Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Managing Pandemic Risk

pandemicThe Swine Flu outbreak carries with it the potential to severely damage the financial health of small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs). Left unmanaged pandemics can impair profits, generate losses, undermine the contribution of key employees, disrupt supply chains, halt operations and undermine an enterprises financial health that can ultimately lead to bankruptcy.

Though many consider pandemics as a force majeure risk event that lies beyond control, businesses can take steps to mitigate and manage the drastic challenges a pandemic can pose to a business. This is particularly important for businesses that find themselves in a weakened position due to the recession. Businesses that have become highly stressed due to the current business cycle are at acute risk of becoming insolvent due to the shock of this potentially catastrophic risk event. Business managers, bankers, shareholders and businesses with extended supply chains need to take steps to manage and mitigate the severe  effects of pandemic risk.

The first step is to create or update a business continuity plan. Business continuity plans need to address a range of issues that includes planning for disasters in general and planning for the unique challenges an influenza pandemic presents and integrate mitigation initiatives into critical business processes.

All businesses are unique. Addressing a pandemic risk event in your business plan will require you to conduct a risk-management assessment on all aspects of your operations, business processes and market impact to ensure continued operation and financial health of the enterprise.

Some things management must consider in its review are:

  • Assess how you work with employees, customers, contractors to minimize contagion threats
  • Determine mission critical business functions your business requires to maintain operations
  • Stress test your business operations to determine how to function with high absentee rates
  • Review inventories in case foreign or domestic suppliers and transport services are interrupted
  • Review supply chain links, determine at risk suppliers and identify backups
  • Reorganize work spaces to minimize the spread of the disease
  • Equip employees to support telecommuting
  • Develop communication strategies to update employees, customers and the media
  • Use this opportunity to expand e-commerce capabilities
  • Promote awareness of the problems associated with pandemic flu
  • Alert employees about what steps you’re taking and what they can do to limit the pandemic’s impact
  • Review sick-leave and pay policies to ensure they don’t discourage workers from staying home when they’re ill
  • Make backup plans if you need to pull people out of countries where the epidemic strikes
  • Develop a travel policy that restricts travel to areas where the virus is active
  • Stock up on masks and sanitizers, and consider staggering work hours to limit the size of gatherings

Sum2 publishes the Profit|Optimizer product series.  The Profit|Optimizer is the leading SME risk management platform that helps business managers and business stakeholders quickly assess enterprise risk factors and take considered action to mitigate and manage those risk factors. Sum2 will be releasing a pandemic risk assessment module by the close of this week.  The product will retail for $95.00 and will assist SME’s to assess, mitigate and manage the threats posed to their business by pandemics and other social disasters.

More information can be found on our website www.sum2.com.

Sum2 helps businesses assess risk and realize opportunities.

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April 30, 2009 Posted by | business continuity, disaster planning, geography, operations, Profit|Optimizer, regulatory, risk management, Sum2, supply chain | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intellectual Capital Deflation

balloonBearingPoints Chapter 11 filing represents a watershed type event.

The filing by the global consulting firm BearingPoint puts it on life support or at the very least in an intensive care unit. BearingPoint the bulge bracket consulting firm that was spun off from KPMG due to regulatory mandates concerning the separation of accounting and advisory businesses is in serious trouble. It has been struggling under a mountain of debt and the bankruptcy filing will give the firm protection from creditors while it seeks to reorganize its business.

BearingPoint’s filing is an interesting metaphor about the deflation of intellectual capital.  Ideas, creativity, knowledge, productivity and innovation are some of the words that that we closely associate with intellectual capital.  Once we may have even thought this form of capital to be immune from the vicissitudes of the banality of markets.  I surmise that the recent business cycle exposes that idea as based more in our narcissistic prejudices then the cold objective realities of efficient markets.  As we witnessed radical capitalism’s continued drive of extreme rationalization through monetization we discovered the price of anything but seriously lost sight of the value of everything.

During the 1990’s I remember always being impressed and astonished by the reports of the rising productivity of the American workforce.  Year in year out the rising productivity was the proud boast and confirmation of American managerial brilliance.  But today that claim looks spurious at best.  Rethinking this proclamation may reveal this was accomplished not by brilliant management innovation but by outsourcing operational functions to subsistence based economies; and some artful balance sheet wizardry that aligned business performance ratios to maximize shareholder returns; particularly senior managers whose stock options were critical design considerations as to how those ratios were engineered.  Indeed if productivity is a proxy for innovation, the productivity of  American capitalism was outpacing the most aggressive predictions of Moore’s Law.  True technology contributed to massive gains in productivity but in many ways was an economic rent seeking agent that enabled a flawed economy to sustain itself through over leveraged economic and misdirected intellectual capital.

Today we are confronted with the evaporation of massive social wealth that the IMF estimates to be almost $4.1 trillion in the financial service sector.  I suspect a good portion of this value was carried on the balance sheet as good will.  And anyone that has been living close the plant earth the past couple of years can attest to how the good will of corporations has been severely discounted.  Perhaps this wealth never really existed and as the saying goes “you can’t lose what you never had”.  We can take comfort in that and perhaps we can look on the bemused folly of central governments eagerly trying to stimulate economic growth to levels of our recent unsustainable past.  I must admit that my sympathies and conviction stand with the Keynesian but I am beginning to wonder if they are chasing the long tails of ghostly economic shadows cast by AIG’s worthless CDS franchise.  Once considered a revolutionary innovation cooked up by the finest minds of the capital markets financial engineers are now perplexing conundrums wrapped in a riddle and remain valuation Level Three FAS 157 mysteries.

To be sure intellectual capital deflation is a huge subject.  I must also admit that this blogger lacks the time, skill and brain power to elucidate and articulate the numerous nuances and depth this assertion deserves and requires.  I guess we could sum it up in a sound bite like the “dumbing down of America” but I believe that merely addresses the race to the bottom marketers skillfully cultivated to gobble up a greater portion of that ever fickle and fluid market share pie.  In a way the deflation we speak of turns this dumbing down on its head and now claims the purveyors of fine ideas and clever tactics devised by the corporate marketing geniuses who were able to enrich themselves by conceiving the brilliant plans to convince us to buy so they can sell as much useless junk to as many people as possible.

The monetization of intellectual capital by incorporated consultants are increasingly becoming inefficient.  New technologies that are enablers of strategic thinking has large consultancies disappearing into the computing cloud.  Large bull pens of gray matter are inefficient as innovation in small firms are more efficient purveyors of thinking large to solve small problems or thinking small to solve larger problems. The large corporate dinosaurs that protected bloated bureaucracies enmeshed in group think stasis increasing showed an inability to be agents of innovation.  They boldly proclaimed best practices to justify and position themselves in the executive office but now that the large corporations have been decapitalized their value creation mantras dissipated as markets capitalization fell.

In appears that the bulge bracket firms viability were dependent on knowledge transfer initiatives to underdeveloped economies to support outsourcing; and rent seeking business models dependent on regulatory mandates of Sarbanes Oxley, GBLA, COBIT, EURO conversions, Basel II, Y2K, PATRIOT ACT, HIPAA, FISMA etc etc. Their business models profited from significant business drivers of the past two decades the reallocation of capital to emerging markets and the guarantee of market protection due to governmental regulatory mandates.  In both instances value creation from the deployment of intellectual capital proved to be unsustainable.

Consider the financial services industry and hedge funds.  Hedge funds claim to offer uncorrelated investment products but most of the hedge funds performance fell in lock step with the market index averages.  Investors pay premiums to participate in absolute return strategies offered by hedge funds.  Fund managers make the claim of absolute returns based on their superior insights that their intellectual capital confers on their investment strategies.  Last year that claim was demolished to devastating effect.

Newspaper publishers are also experiencing a decline in the portfolio value of their intellectual capital.  But many believe that it is more of  a question of their antiquated business model and once they figure out how to Googlize their business model to sufficiently monetize its intellectual capital shareholders will once again be rewarded with an appreciation in its investment and the true value of their intellectual capital will be realized.

The markets are dramatically changing. Today the question is not so much about ideas and strategy its a question of execution. Just as in the recent past it was about raising capital and acquiring assets now its about making informed capital allocation decisions and liquidity. Its true you need the target to shoot at but you also need munitions, a good scope with adjusted cross hairs and a gun. The value proposition of consultants is quickly becoming marginalized.

Its a poor business model. It scales poorly, its racked with inefficiencies, its built on protected markets and knowledge segregation. Now that those barriers are falling and more and more MBAs are out of work the value of this form of intellectual capital continues to fall.

Consultants all to often are beholden to their process biases. They find it difficult to get out of the box and routinely ask their engagements to climb into the box with them. That said it is an absolute necessity that business redefines its business model to address current market realities. It needs to do so with dispassionate dispatch and it needs to create a unique value proposition that differentiates the brand and adds identifiable alpha in an expanded value delivery chain.

Its a big challenge that many professional services firms need to confront. Our firm went through that transition 6 years ago. We went from a strategic sound practices consulting firm to a product creation and marketing firm dedicated to the commercial application of sound practices. For Sum2 creating value was a very different value proposition then delivering value. The need to build equity in our business was our principal concern. Building and marketing tangible product value is how you create a sustainable business model.

Corporations are becoming disenthralled of their self perceived cleverness. Many believe that major investments in applied intelligence create a culture of insularity that hedges all risks and builds enterprise value. In the past it allowed executives to hide behind a wall of opaqueness. They bought the best and brightest minds from our esteemed business schools convinced that this treasure of intellectual capital would protect them. They believed the digital blips of risk models to be sparkling Rosetta Stones containing the secrets that unlock the mysteries of effective risk management, value creation and business sustainability. The codified results of these algorithmic exercises are revered as holy Dead Sea Scrolls that offers the protection of an supernatural mojo. This is the thinking of a bankrupt brain trust.

You Tube Video: Nena, 99 Luft Ballons

Risk: Group Think, sustainable business model, value creation

April 24, 2009 Posted by | banking, bankruptsy, Basel II, business continuity, economics, FASB, investments, media, risk management, Sum2 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lousiville Business Community Iced Over

The massive ice storm that raged across the US this week has left a path of devastation in its wake. Particularly hard hit was the jewel of the Ohio River, Louisville Kentucky.

Damaging ice covers the entire region and the three largest electric utilities estimate that over 700,000 people are without power. This type of disaster has an immediate impact on small and mid-size businesses. Many small businesses are shuttered due to an inability to access power. Service oriented and home based businesses are also particularly hard hit by the power outages due to their dependency on digital technologies.

Business closure means that cash registers are not ringing. During these lean times of a deepening recession weaker businesses are particularly susceptible to the negative impact of these events. A single day of lost revenue can be the difference in a small businesses ability to maintain itself as a going concern.

The importance of having a set of contingency plans to accommodate these types of business interruptions is critical even more so due to the difficult business cycle we are now confronting.

The implementation of a sound practice program as advocated by Sum2 helps businesses to address these types of risks. The Profit|Optimizer helps managers craft an effective sound practice program. Sound practices incorporates plans to mitigate the negative effects of business interruption events and initiate actions that maintains profitability during the most adverse market conditions.

You Tube Video: James Taylor and Natalie Cole, Baby It’s Cold Outside

Risk; business continuity, sustainability, disaster planning

January 30, 2009 Posted by | business continuity, disaster planning, risk management | , , , , | Leave a comment