WASHINGTON — More than a year into the financial crisis, there is still a wide disconnect between risk managers and other bank executives, according to a survey released Tuesday by KPMG LLP.
One of the clearest lessons from the market turmoil that began in August 2007 was that risk was not always considered in business decisions. But many risk managers remain marginalized, the survey found.
The audit and advisory firm conducted the survey of 500 bankers in October. Seventy-six percent of the respondents said risk management is "still stigmatized as a support function at their bank," KPMG said. Only 48% of the bankers said risk management is understood to be everyone's responsibility at their institution.
"This is the push and pull of business managers and risk managers," said Mike Conover, a principal in the financial risk management practice at KPMG who worked on the survey. Risk managers "weren't positioned correctly in their organizations and didn't have the right seat and the right table at the right time. … It's somewhat surprising we haven't seen more definitive action."
Kevin Blakely, the president and chief executive of the Risk Management Association, said banks need to do a better job of integrating risk managers with the rest of the institution.
"One of the things we discovered in the recent meltdown is that the sell side wasn't looking at risk," he said. "What we have to do is get the industry to a place where everyone understands risk management is everyone's responsibility."
Forty-five percent of the bankers KPMG surveyed said their boards had too little knowledge of risk management.
"At the board level, we need greater understanding of what is risk management," Mr. Blakely said. "That has to come down from the board of directors who leans on the CEO and managers."
But that does not seem to be happening quickly. The survey found that risk managers were receiving the most pressure from regulators instead of executives and other leaders. More than a third (35%) of the respondents said pressure from regulators to improve risk management practices had increased significantly, versus 14% from nonexecutive board members and 21% from executive managers.
More than half (52%) of the respondents said incentives and other pay policies contributed to the financial crisis. But only 36% said regulators should get involved in compensation.
Forty-five percent said better in-house skills and experience would be the most helpful in improving risk management, and 40% said better communication between risk managers and the bank would help the most.
Only a quarter of the bankers said a more strategic role for the risk managers would do the most to improve the situation and just 15% urged more risk management workers.
The risk workers also seem to be rallying around stress testing. Until October, just 14% said they were extremely reliant on stress tests in managing their institution's risk. Over the next three years, 61% expect to rely on the tests more.
That would be in line with the recommendations of a report issued Tuesday by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision that outlined principles for banks to strengthen their stress tests. The committee said stress tests should complement models, such as value-at-risk models, that banks heavily relied on in the run-up to the market upheaval.
Banks should also incorporate reputational risk, off-balance-sheet assets, and highly leveraged counterparties into the tests, the committee said.