Blog: An Interview with Rodney Gollo


By Humphrey Olugbue

This transcript is part of a series of Top Voice interviews brought to you by IBR Group International on the topic of sustainability. To learn more about our Top Voices in Sustainability interviews or to discover how you can contribute, please contact us directly.

Q1: Tell us a bit about your career trajectory into risk management. What life experiences inspired you to become a risk professional?


From my perspective, risk management is about distilling complex information and communicating it in a way that people can understand. I've always liked the balance between the analytical and the softer skills, the qualitative and the quantitative. It was key for me to embark on a career path that allowed for this balance, while at the same time doing something I believed could contribute positively from a commercial and societal perspective. My interests have always been in emerging and developing countries, and a career in risk management allows for this. The skills one learns in the field are readily transferable, and it requires you to think very holistically and from different perspectives.

My first role upon completing my Masters was in consulting and was a great opportunity to work with a broad range of companies and stakeholders. I was part of a small team, working with banks, insurers, asset managers, looking at risk across the whole spectrum of financial services. I made the move into industry because I could see there were aspects of risk, particularly the more operational side, that people didn't understand so well. This took me into the world of property and casualty (P&C) insurance. Here you're insuring against the impact and likelihood of major and complex events - disasters on oil rigs, plane crashes, political risks, earthquakes, etc. It's very relatable to real-world events and this experience built up more technical aspects of risk management.

As noted, the international aspect very much appeals to me and risk management is highly transferable. After moving on from P&C insurance I went to work for an international healthcare company. I did some work with a start-up social enterprise in Chile a few years ago to help scale up their business. It feels like there's more potential and greater opportunity to do something that has a positive impact. Initially I was working in London, with an international remit, then moved to Hong Kong - which takes us to the present day. Where I'm the head of risk.

Q2: The early part of your career saw you write a book chapter on Brazilian politics, can you tell us a bit about the book?


In keeping with my interest in emerging and developing countries, in the early part of my career, I built up a specialty in Brazil. The opportunity arose to be part of a book being written about Latin American political philosophy within 3 countries on the continent - Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. The book chapter was on the role political philosophy played in Brazil around the time leading up to, and post its independence from Portugal in 1822.

Q3: What would you describe as the most interesting part of your work?


I enjoy the way working in risk management makes you think. It requires adopting a system thinking approach whereby you need to consider a broad range of factors, how they interact and be able to communicate this to a variety of different stakeholders. At the same time risk is also about being creative, listening to people or analysing information - and creating practical solutions to help people make better informed decisions.

Q4: Which trade associations are you part of and how vocal are you in the industry on matters related to risk management?


I'm not part of any particular trade association. However, I am involved in different networks ranging from those focused on risk management, to others related to sustainable finance and environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics. These networks help by bringing together a diverse group of people all aligned with either uplifting the risk management profession, or working towards real-world solutions regarding sustainability.

Q5: What kind of operational risks do you think a Fortune 500 company may be most likely to encounter in its regular course of business?


At a high level, operational risks are traditionally considered to be those related to people, processes, systems and internal/external events. For the most part, they are deemed to be non-financial risks - however they can have significant impacts on any business if not identified, understood and managed appropriately. Increasingly reputational risk is one such operational risk that is growing in prominence. I'd say a universal operational risk any Fortune 500 company would encounter relates to having effective governance in place. Governance structures are key for setting the tone and rhythm for the culture and decision-making of a company. It lays the foundations for the way a companies' employee behave, who they attract and similarly who they retain. Operational risks can arise from poor or ineffective governance structures, therefore paying attention to this is key.

Q6: How are these risks best mitigated through the use of assessments within the business?


Having in place an effective risk management framework is one approach. Doing so helps to increase the likelihood accountabilities, roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and understood from the Board level, down to individual business functions. It is then possible to undertake an assessment to determine how well the risk management function is serving its purpose of, for example ensuring the Board is discharging its duties effectively. This can provide useful insights into what's working well and can be improved.

Q7: You are currently in Hong Kong. How are you finding the differences between the UK and Hong Kong?


It's most certainly been a good experience working and living in Hong Kong. Asia is a very diverse region, and each area has its own characteristics and cultures. Learning more about this has made for a more enriching experience.

Q8: What are your thoughts on lateral assignments and self-initiated expatriation into APAC?


I think working and living abroad teaches you many things. Not only with regards to working in a very different culture and environment, but also to offer a different perspective in how you think. It's a personal decision, therefore depends on each persons preference - however for myself, it's a useful learning experience professionally and personally.

Q9: Any bits of useful advice for the next generation of risk management professionals?


I would say adopting a curious mindset and being willing to learn would be the main ones. In doing so, the risk management profession will benefit from having people bringing new ideas, experiences and solutions.

Q10: How do you see the next 12 months panning out for the risk and insurance industry?


An area I'm heavily involved in is that of sustainable finance and ESG. I'm very optimistic on the role risk management as a profession, and insurance as an industry (much like many other roles and sectors), can play towards advancing topics related to sustainability and ESG. In a world becoming increasingly complex, being able to prepare, adapt and respond to situations of uncertainty is likely to be ever more important. Risk and the insurance industry can play a role to helping do this. 

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