What is a chief risk officer (CRO)?

The Chief Risk Officer is a C-suite executive who is tasked with the identification, analysis, and mitigation of enterprise-wide risks that could threaten a company across subsidiaries and business verticals. These risks could be internal or external in nature. A qualified CRO, like a Certified Member or Fellow of the IRM (Level 5 qualified), potentially leads efforts to reduce risks across the organisation value chain that can put an organisation’s profitability and productivity at risk. They also spearhead efforts related to enterprise risk management, crisis management, business continuity planning, operational risk management and more.

The responsibilities of a Chief Risk Officer largely depend on an organisation’s size as well as its industry. The CRO is responsible for all risk management strategies and operations, as well as supervising the organisation’s risk mitigation and identification procedures.

CROs have the expertise to manage all risks including financial, environmental, technological, governance, social risks and geo-political risks to an enterprise’s earnings and growth. The position is sometimes called chief risk management officer or simply risk management officer or risk heads.

CRO roles and duties

A CRO is responsible for the company’s risk management operations, including overseeing its risk identification and mitigation activities. The day-to-day risk management duties for a CRO include determining and evaluating a company’s risk tolerance, creating strategic plans to control and reduce risks and generating reports on a company’s risks and risk management plans and initiatives and distributing them to employees, executives and stakeholders. 

The CRO’s role involves:

  • Implementing policies and procedures to minimise or manage risks
  • Reviewing different factors that could adversely impact the company’s investors or the performance of its business units
  • Embedding risk management thinking through risk based decision making in every function and activity
  • Helping ensure that their organisation is compliant with regulations set forth by the governments in each country
  • Developing risk maps and formulating strategic action plans to help minimise, manage, and mitigate primary risks and then monitor the progress of these efforts.
  • Creating and disseminating risk analysis reports and progress reports to different stakeholders, including employees, board members, and C-suite executives.
  • Ensuring that risk management priorities are reflected in the company’s strategic plans.
  • Formulating and implementing risk assurance strategies that are related to the transmission, storage, and use of information and data systems.
  • Evaluating possible operational risks that may arise from human error or system failures, which might disrupt or affect business processes.
  • Developing different strategies to minimise risk exposure and designating appropriate responses for when human errors or system failures occur.
  • Measuring the organisation’s risk appetite, and setting the amount of risk that the organisation is able – and willing – to take on.
  • Developing budgets for risk-related projects and supervising their funding
  • Conducting risk assurance and due diligence on behalf of the organisation in the events of mergers, acquisitions, and business deals.
  • Building and influencing the development of a positive risk management culture by seeking continuous improvement and efficiencies

Qualified Chief Risk Officers (such as IRM Level 4 or 5) have the knowledge and expertise to integrate best practices from the industry, drive cultural change towards risk-based thinking, enhance the quality of risk registers, create mechanisms to stress test controls, conduct risk brainstorming workshops, improve regulatory disclosures, implement the latest techniques like scenario planning and horizon scanning and ensure adequate preparedness for unforeseen circumstances and catastrophic risks and crises. 

Skills Required

To successfully identify and assess risks and develop mitigation strategies to reduce those risks to, a CRO must have the following skills:

  • Analytical skills: Chief risk officers can use analytical skills to evaluate risks and develop strategies to mitigate risks for a company.
  • Problem-solving skills: Skills in problem-solving and negotiation can help a chief risk officer find solutions to manage a business’s risks.
  • Leadership skills: A chief risk officer can use leadership skills to help guide companies to regulatory compliance and proper data security practices.
  • Communication skills: Chief risk officers can communicate with a company’s executives, managers and employees of different levels, so communication skills are important in this role. Communication skills can also help chief risk officers manage employees. It also helps in  collaborating with, and educating employees and fellow executives about risk-related issues.
  • Presentation skills: Chief risk officers can create and make presentations for a company’s executives and shareholders, so presentation and public speaking skills are an asset in this role. These skills are critical for conveying complex risk concepts in a manner that people with different degrees of expertise can understand.
  • Time management skills: Time management skills can help a chief risk officer work under pressure.
  • Organisation skills: A chief risk officer can use their organisational skills to manage stressful situations and track compliance deadlines.
  • Finance and Accounting skills- These are needed  to understand the impact of various risks on the company’s budget and revenue.
  • An understanding of digital and corporate technology systems, networks, IT infrastructure and cyber threats.

Average salaries of a CRO

The base salary for a chief risk officer starts at INR 50 to 60 lakhs. The average annual salary ranges from INR 75 lakh to 3 crores depending on the size and type of organisation as per Financial Express.

Who does a CRO report to ?

Chief Risk Officers report to the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer.

How to become a CRO

In order to become a Chief Risk Officer, one needs significant work experience across business functions and industries. One also need a excellent knowledge in the areas of technology, finance and enterprise risk management. 

The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) is the world’s leading professional body in enterprise risk management that provides an ideal pathway (Level 1 to Level 5) to becoming a risk leader with certified fellowship in ERM at Level 5, recognized across the globe in 143 countries. The designations awarded by the IRM, are the world’s most highly respected titles for ERM.

Aspiring risk leaders can start a formal career in enterprise risk management with IRM’s global qualifications with Level 1 while pursuing graduation/post-graduation or even while working. The benefit of pursuing IRM’s qualifications is the application of risk in any and every sector, the ability to continue their existing work or study, and a professional designation that is earned at each stage after Level 2. One can become a Chief Risk Officer (CRO) after completing Level 5.

Current Chief Risk Officers (with minimum 8 years’ continuous experience in risk) can be conferred a Certified Fellowship by getting proficiency and expertise recognised through a 90-minute panel interview and detailed case study based application form as part of the Senior Executive Route to Exemption i.e. Level 4

Some of the Chief Risk Officers or Risk Leaders who are qualified by IRM include Mr. Sunder Natarajan, Mr. Rajeev Tanna, Mr. Jitender Arora, Mr. Neeraj Basur, Mr. Chandrasekar M, Mr. Rama Warrier and many more.

Blog Author: Sanskar Raheja, Cleared IRM’s Level 1 Enterprise Risk Management Exam


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