Effective board-level risk oversight

Practices and principles from a unique study by Vlerick and KPMG

Regine Slagmulder

By Regine Slagmulder

Professor of Management Accounting

23 June 2022

Today’s businesses navigate a complex and rapidly changing environment. Macroeconomic uncertainty, climate change, geopolitical turbulence, and accelerated technological evolution are creating extraordinary challenges for organisations and their boards of directors. On top of these uncertainties, the recent global pandemic and the resulting emergency measures taken by various governments have been causing unprecedented business disruption. In these turbulent times, robust board leadership is more important than ever. As part of their oversight duties, boards are responsible for making sure their organisations have put in place the necessary risk managementframework and policies to deal with the consequences of unforeseen events. Despite the increased interest in risk governance since the 2008 financial crisis, we know relatively little about actual board practices and how the board’s role in overseeing risk has evolved in recent times.

Professor Regine Slagmulder, Professor of Accounting and Control at Vlerick Business School and KPMG joined forces to shed light on how board directors perform their risk oversight duties and to learn from the successes and challenges they face in the pursuit of sustainable value creation. This study combines extensive practitioner experience with solid academic rigour and provides a unique insider look into the boardroom.

Main conclusions:

  1. There is increased general recognition of the critical importance of board-level risk oversight, beyond compliance.
  2. There is a growing appreciation that, when implemented properly, formal risk oversight strengthens rather than impedes entrepreneurial activity.
  3. Effective risk oversight is supported by an appropriate board-level structure and processes. Essential governance design choices relate to the risk governance structure, formal risk oversight process, and risk reporting to the board.
  4. Board risk oversight relies on creating the right culture to guide appropriate risk taking at all levels in the organisation.

There is still some work to be done to integrate strategy and risk effectively at board level, both in terms of embedding risk in strategic decision-making and setting the desired risk appetite in line with stakeholder expectations.

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Regine Slagmulder

Regine Slagmulder

Professor of Accounting and Control