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Perspectives | Edition 4

Navigator’s folio of ideas, insights and new ways of thinking

Managing Risk Has Gone Mainstream

Jaime Watt
Jaime Watt | Executive Chairman
November 17, 2015 lnkdn_btn-svg

After years as the near-exclusive purview of analysts, actuaries and auditors, the global financial crisis propelled risk to the top of the broader corporate agenda. Seemingly overnight, every board wanted expert directors, and the language of business became peppered with beta analysis, fiduciary liability, hold-harmless agreements, mitigation strategies and probability.

Risk, of course, is nothing new to companies or their leaders. Neither is the drive to manage it. But the spectrum of risk encountered in the normal course of business—especially in global markets—is more vast than ever. And the global financial crisis shone a particularly bright light into its every nook and cranny.

But for all the attention that risk management has recently attracted, there continues to be a singular gap in the prevailing approaches: the failure to fully integrate communication strategies at the outset.

Whether a company is trying to contend with a dramatic political shift, manage investor expectations, attain social licence or mitigate a data breach, a comprehensive communications plan is imperative. It’s all the more important in the age of social media, when valuable corporate relationships and brands that have been burnished for years are squandered in seconds.

Once compromised, trust and reputation can be extremely difficult to reclaim. Furthermore, in an intensely competitive global marketplace fuelled by information technology, a temporary setback can be instantly transformed into a permanent advantage for rival firms.

Even the most resolute skeptic can quantify the cost of inadequate communication to a company’s bottom line. A collapse of confidence swiftly translates into a dive in share price and an increase in the cost of raising capital. Failure to connect with stakeholders and win social licence to proceed with a project can add millions of dollars to a budget. An unmitigated data breach can mean the enduring loss of business and, in the worst cases, expensive liability.

After more than 15 years in the field of high-stakes communication, Navigator has frequently supported clients on the frontlines of risk mismanagement. Over that time, the need to respond quickly and with assurance has increased exponentially. The cost of striking the wrong note, conveying confusion or failing to respond has also increased significantly.

In the end, the ultimate tools in managing modern risk are surprisingly old-fashioned: be prepared, listen to others, respond and adapt to change, tell your story, communicate your intent. Aggregate all of that in a strategic communications plan.

In this issue of Perspectives, the Navigator team has pulled together some of our current thinking on risk management and the tactics—from research and strategic stakeholder engagement to governance—that help companies take the lead in dealing with the variables and vagaries of daily business.

As always, we hope our views provoke some thought and, even better, some feedback.

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About the author:

Jaime Watt
Jaime Watt | Executive Chairman
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Jaime Watt is the Executive Chairman of Navigator. He specializes in complex public strategy issues, serving both domestic and international clients in the corporate, professional services, not-for-profit, and government sectors.

Widely regarded as Canada’s leading high stakes communications strategist, he is a trusted advisor to boards of directors, business and professional leaders as well as political leaders at all three levels of government across Canada. Jaime has led ground-breaking election campaigns that have transformed politics because of their boldness and creativity.

Jaime has been involved in corporate governance education and thought leadership throughout his career and regularly provides expert opinion in challenging governance situations. He is an adjunct faculty member of the Directors Education Program, jointly developed and administered by the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He is also a guest lecturer for a variety of Rotman School programs, and the Ivey School of Business at Western University.

Currently, Jaime chairs the board of OCAD University. As well, he serves on the board of University Health Network, the Literary Review of Canada, CANFAR and the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

He is a past president or chair of the Canadian Club of Toronto, the Albany Club, Casey House – Canada’s pioneer AIDS hospice, Canadians for Equal Marriage, Canadian Human Rights Campaign and Canadian Human Rights Trust among others. Additionally, he is a past director, trustee or governor of many organizations including the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, Stratford Festival, TD Bank Private Giving Foundation, Clean Water Foundation, Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, and the Canada Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington D.C.

In his board leadership activities, he has frequently been elected to strategic planning, audit, succession planning, search and crisis management committees.

Deeply involved with efforts to promote equality and human rights issues, he was the inaugural recipient of Egale’s Lifetime Achievement Award and has been awarded the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals for service to the community. He recently received Out on Bay Street’s Leader to be Proud of Award. Jaime has been elected to the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, is a Toronto Heritage Companion, and was named one of Toronto’s most influential citizens.

A highly regarded speaker, Jaime appears often as a public affairs commentator in the media. He is a regular contributor to all CBC platforms across Canada. He also writes a weekly column for The Toronto Star and is a Policy Magazine contributing writer.

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