Once you have the facts it is decision time. You can choose to do nothing or seek to reduce the exposures or to hedge them in whole or in part. The unforgivable sins are to fail to consider the risks or fail to act on any decisions.
The risk culture of your business is critical and must be established at the most senior level. Above all it calls for honesty. Too often individuals are criticized for decisions that, at the time, were in tune with the organization’s perceived appetite for risk. But it is never easy to set down effective guidelines and the range of exposures for even a simple transaction can be extensive.
For example, an exporter needing to borrow to finance a sale in foreign currency may have to consider counterparty credit risk, funding risk and interest rate risk. The permutations are endless and the costs of hedging transactions to reduce or eliminate every possible exposure could potentially swallow any profit from a deal.
While losses are likely to be quantitative, the potentially infinite number of risk combinations means that the skills needed to make good decisions are usually qualitative. Even a computer programmed to consider every conceivable permutation of risks needs to be told what level of exposure is acceptable. Any program is only as good as the parameters and data fed into it by people who have themselves been conditioned by experience.
But what of the improbable, the wholly unexpected or the never-seen-before?
Effective risk management requires thinking the unthinkable. This does not in any way lessen the great value of the many sophisticated risk-management systems available. The problems come if people start to think of them, and the models they are based on, as infallible.
It is also common for the development of control systems to come after any new risk-related products. Be careful not to bet the business until the exposure is known. To be in business you must make decisions involving risk. However sophisticated the tools at your disposal you can never hope to provide for every contingency. But unpleasant surprises should be kept to a minimum.