20 Nov 2023
by Chris Walker
What is your role as an ALARM Board Director and what are your responsibilities?

I have been ALARM's Finance Director (FD) for the last three years.  As FD, my job is to make sure ALARM delivers value for money to its members, setting an annual budget, and a three-year Medium Term Financial Plan that is both ambitious and affordable. 

Where possible, ALARM strives to deliver a balanced budget that maximises available resource. However, we also explore ways to enhance the membership offer through one off capital investment, for example, the development of a new website or enhancements to stronger or our suite of guidance documents. 

While accountability for the financial performance of ALARM ultimately sits with me, I could not do this role without the input and support of my fellow Directors. They all actively engage in our financial processes to ensure we invest in the right things at the right time for the benefit of members.

How long have you been a Board director and what brought you to the role?

I have been a Director for nine and a half years (I know - I don't look old enough!) and enjoy my role now just as much as I did when first elected onto the Board in June 2014. 

Before being involved at this level, I was an active member of both the Housing and North East and Yorkshire Committees. My committee involvement has continued throughout my tenure on the Board, and I currently sit on the Higher Education Committee. 

I was keen to become more involved with ALARM as I had benefitted massively from membership and wanted to give something back to members and the profession. ALARM is a great organisation to be part of, and the opportunity to help shape its direction of travel and future priorities was extremely attractive. 

I work with some amazing colleagues on the Board, and it is the strong team spirit, passion and enthusiasm that keeps me engaged and excited for the future.

What do you enjoy most about being a Board Director?

Working as part of such a strong team is an absolute pleasure. Every one of ALARM's directors is passionate about the organisation and the risk management profession, and we all genuinely care about the service ALARM delivers to its members. 

I have made some fantastic friends during my time on the Board, and while we don't always agree, we all want the very best for the organisation. That is hugely rewarding.

I also enjoy the variety of work the Board gets involved with, from strengthening relationships across regional and sector groups, to working on the Business Plan and our brand and value proposition. 

As the Board is ALARM's management team, we are accountable for the delivery of objectives and priorities, and the satisfaction you get when items progress is amazing. 

What skills and learning have you taken from your role as Board Director?

Being a board director has provided me with a wealth of experience outside of my day job: for example, engagement with sponsors, contributing towards guidance documents, developing a business plan and strategy, and devising a new brand and corporate identity. 

As Chair of the Board in 2018-19, I gained some invaluable skills, including the importance of listening to others, managing conflict, and working together to reach consensus. I have also gained a detailed understanding of how the organisation works, and the sheer amount of planning that goes into developing content and events for members.

I have developed both professionally and personally during my tenure as a Board Director, which has hopefully allowed me to become a better person, colleague, and mentor.

What is your role in your day job and what are your responsibilities?

I am Head of Risk Management for Durham University and responsible for the development and maintenance of the institution's risk management framework.

I work as part of the Strategic Planning and Insight Office, which consists of strategy development, management information, planning, and risk management functions. I thoroughly enjoy working with colleagues to promote greater integration across each of these processes. 

Higher Education is a fantastic sector to be part of, and I am learning a huge amount from working with amazing colleagues who are managing very real and complex risks, from student recruitment to the delivery of research programmes.  

What is the one piece of advice you would offer someone entering your profession?

Communication and winning the hearts and minds of colleagues is key to being a successful risk manager.  In my view, risk management is absolutely crucial to an organisation's success. As such, you need strong interpersonal and influencing skills to make a real difference. 

Also, don't be afraid to ask questions and challenge the norm. The effective management of risk enables continual improvement and there is no such thing as a daft question or suggestion when reviewing a process or figuring out how best to mitigate a potential risk.

What would you say to someone considering getting involved in ALARM?

Go for it! I have learnt so much during my time on the Board and have no regrets about putting myself forward. If anyone is keen to get more involved, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me, but be warned, I can talk for England!

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