Strong market intelligence can significantly boost a company's risk management capabilities, but there are a number of hurdles that risk professionals must overcome first
When it comes to combining market intelligence and risk management, some blue chip global companies are fairly advanced in the process, but the reality is that most companies do not even know where to begin, according to Thomas Rideg, an expert in risk and market intelligence.
"To begin with, many risk managers may not always know where market intelligence is structured within the company," he said.
"Market intelligence should be in strategic planning, but several companies still have this function inserted somewhere in marketing or market research, where its visibility is so hidden that is of limited benefit to other areas of the corporation."
Rideg, who is the managing director of market intelligence and advisory company, Global Intelligence Alliance, said that market intelligence should be directly linked to corporate decision making, as should risk management.
"If these departments do not know of each other or don´t know where they are located within the organisational structure, they will never be able to leverage off each other."
One of the most common mistakes that risk managers tend to make with market intelligence is that they tend to focus on the internal environment more than they do on the external environment, according to Rideg.
"The monitoring of the external environment for risk management should be as diligent as the internal monitoring, because many of the internal risks are a direct result of exposure to external risks, many of which can be avoided," he said.
"Risk managers that monitor the external environment are usually very good at measuring political risks and financial risks and corporate health within the organisations that they are assessing.
Rideg has also noticed that when it comes to understanding the competitive environment, shifting demand, substitute products, supply chain and distribution on the other hand, risk managers often do not have the time nor the resources to assess these thoroughly.
"Each of these factors (and other market factors) can produce different risks that, if not identified, anticipated and controlled, could bring huge damage to an organisation.
Risk managers should work closely with and alert market intelligence professionals of their responsibilities and jointly develop a continuous monitoring program of the external environment, Rideg recommended. This monitoring program would be conducted by the market intelligence function but fed daily, weekly or monthly to the risk management department.
"The objective is for risks to be identified, anticipated, minimised or even reversed before they penetrate and impact the organisation," he explained.
"A market intelligence practitioner should be continuously monitoring the value chain, supply chain, competitive environment, consumer, regulatory environment, political environment, economic environment, other industries that can produce substitute products, and so on."
Looking at market intelligence as being corrective, rather than preventive, is one of the most common mistakes companies make in this area.
"This may be a result of the lack of awareness about the synergies between risk management and market intelligence. Perhaps we shouldn't even refer to this as market intelligence, but as ‘corrective deep dives' or something similar," Rideg observed.
"Proper market intelligence is continuous. Once risks have attacked the organisation, it is important to conduct these deep-dives, but they are much more costly than preventive market intelligence for two reasons. Firstly, the risks that have attacked the organisation have already caused damage. Secondly, the project will be deep and intense, rather than systematic and continuous."
He said preventive market intelligence identifies external factors that may allow risks to enter the organisation and enables pre-emptive action. As a result, he said the return on investment is significant, but the irony is that when market intelligence is conducted well, the results are very often not perceived because risks would have been eliminated and become "unperceived risks".
Some companies also make the mistake of insisting on having a global head of risk oversee numerous markets, according to Rideg. Without keen local market knowledge, he said the pressures on that global risk executive to pass approval on new operations or suppliers in far-flung markets can backfire.
Rideg predicted that the practice of risk management will get harder, as corporations are driven primarily by their mandate to maximise shareholder value. "They will continue to squeeze the margins on their suppliers, outsource more operations to third parties and expand overseas. This introduces all sorts of risks into the value chain," he said.
"Market intelligence is very correctly associated with opportunities to support strategic planning, marketing and sales or product development. But along with opportunities come risks, and risk managers should leverage the value that market intelligence can bring to their increasingly demanding jobs."
Author: Thomas Rideg is Managing Director at Global Intelligence Alliance.
This article and others from GIA's World Class Market Intelligence practice can be found at Global Intelligence Alliance Insights and Analysis under Articles