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Understanding Financial Risk Management

08 Aug
Finance manager reviews a risk assessment report with a colleague during an office meeting.

A business with poor financial risk management can quickly go downhill–not only in the form of financial instability but also damaged reputation among employees, customers, and potential business partners.1 By gaining deeper insights into financial risks and how to manage them more effectively, experienced financial risk professionals can make better decisions–ones that enhance financial stability while minimizing the possibilities of losses.

This article explores the main types of financial risks and ways to implement an effective financial risk management process.

Types of Financial Risks

Financial experts may encounter different kinds of risks, including:

1. Market Risk

The financial market's overall performance can pose a risk of financial losses.2 This risk can be caused by fluctuations in:

  • Interest rates
  • Product prices
  • Exchange rates
  • Stock prices

Understanding market risk requires careful observation of market conditions. Organizational leaders use the insights they gain to predict potential adverse changes and quantify risk exposure. They use techniques such as:

  • Stress testing: A virtual simulation technique used to examine an organization's resilience against adverse potential financial events,3 stress testing helps determine how long a company can stay in business without gaining any new customers or clients4
  • Value-at-Risk (VaR): A measurement that quantifies the potential loss an investment may experience over a specific period and the probability of that loss happening;5 risk managers use this technique to measure and control exposure

2. Credit Risk

Credit risk is the potential loss incurred from a borrower’s inability to meet contractual obligations or repay a loan. When the risk becomes reality, it may interrupt cash flow and increase debt collection costs.6

While it’s difficult to identify with absolute certainty who will default on a loan, thoroughly evaluating and mitigating credit risk can minimize loss. Financial risk management software can be useful in that process.

Assessment may include:

  • Evaluating the borrower’s credit history, capital, and capacity to repay
  • Checking the financial statements of the individual or entity asking for a loan
  • Analyzing the borrower’s industry to determine the probability of default and set appropriate interest rates

Mitigation may involve:

  • Collateral requirements: requiring a borrower to pledge assets as security against a loan
  • Credit analysis: evaluating the creditworthiness of a borrower before extending credit
  • Credit insurance: coverage to protect against non-payment of debts

3. Operational Risk

Operational risks stem from within the business and may result from internal inefficiencies such as human errors, technological disruptions, or inadequate processes.7 An example is a financial loss caused by failure to deliver a product on time or to specification. This may result in extra costs to remake the commodity.8

Identifying and mitigating operational risks may include:

  • Conducting regular audits
  • Strengthening internal controls
  • Investing in robust technology

With fast-paced technology, companies use powerful risk management tools integrated with a key risk indicator (KRI) to assess operational risks.

Elements of Financial Risk Management

An organization can’t operate risk-free. But its leaders can take thoughtful steps to understand and manage its risks effectively. There are four fundamental elements of financial risk management:

Risk Assessment and Identification

Risk assessment and identification involves searching for anything that threatens financial stability. The threat can be internal, such as operational inefficiencies, or external, such as market volatility.9 Historical data analysis, industry research, and brainstorming sessions can be useful in identifying risk.

Risk Analysis

Risks are now identified. Next, an organization individually analyzes the risks, which may involve finding out the causes of each threat, applying ratings, and developing a potential response plan. A risk can be rated based on the probability of occurrence and its potential impact–the extent of its consequences. To create this analysis, financial risk managers and their teams use a risk rating matrix.10 It visually showcases the overall likelihood and severity of threats.

Consequences →


Almost CertainMediumHighHighExtremeExtreme

A risk rating matrix

This makes it easy to prioritize risks. As a result, an organization can effectively allocate more resources and attention to critical events that need to be addressed first. These are events that are most likely to occur and could have the greatest impact if they happen.

A 2023 Forbes article emphasizes that, in addition to rating risks, risk analysis includes identifying the potential costs related to specific risks and having more than one responsive course of action for each.9

Risk Modeling: Simulation

Over the years, risk modeling has become popular in financial services,11 and for a good reason. If financial institutions don’t detect credit risks in advance, they get exposed to a high possibility of default and loss.

To mitigate this risk, they use predictive simulation models that can identify a person's probability of defaulting on a loan. Using machine learning and financial statement analysis, these models provide insights into the person’s credit risk at a particular time.12 Institutions can use the data to inform lending decisions.

Risk Mitigation: Control

While it’s difficult to eliminate risks entirely, an organization can manage them using effective mitigation strategies. It can implement a plan that minimizes or eliminates the likelihood of an event occurring and reduces the consequences if it does.

When designed correctly, risk mitigation strategies enable organizations to be resilient and navigate uncertainties more effectively. The strategy may include:

  • Contingency planning: a plan B for when a situation prevents a business from operating as usual
  • Insurance policies: protection to mitigate losses that are beyond the organization’s control
  • Hedging: offsetting risks with complementary investments or strategies13
  • Loan portfolio diversification: spreading risk by investing in a variety of loans or borrowers to reduce potential losses

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