Risk Insider: Dante Disparte

Governing Risk or Governed by It?

By: | March 9, 2017 • 2 min read
Dante Disparte is an entrepreneur, business leader and global risk expert. He is the founder and CEO of Risk Cooperative, an innovative strategy and risk advisory firm based in Washington, D.C. He is the co-author of Global Risk Agility and Decision Making.

Senior executives and boards are learning the hard way that the buck does, in fact, stop with them.

This is painfully true when it comes to risk governance and the reality that in the smoking crater of complex risks such as cyber threats, reputation risk and the erosion of stakeholder trust, they are the ones left to pick up the pieces.

At best, they can endeavor to reassemble their organizations under the discretion and dignity of privacy — a luxury in the era of rampant cyber threats. At worst, they are carted in front of an angry Congressional hearing only to watch their share price and egos take a hit.

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Somewhere between these two extremes, the reality that most organizations are governed by risk is revealed. Addressing this risk governance gap is an organizational priority requiring the uncomfortable admission among boards and C-suite executives that they are ill-prepared in their human capital, knowledge, organizational “muscle memory” and general levels of resilience and decision making under duress.

Risk is a surprise event, or better still a process under the adage complex systems fail in complex ways. It does not respect board meeting schedules or when quorum can be formed in the crisis management committee.

Because of this misalignment between the dynamic forces of risk and the static forces of maintaining the semblance of status quo, organizational responses to surprise events are perceivably “clumsy” and all too often they amplify negative consequences, rather than abate them.

Breaking the habit and presumptions of being inured to risk and adverse consequences is the first psychological obstacle to overcome.

Shifting this reality and giving leaders the upper hand — albeit gingerly — enabling them to govern certain risks, they must train and train again. Breaking the habit and presumptions of being inured to risk and adverse consequences is the first psychological obstacle to overcome.

When you look at the personal characteristics, income levels and stature many board members and executives enjoy, their relative personal resilience does not convey to their organizations — and the many millions of employees and stakeholders and trillions in economic value that depend on their ability to suppress hubris, ask the right questions, and motivate information sharing.

Running risk simulations, addressing the knowledge gap and generally stress-testing risk readiness and their organizations is a low-cost, low-consequence way to prepare for the era of man-made risk.

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Unlike natural hazards, such as earthquakes and windstorms, which are capricious by design, man-made risks like cyber threats, terrorism and activist shareholders all have agency. This gives man-made risks an incredibly dangerous plotting quality, which makes it difficult to control and even harder to respond to when it rears its ugly head.

Rather than presuming safety and that everything is “covered” by an IT security professional, insurance policy or crisis communication strategy, senior leaders would be well advised to remember that risk favors the prepared. From a platform of healthy respect and continuous risk governance simulations, senior leaders can train their organizations to not only shield themselves from the powerful forces of risk, but to add value by harnessing it.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Wawa’s Director of Risk Management knows that harnessing data and analytics will be key to surviving the rapid pace of change that heralds new risk exposures.
By: | July 27, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first job was at the age of 15 as a cashier at a bakery. My first professional job was at Amtrak in the finance department. I worked there while I was in college.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

A position opened up in risk management at Wawa and I saw it as an opportunity to broaden my skills and have the ability to work across many departments at Wawa to better learn about the business.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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The advancements in analytics are a success for the industry and offer opportunities for the future. I also find value in the industry focus on emerging and specialty risks. There is more alignment with experts in different industries related to emerging and specialty risks to provide support and services to the insurance industry. As a result, the insurance industry can now look at risk mitigation more holistically and not just related to traditional risk transfer.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Developing the talent to grow with the industry in specialization and analytics, but to also carry on the personal connections and relationship building that is a large part of this industry.

Nancy Wilson, director, quality assurance, risk management and safety, Wawa Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

I have had successes at all of the RIMS events I have attended. It is a great opportunity to spend time with our broker, carriers and other colleagues.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

I think the biggest challenge facing most companies today is related to brand or reputational risk. With the ever-changing landscape of technology, globalization and social media, the risk exposure to an organization’s brand or reputation continues to grow.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

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The changing consumer demands and new entrants into an industry are concerning. This is not necessarily something new but the frequency and speed to which it happens today does seem to be different. I think that is only going to continue. Companies need to be prepared to evolve with the times, and for me that means new risk exposures that we need to be prepared to mitigate.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I try to be optimistic about most things. I think the economy ebbs and flows for many reasons and it is important to always keep an eye out for signs of change.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I am fortunate to have opportunities professionally that make me proud, but I have to answer this one personally. I have two children ages 12 and 9 and I am so proud of the people that they are today. They both are hardworking, fun and kind. Nothing gives me a better feeling than seeing them be successful. I look forward to more of that.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

This is really hard as there are too many favorites. I do prefer books to movies, especially if there is a movie based on a book. I find the movie is never as good. I have multiple books going at once and usually bounce back and forth between fiction and non-fiction.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

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I have eaten at a lot of different restaurants in many major cities but I would have to pick Horn O’ Plenty in Bedford, PA. It is a farm to table restaurant in the middle of the state. The food is always fresh and tastes amazing and they make me feel like I am at home when I am there. My family and I eat there often during our trips out that way.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

I do love a good cup of coffee (working at Wawa helps that). I also enjoy a good glass of wine (red preferably) on occasion.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

Vacations aside, I do get an opportunity to travel for work and visit our food suppliers. The opportunities I have had to visit back to the farm level have been a very interesting learning experience. If it wasn’t for my role, I would have never been able to experience that.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

My husband, kids and I recently did a boot-camp-type obstacle course up in the trees 24 feet in the air. Although I had a harness and helmet on, I really put my fear of heights to the test. At the end of the two hours, I did get the hang of it but am not sure I would do it again.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The first people that come to mind are those who are serving our country and willing to sacrifice their own lives for our freedom.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Every day is different and I have the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different work across the company.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My husband and children have a pretty good sense of what I do, but the rest of my family has no idea. They just know I work for Wawa and sometimes travel.




Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]