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Commonsense Risk Management in Banking

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Applying the Margin of Safety Principle

Risk management is commonly seen as boring, complicated, unglamorous and technical. However, it is also essential. In future, Chief Executives and Finance Directors will not be able to 'outsource' risk judgements to a separate domain: neither the internal risk manager (the fall guy), auditors (yes men) external regulators (fighting the last war) nor rating agencies (don't laugh) will be viewed as ultimately responsible for poor decisions. Senior managers in failed banks will not be able to plead ignorance and, in the UK at least, may face imprisonment for their recklessness.

With this in mind, this is not a technical report on the arcane aspects of Basel III. Instead, the aim here is to look at simple methods of restoring investor confidence in bank balance sheets. It will help senior management to learn from best practice. Even more importantly, it will draw on the lessons of failure from UK parliamentary investigations into failed banks, and the Salz Review of business practices at Barclays. The report will aid leaders to learn the lessons of past errors of judgement and avoid the mistakes others have already made.

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