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Alastair Allison MSc, CISM SIRM
Alastair Allison MSc, CISM SIRM, Director of Enterprise Risk, Bupa Insurance Ltd and Bupa Insurance Services Limited
I left the Royal Air Force in 2002 after 16 years’ service in the fighter control specialisation – air defence of the UK specialising in electronic warfare. Despite struggling to find what I wanted to do, I got a job working for Amey Vectra as a risk consultant for a short while before taking a post as enterprise risk manager for Paradigm Secure Communications on the £3.2bn satellite communication programme for the UK military – the SKYNET 5 project – which was a real success for me on a personal and professional level. I was at Paradigm for nearly six years and then joined a risk consulting division within a software company as Head of Risk Services working with global companies such as Rolls-Royce, Rio Tinto and Saudi Aramco. I was then asked to join Zurich Insurance to head up its Information Governance transformation programme. While at Zurich I progressed to Head of Risk and then to Chief Risk Officer for UK General Insurance (UKGI).
I am now Director of Enterprise Risk, Bupa Insurance Ltd (BINS) and Bupa Insurance Services Limited (BISL) – a role I have been in since April 2018. I am responsible for providing leadership, management and direction to the Enterprise Risk team, which comprises 15 professionals covering financial, operational and IT risk within BINS and BISL. As well as managing the team I manage the relationship with the board and attend quarterly board meetings, where I am expected to be a ‘risk champion’ of ERM (enterprise risk management).
Transition to civvy life
I personally found the transition to be difficult as I did not have a plan, but I was lucky to have some support from other ex-RAF people who helped me find that all-important first job. Since then I have taken matters into my own hands: I have gained an MSc in Corporate Risk and Security Management, gained other qualifications and experience within my chosen area of expertise and created opportunities as a result. I prefer to operate in specialist areas than general roles, but my military background enabled me to succeed in both by blending my new skills with the leadership and management skills I gained from the RAF. By seeking new challenges and stepping out of my comfort zone, I have shown I am adaptable and open-minded to change – and I think this is a great asset to all employers.
The business landscape constantly shifts and the competition needs to be responded to. As a consequence, being open to change and dealing with it in a positive frame of mind has helped me to see through many moments of change that would faze others. Yes it has been unsettling, but facing up to uncertainty and dealing with ambiguity are key skills Service personnel have and they have served me well.
Skills transferred from the RAF
Enterprise risk management
This is a key skill of most military staff even if it is called other things. Any leadership role will help develop such skills, but the skills required to ‘know your enemy’, and how you can develop tactics to counter the enemy, is basic risk management. Broaden that across the organisation and you have the ‘enterprise’ element.
Practitioner in project, programme and corporate risk management including the use of quantitative models to support effective decision making and distribution of funding.
Establishing information governance frameworks and practices within a UK subsidiary of Zurich and providing expertise to global initiatives. The basic security rules in the Joint Services Manual stood the test of time. Military staff understand classification and security of data so these skills transferred very easily. This is a key risk to be managed in most businesses these days.
Quantitative analysis of capital projects and programmes to determine confidence of delivery to time and cost prior to contract signature and to ensure ongoing confidence in delivery schedules post-contract. I learned the basic skills in the RAF and continued to develop them further.
- Alastair is a former chair of the IRM’s Cyber Special Interest Group
- He is project manager and co-author of the IRM publication Cyber Risk for Risk Practitioners
- Alastair is also a guest lecturer at the University of Portsmouth on the IRM Risk Culture publication
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