Risk managers are like janitors

This is a bit of a re-post but it seems appropriate following a comment I received earlier where the reader asks: “How can you convince a small business owner to invest resources into something that they cannot see a value in?”

For years I have been saying that being a risk manager is like being a janitor (with all due respect to the hard working men and women who clean up after the rest of us.) I can say this from experience because I often felt like the janitor. I built processes and controls, formal and informal, managed relationships with traders and back offices, which no one saw because nothing bad happened. But once in a while someone does something unpredictable and out of your control.

Why is a risk manager is like a janitor? Because as long as you do your job – sweep, mop, empty the trash – no one notices because after all, you are doing your job very well. But one day you might miss a rotting banana peel because someone put it in a place you never thought of looking – like behind the AS/400 printer which hasn’t been used in 14 years –  and all hell breaks loose. How could you miss this? How did this happen? (And the janitor asks ‘What kind of fool throws a banana peel behind a printer?’)

Like the janitor who was not expecting to find rotting fruit in odd places, great risk managers who are rarely rewarded for how well they do their job are usually punished when something bad happens, even if it is a black swan event or a hidden banana peel.

2 thoughts on “Risk managers are like janitors

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *