Board Risk Preferences

Caroline McDonald


December 1, 2013


Under increased regulatory scrutiny, boards of publicly traded companies have made risk management a priority, with 86% reporting they “actively engage in enterprise risk management.” But according to the 2013 Risk Oversight Survey of more than 6,000 directors by NYSE Governance Services and Thomson Reuters, those directors also said the information they receive on some risks, such as compliance, internal fraud and compensation, is more thorough than review materials for emerging risks like social media, IT and crisis management. Regarding the adequacy and scope of information needed for good decision-making, 25% said there is not enough focus on risk issues at board meetings. Of those, half said they are doing what is needed to “challenge the assumptions” of management, while one-fifth believe their board is operating “with a false sense of security, glossing over issues that need more analysis.” Three-quarters work closely with management to establish the organization’s risk tolerance, while less than 25% said management sets the company’s risk appetite. More than half believe some level of calculated risk is necessary for growth and 14% are prepared to take on more risk to attain leadership in their industry.