We sat down with Kathryn Kerle, who is the Trustee Director and Chair of Greater London Mutual, a mutual society. In addition, she is the Chair of the Risk, Audit and Evaluation Committee of the Microbiology Society and Chair of the Steering Committee, London Chapter, Professional Risk Managers’ Association. Kathryn has more than 35 years’ experience in the financial sector, most recently at RBS, where she led a team responsible for reviewing customer complaints in relation to a strategic remediation project. Previously, she was Head of Enterprise Risk Management for the bank. She joined RBS from Moody’s Investors Service, where she held a number of analytical and managerial roles in the UK, the US, and Singapore. Earlier in her career, she founded and managed The Paradigm Alliance, a consulting firm based in Sydney, Australia. She began her career in finance at The Chase Manhattan Bank. Kathryn served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fes, Morocco. Kathryn holds a BA from Bryn Mawr College and an MA from Georgetown University, both of the US.
What inspired you to work in the Risk sector?
I fell into risk, largely as a result of me completing a management development programme at The Chase Manhattan Bank, my first employer in the financial services sector. It had a strong emphasis on credit risk assessment, which appealed to the analyst in me.
How important is diversity and inclusion in Risk?
I think it is very important. The challenge with risk management is that – much as we like to pretend otherwise - we cannot foresee the future. So we deal with the unknown by seeking a consensus opinion, thinking that if a colleague is not worried, then we should not be worried and, conversely, if a colleague is worried, it is time to panic. But that can lead to groupthink, which in turn can lead to catastrophic error. Diversity of thought is absolutely essential to keeping the process of risk assessment honest.
What’s the one moment where you wish you could freeze in time?
Freeze so as to avoid the impending disaster? Or freeze so as to savour a victory? If I answer the first question, I would say the moment before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. I wish we had had more time to think about the consequences of such an event and the best way of responding to its aftermath. While I believe that government intervention to support the financial sector was essential, our failure to provide support to homeowners as well may have worsened already serious social inequalities and fuelled the political angst that followed the crisis.
Where did you find your own self-confidence?
Do you now have it, or do you have to keep working at it? I think self-confidence is a function of self-knowledge. Once you know who you are, what your strengths are – and how to take advantage of them – and what your weaknesses are – and how to compensate for them, you are well on the way to self-acceptance. And when you are able to accept yourself, then others are more inclined to do so as well.
Who are your role models, and why?
I admire those who are willing to take a stand to do what they think is right even at significant personal cost. Examples include those who hid victims of the Holocaust last century or today speak truth to power. Without these individuals, civilised society would not exist.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in Risk?
I think the best advice is to remain humble. As a colleague once told me, the risk arises when we know the range of potential outcomes but do not know which one will take place. Uncertainty arises when we do not know the range of potential outcomes. We are managing risk…but we are living in a world of uncertainty. Risk managers need to bear that in mind.