High risk strategy for telcos
A new, not-for-profit company has been launched called Risk Reward Awards, aiming to bring overdue recognition to risk professionals working in telecoms. Here, Jeremy Cowan talks to co-founder, Luke Taylor, about what led to the Awards and the organisation’s objectives.
VanillaPlus: How well has the telecoms industry managed risk and risk professionals over the years?
Luke Taylor: I think risk management in the telecoms industry or for that matter most other industries has always been below the radar. Telecoms has always attracted attention from the latest technology, the recently launched handset, the trending app, etc. Marketing departments have always been out there at the forefront with the shine, the gloss, the promotion and crucially the budgets.
Communications service providers (CSPs) have always wanted to know where the next revenue stream is coming from, the differentiator from their peers. CSPs have thrown money in the direction of marketing. Risk Management are the spoilsports… the necessary evil, a natural conflict with the marketing departments who are trying to come up with the next guerilla marketing campaign, the tariff plan to knock their competition… with risk management identifying the loopholes, the threats, the risks.
As competition has increased, revenue margins have decreased, customers have become fickle and move from service provider to service provider, the spotlight on the other end of the spectrum, around risk management in areas such as fraud management, revenue assurance, credit risk, etc., has started to occur.
But these departments are usually run on tight budgets, seen as a cost centre, and cannot win when they find issues and losses or when they stop such losses occurring. They are seen as an insurance policy, when in theory they should be regarded much higher in the corporate structure. They protect corporate identity and reputation, plug those revenue holes and can identify potential unbilled revenues.
With current aspects such as GDPR (the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation), high profile cases of cybercrime, hacking, and data loss, security has grown; this has assisted risk management teams get more prominence internally.
VanillaPlus: In what ways should the industry now do this better?
LT: Risk needs be a collaborative approach with all facets of the business working together, communicating and working for the common goal of protecting revenues and reputation of the business. Previous revenue generating parts of the business need to recognise that their livelihoods are determined on how successful their initiatives are.
We are now in a digitalisation evolution with disruptive technologies, business changing the face of traditional telecommunications. CSPs will need to work with and share knowledge and information to assist in the common goal of managing fraud, strengthening security and optimising revenue assurance to make sure every penny spent on infrastructure and operations can be maximised with consumer billing and satisfaction.
I am hoping that the Risk Reward Awards will contribute by making a step on what is a long path to get recognition internally and externally for individuals, teams, departments, CSPs, vendors and consultants alike. It will hopefully bring more interaction, collaboration and communication which will allow risk management professionals to be able tackle the challenges that will face them a little more easier and get support from management and the board.
These awards are not given to who pays the most in sponsorship monies, or produces the biggest cheque book, but by people within the very business they all work in. The recognition by your peers is the greatest tribute to people’s efforts and endeavours.
VanillaPlus: You obviously feel strongly that the sector lacks recognition, having set up a not-for-profit company to recognise the work of telecoms risk professionals. Why do you think that this discipline has been below the radar until now?
LT: I think there is a natural assumption by many who work in the risk management sector that their departments are more back-office and a cost centre than a revenue generating department.
Historically, risk professionals have not promoted or marketed themselves. Individuals who have seen success, and have witnessed large departments, multiple functions, large budgets, many resources are those who have successfully raised the profile of risk management in their business.
I want to assist the wider populace with the Risk Reward Awards, where we will get experienced, knowledgeable people from the risk industry to assist in judging certain award categories with the wider risk management professionals and telecom professionals alike to vote for who deserves such recognition.
VanillaPlus: How do you plan to recognise the achievements of risk professionals? Is this a global awards scheme?
LT: Yes, our objective is to instigate an environment where risk professionals will judge and recognise endeavours and achievements within the industry. Recognising their peers’ contribution in bringing innovation, collaboration and instilling the environment of communication that will hopefully allow for improved development, education, knowledge transfer and openness.
We want to recognise the achievements from all facets of the risk industry. From the individuals working within the CSPs, their proactive approach, instilling collaboration across departments, raising the profile of risk within the business. Plus the vendors who have demonstrated collaboration, innovation, knowledge sharing. The consultants who have demonstrated learning, education, etc.
The objective is to recognise people and corporations for their efforts on an individual and group level that will allow personal development, raise the profile of risk management within the business, increase investment, raise educational standards, instill improved communication and collaboration within individual businesses and the wider telecoms industry.
We recently undertook our first Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award for the European region. Due to us being very new in our inception, we had predominantly UK nominees, next year we want individuals from Europe on that list. Later this year we plan to award similar recognition for the Africa region with Middle East and North America to follow. So, yes, it’s a truly global affair.
The first step was to ‘test the water’ and look at how we could launch and manage an awards programme, which culminated in the Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award held at the recent RAG Risk and Assurance Group event held at the BT Centre in London. Our next phase is to look at a sponsorship initiative to provide the appropriate funds to manage the awards with the professionalism required. Any profits will be donated to charities chosen by winners in each year and split in percentage across the chosen charities.
VanillaPlus: Do you have plans to expand into other industries or disciplines? And how will you take the awards further?
LT: Yes, our mid- to long-term objective is look at other industries such as utilities, insurance and finance. We see the similarities in the industries where digitalisation, transformation, compliance, and regulatory changes are taking place that will impact risk and how it is successfully managed within the business. There are also likely synergies and other industries will benefit from sharing and collaborating cross-industry.
We are currently finalising the award categories and formats for this coming year. This will include awards to recognise individuals that have contributed and made a significant impact within their business (this could be a CSP, a vendor or services company). We want to recognise vendors who have taken significant innovational advances to assist in managing risk, vendors who have spent R&D monies, worked and collaborated with customers to provide technologies to improve productivity, detection, etc.
The first award was presented at RAG London in April, and the next awards nominations are for Africa, taking place in September.
Luke Taylor was interviewed by Jeremy Cowan the editorial director and publisher of VanillaPlus.com