This year's AIRMIC conference looks set to be one of the best attended for years. David Gamble, the association's executive director, explains
Producing a conference with punter-appeal is a mixture of art and science, and it is often difficult to say precisely why one event succeeds over another. To me, though, there is one magic ingredient: the ability to share information and views and learn from other people's experiences. This, in my opinion, is more important than ever if you are a risk manager, and it helps to explain the enduring appeal of the AIRMIC conference.All professions today feel the accelerating pace of change, but I think the pressure on risk managers is especially intense. When a new problem or opportunity emerges within an organisation and the risk manager is asked to express a view, there is usually no-one within the enterprise with whom he can confer; at least no-one from the same background and with the same skill sets.AIRMIC provides risk managers with informal colleagues and an opportunity to tap into the perspectives and expertise of the entire profession. Our conference is like a melting pot, bringing together risk managers, insurers, brokers and service providers and allowing them to learn from each other in social as well as formal settings. That is an unique and valuable service.The programme at this year's conference reflects the changing priorities of our profession and these, in turn, stem from the demands we face in our jobs. True, the plenary speakers are the sort that you might have expected at any AIRMIC conference over the years. They are eminent people with a wide appeal: Frances Cairncross of The Economist, Dr Timothy Walker of the Health and Safety Executive and the explorer Sir Ralph Fiennes, plus a range of top figures from the world of insurance. Look at the 40-plus workshops and individual seminars and lectures, however, and you see how the agenda is changing. Sessions covering issues that were once little more than distant clouds on the horizon are proving highly popular with delegates. This reflects, among other things, the increasing emphasis on business risk management as organisations look more and more at the need to operate independently of insurance.That is not to say that conventional cover is unimportant. Far from it, and we have several sessions devoted to liability classes, for example, with directors' and officers' high on the list of priorities; and also how to handle and reduce claims. We will be discussing risk mitigation and how to improve communications with underwriters. There will also be a session where delegates can fire questions at a panel of senior insurers.
Tackling the major issuesThe fact is, though, that many risks are very difficult to insure. At our last conference we asked delegates to list their biggest concerns. Business continuity, reputation and contract management came top - all topics covered extensively in our workshops and largely beyond the scope of underwriters. As with so many professions, there is a thirst among risk managers for new knowledge and skills as the bar keeps rising on what is considered an acceptable level of expertise. Last year, as an experiment, we offered AIRMIC members three in-depth training sessions immediately before the main event. They were hugely successful, and they are now already an established part of our event.Above all, though, it is the delegates who make conferences. Every single one has something to contribute. That, above all else, is why we encourage people with a professional interest in the risk management process to come to our conference.