Five ways to boost executive engagement with risk

5 min read
Apr 25, 2024

On paper, building engagement with executives would appear straightforward. Unlike some of the more technical areas of risk, engagement doesn't require much prior expertise to understand. Yet, when a member raised executive engagement as a key priority, we discovered that the challenge was shared by many of our member organisations.

To help these members, we drew on the experience of risk leaders who have successfully engaged their executive committee. All of them agreed, it takes deliberate effort and it's hard work. But here are some suggestions for success, based upon their long-term, real-world learnings:
case study
How are your peers engaging their executive?
View the full case study on how we used peer collaboration to help a CRO with the challenge of executive engagement

1. Discuss risks regularly with executives as a group

While most "good" risk governance models are likely to include regular touch points between one or more representatives of the enterprise risk team and the executive committee, the format can differ.


  • A specific risk committee (CRO or equivalent as a permanent member)
  • Coverage of risks as part of normal executive committee meetings (CRO would be in the room for)

The format may differ, but what matters is that there is a consistent cadence of interactions between Risk and the executive layer of the business.

These interactions should progress beyond a series of individual presentations by the risk team, which can create a one-sided conversation in isolation. Instead, encourage an active discussion about risks and trade-offs that nurture a dynamic 'enterprise risk view'. 

You may even want to host semi-regular workshops with your executive committee to go into more detail on the business' set of material risks:


2. Articulate the value of risk management

In many cases, the risk team has to be its own PR agency, highlighting the value it has brought to the business, in order to encourage executive buy-in and support.

If you are trying to communicate to executives how Risk can support the organisation, always be outcome-focused and frame your role in terms of how you can help solve their priorities.

The best value is when Risk challenge our exec team to look at a major issue from a different perspective. However, it must come from a position of commercial understanding. Risk must also know the business."
Untitled design (2)
CRO, ASX 100 organisation

Risk Leadership Network member

When you do get that coveted face-time with the executive committee, you may want to have a value proposition ready to make a clear statement about the purpose of risk management. The key question to answer is "why is it important to invest time and resources in the risk function of the business?".

You might want to include the following in that value proposition:

What Risk (should) do:

  • Test and challenge the business
  • Help quantify potential impacts
  • Help plan for multiple scenarios
  • Break down barriers and facilitate conversations
  • Deliver insights to inform decision
  • Enable opportunities


3. Align risk and strategic planning

Is your risk management calendar aligned to the strategic planning schedule of your business. What about key financial dates?

Persuading executives to invest time and money in risk initiatives after KPIs and budgets have already been set? You're setting up attempts at greater risk engagement for failure. Clearly then, aligning calendars and making sure Risk can provide a perspective before budgeting and planning decisions have been made is pivotal.

Where did this insight come from?

A Risk Leadership Network member raised the challenge of executive engagement as their key priority.

As part of our bespoke solution we:

1. Created a benchmark on executive engagement

This enabled the member to get ideas of ways that other CROs and heads of risk are engaging their executives (c-suite, board).

Executive engagement with risk cover

Find out more here

2. Facilitated a series of 1-to-1 meetings

We approached a number of risk leaders who have successfully engaged their board (with a focus on sector/regional peers), and arranged 1-to-1 calls for this member.

In these confidential discussions, the member was able to dive deeper into the practical steps and methods that other risk leaders have taken to successfully engage their executive.

Watch the full case study here

This article shares some of the high-level takeaways from these collaborations. Of course, more details and practical insights were shared with our members involved. Find out more about membership to see how we could facilitate peer-led collaborations to help with your biggest challenge.


4. Recalibrate the focus of risk training

Across the companies we've spoken to, risk management training typically focuses on systems or compliance.  It's rarely specific to executives and what risk management can do for them.

In reality, executives are less likely to be interested in operational procedures and the nuts and bolts of risk management; instead, use risk training to explain how the executive fits into the overall risk management structure and keep the big picture at the forefront of conversations.

A real-life example from a CRO

One company has offered a particularly strong example of how they achieved greater levels of risk engagement from executives through training:

  • Risk training programme was specifically tailored to the executive layer of the business and delivered to all C-1 and C-2 executives
  • The sessions were more intimate (i.e. in-person, held with a smaller group than normal training) and took place over the course of an entire day.
  • Covered the entire ERM process from top-to-bottom, focusing in particular on the key difference between tactical and strategic risk management.
  • Other topics addressed during the sessions included emerging risk, scenarios, risk appetite and risk identification procedures.


Benchmark: Executive engagement with risk
Find out more about our new benchmark and request more information.
Find out more

5. Build broad rapport across business

The best way to build engagement with an executive is to deliver value to the rest of their team."
CRO, FTSE 100 organisation

Risk Leadership Network member

While addressing the priority issues of individual executives can help drive greater one-to-one engagement with them, try to identify opportunities to assist at all levels of their team. In particular, focus on helping them with risks that are aligned to strategic priorities.

Ultimately, goodwill and reputation will filter up. The executive leading this team is more likely to engage, as the risk team won't be the only part of the business to communicate its value.

What's next?

None of the risk leaders we have spoken to take engagement for granted. All agree that it requires a deliberate effort on behalf of the enterprise risk team, often requiring communication with not only executives, but a wider group of stakeholders across the organisation. 

We'll continue to support risk leaders on executive engagement — and any other risk priorities they raise with us. To learn more about what we've got coming up, book an introductory call or find out more about membership on our website.

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