A few days ago, I had the distinct pleasure of being part of a panel discussion sponsored by Concur that focused on trends in international security and organizations dealing with threats in the Middle East and North Africa.  I thought it would be beneficial to pass along some of the exchange.  

Using the studies put out by the World Economic Forum, National Intelligence Council, and the Atlantic Council, they gave the baseline as well as great perspective when viewing current risk and developing strategies to risks and threats for corporations moving forward on risk strategies.

Strategically, we would be seeing Increased Cyber Attacks, Extreme Weather events and climate change, Water and Fiscal Crisis, Unemployment/Underemployment, Political & Social Instability as well as a Global Governance Failure.  Organizations would need to focus on how they would adapt to the reality of a shifting climate and breakneck technological innovation.

Further awareness needed to be paid to the dominance of the West in international affairs will fade and global power will become more evenly distributed between the West and the rising powers in Asia.  As society and the distribution of global power changes, the challenges to defense and security will increase.

Panel Question:  Given that you manage risk for organizations, what are the most important points you address in developing comprehensive risk, vulnerability and threat assessments?  What sources do you use for creating assessments?  What are absolute priorities?

Reply:  You need to examine the entire landscape of your organization's reach as well as its position within the market.  Critically important is understanding of the corporate Risk Management strategy.  That will play into how risk is defined and ultimately how risk assessments are performed.  A Comprehensive Risk Assessment is designed to consider the organization’s vision, mission, values, and culture, as well as strategic and tactical objectives.  It may consider an organization's broader objectives and activities or some specific goals and objectives but in all cases it assesses what can affect the achievement of these both positively or negatively.

I use a customized tool that can be used on a tablet.  I created in conjunction with a technology firm that makes the risk assessment completely digital and in real-time.  We are in current stages of refining the criticality piece that will be the first of its kind in the industry.  Other sources for laying best practices is looking to the standards developed and modifying other assessment tools utilized in various industries that I have been involved.  What is an absolute is having a logical, structured and consistent approach to assessing risk.

Panel Question:  We’ve heard a lot about social media and the potential for reputation risk and image damage for organizations. How do you monitor and address reputation risk created by social media?

Reply:  It boils down to having a reputational management strategy prior to even getting to the point of dealing with Social Media.  Social Media only exacerbates the issues of how you handle any given incident or crisis.  The main point to embrace social media and see how it can benefit the company as well as monitor the pitfalls.  Having a good policy around the social media aspect internally is equally necessary.  

Particularly, you should be paying close attention to the following four points:

  • Overcoming direct challenges from influential activist and political forces
  • Managing corporate scandals, including executive compensation
  • Use external, seemingly unrelated events to boost reputation
  • Build a reputation management process into everyday operations    

Panel Discussion:  How do your clients deal with the threat of Jihad in countries in which they operate? 

Reply:  I try to educate and advise clients on what Jihadism means to them personally and to their company.  Take for example the term "Jihadist Globalism." It is often used in relation to Jihadism as well as  Jihad Cool,  a term used by Western security experts concerning the re-branding of militant Jihadism into something fashionable, or "cool", to younger people through social media, magazines, rap videos, etc. and other means. It is a sub-culture mainly applied to individuals in developed nations who are recruited to travel to conflict zones on Jihad.

It simply goes back to a structured but flexible travel risk management strategy and plan developed on travel habits of the corporation as well as ensuring employees are situationally aware of their environment.