What’s it really like to work in the field of risk management? In conjunction with the Institute of Risk Management (IRM), Risk Xtra continues its series of articles running under the banner ‘Tools of the Trade’ in which we ask practising risk management professionals to offer their handy hints and tips on the matter for those looking to make the move into the industry. In this sixth instalment, Syed Zain Syed Noh IRMCert (Head of Risk Management at the Allianz General Insurance Company in Kuala Lumpur) focuses on answering the key questions.
Risk Xtra: How did you move into your current role?
Syed Zain Syed Noh: I graduated from a local university with a science degree, majoring in agricultural science and engineering, with business and finance as minor courses. I didn’t really think about pursuing any specific career route at that point so, upon graduation, I applied for several vacancies and was accepted as a management trainee.
Satisfied that I had secured my future with a steady job, little did I know that the job offered to me was as a loss adjuster. With this job, my involvement in the insurance industry began.
It was quite an experience for me. A fresh graduate taking on a tough job. It felt as though the role was something of an ‘occupational hazard’ to me. My job as a loss adjuster was short-lived, though, lasting only for around two years. I was then offered a role as a risk surveyor with a risk management consulting firm.
The role as a risk surveyor was much more respected and interesting. It was at this juncture that I started to develop my passion for risk management. After four years of on-the-job learning, specifically on environmental, property and engineering risk assessment, I then moved again.
Having served at an Islamic insurance company, namely takaful, for about eight years as a risk surveyor and an underwriter, I decided to leave my comfort zone to become a business development manager of a corporate unit in another takaful company.
Although my technical knowledge supported me very well. I wasn’t happy. Allianz was expanding its Risk Management Department (which is responsible for carrying out property and engineering risk surveys at clients’ locations) and I was offered a manager’s position.
My CEO at Allianz was kind enough to grant approval for me to enrol on the IRM’s International Certificate in Risk Management programme after searching for local franchise certification on risk management. I received a morale boost after completing the certification and was confident of the new-found knowledge in risk management that I had gained. What’s more, I was determined to share that knowledge.
Risk Xtra: What’s a typical day like in your role at Allianz?
Syed Zain Syed Noh: As the dead of the department that’s responsible for the nationwide risk surveys conducted by managers and risk engineers, my daily activities are to monitor the risk surveys and consultations, reviewing and strategising departments’ capabilities and processes where necessary to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.
Occasionally, I conduct joint marketing and offer presentations to clients on risk management awareness, sharing the risk analysis and actions for improvements. I still complete risk reviews and analyses on queries by the underwriters and business development managers.
Apart from that, I sit as part of the panel of trainers for the company’s technical certification programme. I was also responsible for leading a risk management project two years ago designed to develop a risk assessment system for the nationwide use of our property risk survey tool. The system was successfully launched early this year, and I now monitor its usage and carry out reviews with a view towards any possible enhancements.
Risk Xtra: What do you enjoy most about your role?
Syed Zain Syed Noh: The privilege of being able to enter into restricted and ‘unauthorised entry’ areas. The experience of this has been invaluable. Really priceless.
Risk Xtra: What are the main challenges involved?
Syed Zain Syed Noh: Ensuring clients realise the importance of reviewing risk exposures and improving risk via recommendations has always been something of a challenge. Rarely will clients take this on board with an open heart. Although there has been a certain degree of improvement in terms of the level of awareness around risk management, business owners are still favouring revenue over risk management.
Risk Xtra: In what way are your IRM qualifications relevant?
Syed Zain Syed Noh: It’s very relevant in the industry itself. It provides me with a systematic approach in my job and helps to guide my role in being a professional risk manager. However, without passion for the discipline, even having the professional qualification will not make an individual an effective risk manager.
Risk Xtra: What would you say to others thinking about joining the IRM as a member?
Syed Zain Syed Noh: Joining the IRM as a member was my best decision yet.
Risk Xtra: How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?
Syed Zain Syed Noh: I’ve served as the head of department for ten years now, and I could literally see the department’s growth in terms of its role, potential and importance, which was boosted after the completion of my certification programme with the IRM. I saw myself promoted to a senior managerial position upon improving and developing the department further, all thanks to the knowledge gained by dint of the IRM programme.
(1) Discover your passion in risk management
(2) Plan your career. The best plan is to enrol with the IRM. The educational programme is carefully laid out
(3) Practice what you learn. Learning without practice is meaningless