch-22 that risk consultants can help with. “As risk experts, we monitor what is lost in translation. The headquarters’ top-down rules must remain intact as much as possible without compromising compliance with local requirements. We are the eyes and ears on the ground. We work with Corporate Risk Managers as well as our own alliance to ensure consistency across processes in various locations across various countries.”
According to Kalbag, the aforementioned Corporate Risk Managers aren’t commonplace just yet. “A lot of companies do not have a risk manager and instead their CFO will take on the associated responsibilities. The role of CRO (Chief Risk Officer) has been on the rise, mostly in the IT industry. The CRO is primarily focused on financial and other regulatory compliance issues. Though not yet optimal, risk management is clearly gaining ground. My estimate is that only about ten percent of companies are proactively thinking about business continuity.”
Risk management during COVID-19
The pandemic has rendered Vikram Kalbag unable to travel. Luckily, there is more than enough business to go around at the Bangalore office: “Through the alliance, we have a presence throughout the region. Domestic travel between North and South India is difficult, but there are many solutions such as offering online training to factory staff or conducting desktop reviews based on questionnaires. Plus, there is a lot of demand for fire prevention and design optimisation at the moment. Preparations can be made now, allowing companies to start implementing as soon as the pandemic has passed.”
About Vikram Kalbag
Vikram Kalbag has spent over twenty years in various roles at enterprises in India and Asia. As a risk management consultant, he gained a lot of experience in property loss prevention in Bangalore, his home base. As an engineer, the petrochemical industry is his main area of expertise. Kalbag has been Mimansa Risk Consulting’s owner since 2015.