By TERRY FLEMING, president and director of RIMS and the risk manager for the Montgomery Country Division of Risk Management in Rockville, Md.
As the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc. (RIMS) enters its 60th year, it looks back on the past six decades, from its founding as the National Insurance Buyers Association in 1950, to the last 10 years that have been so critical to its impact on education.
A vastly different organization than when it began 60 years ago--in both mission and scope--RIMS has kept pace with the changing face of risk management and the global economy by evolving steadily throughout the years to become the most influential association for risk managers in the world.
The society's early years were defined by laying foundations and building a community, while the 1960s ushered in a focus on both educational initiatives and government affairs. Throughout the 1970s, RIMS was instrumental in developing and defining risk management as a concept and as a discipline. The 1980s saw RIMS break new ground by asserting itself as the voice of the commercial risk manager and expanding its international influence by co-sponsoring the first International Risk Management Conference in Monte Carlo.
The proliferation of the Internet in the 1990s led to the launch of RIMS.org. It was also during this decade that RIMS created the Canadian Risk Management Council and founded two awards that today are still widely respected benchmarks of the industry--the Arthur Quern Quality Award and the Rob Judd Heart of RIMS.
But it has been the last 10 years that have been the most important for the society. Risk management, as a discipline, has been thrust into center stage in the wake of catastrophe after catastrophe--including the global financial meltdown.
The need for risk management has been highlighted more than ever before, and RIMS has stepped up to the proverbial plate by testifying before Congress, identifying new areas of interest in the discipline, creating inroads abroad and crafting the very definition of enterprise risk management. The past decade also saw record membership and conference-attendee numbers.
THE EDUCATION CONSTANT
Though much progress has been made in recent years, as it has evolved, one of the constants at RIMS has been the value it places on professional development and education. As early as 1957, RIMS created its first formal committee to further risk management education. There was a growing understanding that, in order to be recognized for their achievements as professionals and to raise the standard of practice in the industry, risk managers had to have formal educational opportunities.
During the 1960s, RIMS boasted 25 chapters and 1,300 member organizations--very big numbers at that time. This increase in membership brought with it much influence, but perhaps more poignantly, an extremely heightened sense of responsibility. It was this sense of responsibility to its members and to the risk management community that led to an increased concentration on education. National, regional and chapter-level educational events began to flourish, and learning opportunities for members at all levels increased. As early as 1960, an educational committee began looking into the feasibility of the society establishing a risk management designation. RIMS leadership worked with the American Association of University Teachers of Insurance to develop a curriculum and with various universities to host Risk Management Institutes. A couple of years later, the first diploma program for risk management was born, and in 1967 the first professional designations were bestowed upon 282 students, each of whom had successfully completed the program.
In 1966, the Montreal and Toronto chapters sponsored the society's first-ever insurance workshop. Other chapters got into the act, with Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Delaware Valley holding educational meetings. For many risk managers, the early years were lonely, as few executives understood the profession. RIMS and the proliferation of its chapters' summits and meetings gave risk managers of the time an opportunity to come together to regenerate and remotivate.
Both on the national and chapter levels, the 1970s saw the relatively young trend of education in risk management continue. RIMS, known at the time as ASIM, began working with the Insurance Institute of America to upgrade the risk management program it had established in the 60s. The consensus was that the program called for a major overhaul.
The result was a streamlined three-part, 39-week program introduced in the fall of 1973, which included courses called the Structure of Risk Management Process and Risk Control. The rationale behind restructuring the educational program, what was soon to be called the Associate in Risk Management, was to integrate the specifics of the risk management process with more general management practices, thereby increasing the marketability of risk practitioners within business settings. At the time, most risk managers reported to financial officers, and they needed to be able to speak their language. The general management techniques covered in the RIMS courses allowed risk managers to do just that.
In the 1980s, RIMS expanded its educational goals and services by taking over fundraising responsibilities for the Robert Spencer Memorial Foundation, founded by the RIMS Atlanta chapter in 1979. This scholarship program, what today has become the Spencer Educational Foundation, brought together the insurance industry and risk managers in an effort to support and reward practical contributions to the risk management discipline.
During this decade, RIMS also introduced several new course offerings and appointed an academic liaison, whose job it was to encourage business schools to offer risk management courses. Progress was made with such prestigious institutions as Northwestern University, Harvard University and the University of Connecticut.
Also notable from the 1980s was RIMS' introduction in 1983 of the first Risk Management Information Systems course.
THE GLOBAL DECADES
Remaining true to its history, RIMS put the focus squarely on education during the 1990s. Although an emphasis on education had been part of the society's tradition since its earliest days, the '90s ushered in a very specific motivation to prepare risk managers for the challenges that would face them in the coming years as the economy was becoming more global. At the time, this effort was viewed as crucial to the future of the profession. The gap was widening between the professionally trained risk manager and those who just fell into the field by taking on risk management responsibilities. RIMS set out to help train risk professionals by offering classes and courses online. Students of online courses were able to participate in classes at any time, from anywhere, opening up opportunities for important learning to students who might otherwise not have been able to make use of them.
In the last 10 years, RIMS has expanded its educational impact in the risk community by leaps and bounds. The society is utilizing practitioners as instructors and promoting interaction among participants in countless workshops, webinars, coursecasts, online learning forums, in-company training programs and student outreach initiatives. It has also created many designations and certificates, notably the RIMS Fellow and Canadian Risk Management designations, as well as the RIMS Certificate.
As enterprise risk management (ERM) has taken hold of the industry, RIMS has taken a lead on educating risk managers through its ERM workshops, virtual ERM Center of Excellence and courses to help professionals obtain their Associate in Risk Management-Enterprise (ARM-E) designations.
The past 60 years have demonstrated the endurance of the society, as well as the value of the risk manager to the business community at large. Much of this has been due to RIMS' consistent insistence that risk managers receive specialized training and that the profession be recognized as distinct and vital to an organization's overall success.
RIMS considers this to be one of the hallmarks of its mission, and it will continue to strive to keep its members well equipped to adapt to the evolving global economy through a dedication to education and professional development.
May 1, 2010
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