20 March 2021
Highlights of the Symposium on Risk Management and Business Intelligence 2021 - Risk Management in the Changing World

Highlights of the Symposium on Risk Management and Business Intelligence 2021

The Symposium of Risk Management and Business Intelligence 2021 was held on Saturday 20 March 2021 online. The annual Symposium serves as an excellent platform for industrial and academic experts to exchange ideas for the betterment of the field. This year, the theme of the Symposium is “Risk Management in the Changing World”. Held in the backdrop of a global health pandemic and various volatile and ever-changing circumstances, this year’s Symposium invited executives in different fields to address the topic of risk management.

At the start of the event, Professor Kar Yan TAM, Dean and Chair Professor of Business and Management and Professor Kai Lung HUI, RMBI Program Director both gave opening remarks. Professor Tam stressed on the importance of risk management under the effects of Covid-19 and how corporate risk management strategies ought never be something that is hit or miss. Professor Hui pointed out how the pandemic has impacted Hong Kong, citing how Hong Kong’s GDP has dropped by 6% and the unemployment figures have gone up to 7%, both unprecedented in recent years.

The first speaker of the day was Mr. Kenny KOO, Executive Director and CEO of Hutchinson Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings Limited. Mr. Koo spoke on the topic “New Normal – Risk Management and 5G Solutions to Transform Crisis into Opportunities”. Mr. Koo started by talking about what the current new normal, pointing out how the adoption of digital technologies have sped up by a few years and also how people have become more reliant on mobile device. He also pointed out the necessity of practicing good personal hygiene meant the development of new habits. Then, Mr. Koo moved onto the business challenges – the impact of cashflows, supply chains and WFH policies. He also called for an increased pace in digital transformation strategy and the necessity of recognizing and coping with emerging risks in the digital world, such as cybercrime. Mr. Koo then spoke on his company’s Six Stage Risk Management, compromising of assess, prioritize, figure out, choose strategies, execute and measure stages and gave a real-life example of how his team used this framework to manage the risks of Covid-19. In the example, he touched on various initiatives, such as adoption of AB teams, reverse mentorship of college fresh graduates on senior executives and staff social distancing measures. Next, he moved on 5G, which was characterized by its multiple connections, low latency and high speed. He spoke on how his company have drastically improved the coverage of 5G and built an ecosystem consisting of different stakeholders in 5G development. Amongst other examples, he raised the example of how a silk manufacturer used 5G to sell their products to overseas customers and also how a construction company used 5G to minimize the need for on-site inspection. He concluded by pointing out how different industries would find their unique problems in dealing with the pandemic, but how this would also lead to new opportunities.

The second speaker of the day was Mr. Richard CHEUNG, Executive Director of Customer and International Development of The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Mr. Cheung spoke on the topic “COVID, Continuity and Transformation”. Mr. Cheung started by introducing Jockey Club’s history and its unique Integrated Business Model, which is based on channeling betting, racing and other profits into charities and the wider community. He then explained how Jockey Club weathered the pandemic with relatively less impact by sustaining racing and having a very high digital readiness. He went on to talk about how the Club held daily pandemic management meetings and had continual risk assessment at corporate level as well as a risk-based approach on the opening and closure of branches, which allowed minimal losses during the lockdown. Mr. Cheung continued to explain that there is a high digital readiness within the Club with their digital transformation happening as far back as 2013 and 2014. Much of the Club’s betting businesses have already digitized as mobile applications, often with gamification and social connectivity aspects to attract younger audiences. Mr. Cheung stated that the Club will continue investing in AI and digital. Mr. Cheung moved on to how Jockey Club has sought to revitalize their retail experience and appeal more to younger audiences by redesigning their store fronts. He also talked on the opportunities with using retail digitalization technology, especially in the advent of 5G. Mr. Cheung concluded his presentation by talking about how digital transformation for businesses is vital and incredibly worthwhile.

The third speaker of the day was Mr. Stefan LESER, CEO of Langham Hospitality Group. Mr. Leser spoke on the topic “Translating Risk into New Opportunities”. Mr. Leser began by introducing Langham Hospitality Group and its footprint around the globe. He then talked about how different the current global pandemic is when compared to other localized issues that the hospitality group faced in the past and how this presented the opportunity for the company to learn from its experiences in one region and apply it to the other. Mr.  Leser then stated that he believed that his company would come out of this pandemic different and changed. He talked about how businesses should keep an open mind and tap into new sources of business and distribution channels and challenge old business models. Next, he talked about how it is important to adapt product and offers to meet the needs of changing audience, stating the example of the surge of staycation and pet staycation. It is often important to be creative and break past barriers and challenge status quo in order to cope with this pandemic. Mr. Leser then moved on to state that it is important to refine hotel structure with multi-skilled roles to ensure service quality with reduced staffing so that the organization is as lean as possible. In that discussion, Mr. Leser also talked about how digital solutions could help and respond to changing guest behavior. Channels should also be established to share the learnings and best practices so that departments all over the globe can learn from each other. In order to establish such practices, Mr. Leser also emphasized the importance of enhancing information security standard to respond to increased threats and equally focus on colleague wellness and social responsibility. Mr. Leser continued by talking about the importance to give back to the community so that both the business and the wider community can benefit. Mr. Leser concluded by urging businesses to apply what they have learnt during this pandemic to the longer-term planning after normality ensues.

The keynote speaker of the event was Mr. George HONGCHOY, Executive Director and CEO of Link Asset Management Limited, the Manager of Link Real Estate Investment Trust. Mr. Hongchoy spoke on the topic “Business as Mutual – Promoting Sustainable Business Practices Through Risk Management”. Mr. Hongchoy began by talking about the history, footprint and performance of his company. He talked about his company’s corporate vision to become a world class real estate investor and manager while improving the lives of the communities that it serves. Mr. Hongchoy then introduced the “Business as Mutual” concept, which incorporated all stakeholders like investors, tenants and NGOs under the same ecosystem. Mr. Hongchoy stated that his company adopts the Risk Management 360, which stresses on tapping into the ecosystem of other stakeholders, rather than adopting the traditional siloed risk management approach. The Risk Management 360 model consists of the top-down, bottom-up, internal and external perspectives and seek to proactively anticipate new risks, cultivate a highly adaptive mindset, enable risk ownership and identify cause-effect relationships. Mr. Hongchoy then explains that his company overlays the Risk Management 360 with the “Business as Mutual” concept in order to achieve value creation opportunities and demonstrates how to use this system of find out the top 10 risks of the year. Mr. Hongchoy concludes by stating how risk management should never be a siloed function and ought to incorporate other stakeholders.

The panel discussion this year focused on the topic “Talent Preparation for Managing New Risks” and was chaired by Professor Kar Yan TAM. Professor Tam started the discussion by posing the question – what is the most important skill to manage the unexpected uncertainty that we face in the future? Mr. Leser talked about having a mindset to prepare while Mr. Hongchoy stressed on self-awareness, necessity of communication and sense of perspective. Mr. Koo followed up by talking about agility and sensitivity as tools to manage uncertainty. Mr. Cheung agreed on the point of agility and added the need of systems thinking.  Professor Tam then asked the panel what skills they thought a student about to graduate needed to face current and future uncertainties. Mr. Hongchoy opened by speaking on the ability to continuously learn while Mr. Koo talked on the importance of social skills. Mr. Cheung followed by adding the point of data thinking. Mr. Leser agreed on the above points and talked about his experiences in his company. Professor Tam moved on to the technical abilities that new graduates need, citing the example of coding. Mr. Leser agreed on the importance of coding but emphasized that the ability to keep up to the current trends is equally important. Mr. Hongchoy added on the point of understanding data and ability to derive insights as a skill he thought was important, to which Mr. Koo agreed. Mr. Koo continued and talked about the importance of having a sense of what data is useful and what is not. Mr. Cheung added on the discussion by talking about the ability to copy and mimic solutions of others and from other fields. Professor Tam then asked the panelists what they thought would happen in their industry in 12 months’ time. Mr. Leser opened by talking about how he expected the US would be the first to recover, yet he worried about the huge influx of demand once recovery ensues and stated that it was important to keep up with their capacity. Mr. Hongchoy then talked about how he believed the retail industry would be less hit in Hong Kong, due to its relatively high population density. However, he raised the point that in countries like the US, satellite cities are going to be of more prominence to the retail industry as more people leave major CBDs to urban fringes and satellite cities.  Mr. Koo stated that he believed his company’s future would have relatively comparable performance to past months. He agreed with Mr. Hongchoy that Hong Kong was an incredibly resilient city and demand would quickly recover. However, he pointed out there would be more concerns outside of Hong Kong as demand for global travel would come back in stages, citing psychological factors regarding vaccines. Mr. Koo then stated that the business for his company would become more challenging after the recovery from the pandemic as more people can have more entertainment options after global travel ensues.

Following the panel discussion, there was a Q&A session moderated by Professor Kai-Lung HUI. The first question was on the adoption of threat models and enterprise risk management (ERM) innovations. Mr. Cheung started by saying that when the pandemic hit, the management already had a good idea of the frameworks of risk management, although they did reference other risk frameworks and improved theirs as time went by. Mr. Koo then talked about how his company adopted an agile approach with a risk management task force. The second question was on the risks that AI and data analytics adoption brought, such as cyber security. Mr. Leser talked about cyber security risks was viewed with more importance going forward and it was important that the company knew how to deal with it when the problem posed itself. Mr. Koo added that their company adopted a checks and balances model with internal teams and external auditing firms when it came to cybersecurity. The third question was on how the companies developed their risk management frameworks. Mr. Hongchoy talked about how his company evolved from traditional ISO and 3 Lines of defense models and came to realize risk management frameworks cannot have the optimal impact if used alone and how the adoption of the Risk Management 360 model in tandem with other business goals allowed the company to best deal with the current risks. Mr. Cheung added that it was important for a company not to be dogmatic in their risk management frameworks and the importance of flexibility in dealing with risks as they arise. The final question was on the risk of the people who adopt risk management measures. Mr. Koo agreed that human resources was indeed a risk and challenge, he stated how his company urged senior executives to behave more like entrepreneurs than mere employees. Mr. Cheung stated that it was important to show care and respect for employees and think about front line staff in execution of strategies. Mr. Hongchoy agreed on the above points and stated that it was important to deal with such risks from the hiring process onwards. Mr. Leser stated the importance of conversation, trust and creativity of his staff when dealing with such issues. He added that such times of crisis was also a brilliant show of character of his staff and a catalyst to introduce changes in staff training.

The 2021 Symposium of Risk Management and Business Intelligence was indeed an invaluable occasion for industrial and academic experts in the field to gather and talk about pressing issues in the field. It particularly raised awareness on the risk management function especially in the current pandemic situation and how it is an integral part of decision making by executives. The event is without a doubt a great success.

Chan Hoi Ho Thomas, Year 3 in Risk Management and Business Intelligence (Class of 2022)