Does Anyone Care about Risk Appetite?

RISKVIEWS got a private comment on the Risk Portfolio post. The comment can be summed up by the title above.

And if you think about the insights about ERM from the Plural Rationality discussion, you might echo that question.

FOUR STRATEGIES

If your risk attitude is what we call MAXIMIZER, then you will believe that you should be able to accept as much adequately priced risk as you can find.

If your risk attitude is what we call CONSERVATOR, then you will believe that you should mostly accept only risks that are very similar to what you write already, to what you are comfortable with.  You might fear that setting an appetite would improperly encourage folks to take more risk even it it does not really fit that very stringent criteria.

If your risk attitude is what we call PRAGMATIST, then you will believe that it is a waste of time to set down a rule like that in advance.  How would you know what the opportunities will be in the future?  You might easily want to accept much more or much less.  You would think that it is a waste of time to worry about such an unknowable issue.

Only the companies that are driven by what we call the MANAGERS would embrace the risk appetite idea.  They would say that you must have a risk appetite for your ERM program to have any meaning.  Many regulators have the same MANAGER risk attitude.  They agree with the fundamental idea of ERM, with the idea that risk managers are needed to assist insurance company managers, to assess risks and to make sure that the insurer does not take too much risk.  The risk managers should also be able to help the top management of the company to select the corporate strategic balance, reflecting the best combination of risks to optimize the risk reward balance of the company.

And MANAGERS will do the best for the company when they manage the risks of the firm during times of moderate volatility.  Then their choices of risks will likely perform just as their models will predict.  However in times when opportunities are best, the MANAGERS will doubtless hold the company back from the sort of gains in profitable business that the MAXIMIERS will achieve in the companies that they run.  And in times when the red ink is running all over, the MANAGERS will urge insufficient caution and will see larger losses than their models would indicate.

In the sort of uncertain times that we have lived with for 5 years now, the MANAGER’s models will not be able to adequately point the way either.  Results will languish or bounce unexpectedly.

But it is just not true that nobody cares about Risk Appetite.

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