In episode 31 of the Risk Intel Podcast, host Ed Vincent, CEO of SRA Watchtower is joined by Robin Greenlee, Chief Risk Officer at MapleMark Bank. In this first installment of a two-part series, Robin shares insights into the challenges and successes of establishing a solid foundation of a risk management program during her early days at MapleMark and hits on six key themes.
Within the dynamic landscape of the financial industry, MapleMark Bank found itself at the forefront of rapid growth, emerging as a $700 million institution and quickly approaching $1 billion in assets. This accelerated expansion, while promising the bank's overall success, brought forth a set of unique challenges, particularly in the realm of infrastructure development and risk management. The surge in operations and clientele necessitated a robust foundation to support the expanding organization effectively.
In response to these challenges, Robin strategically directed her attention towards a critical aspect of the bank's operations — credit. Recognizing that loans represented a substantial and pivotal asset for the institution, Robin embarked on the task of fortifying and developing the credit administration function. This focus aimed not only to ensure the safeguarding of the bank's financial assets, but also to lay down the groundwork for a resilient and adaptable infrastructure capable of sustaining the bank's growth trajectory. As the industry continues to evolve, Robin's proactive approach in addressing infrastructure challenges underscores the importance of strategic risk management in navigating the complexities of rapid expansion.
Next Robin recognized the paramount importance of strategic planning to navigate uncharted territories. While originally rooted as a smaller community bank, MapleMark still understood that the trajectory for future success necessitated a departure from conventional structures. The adoption of strategic planning became a pivotal tool, allowing MapleMark to embrace and implement structures that were, perhaps, atypical for its size and community-oriented nature.
Like most institutions, MapleMark's CFO owned the strategic planning process for the banks and believed that risk and strategy should be closely tied together. This buy-in allowed Robin to partner with their CFO to formulate a comprehensive blueprint that guided the bank towards an enterprise-wide holistic approach to risk management. This shift in perspective marked a significant departure from the conventional practices of smaller institutions, reflecting the bank’s commitment to proactively addressing challenges posed by its accelerated growth.
The strategic plan, with its forward-thinking vision, not only laid the groundwork for a robust risk management framework, but also positioned them on a trajectory poised for sustained success in the ever-evolving financial landscape.
A very notable challenge emerged despite their well-crafted plans. The implementation phase of their enhanced ERM program revealed that the bank had unwittingly accumulated an abundance of tools and processes, leading to a complex and somewhat unwieldy system. This realization became even more pronounced during significant external events such as the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The multifaceted nature of the risk management infrastructure became apparent when faced with substantial market shifts. In response to this complexity, Robin recognized the need for a more streamlined and focused approach. Acknowledging the dilution in reporting due to the surplus of components within the risk management framework, she engaged in a collaborative effort to streamline and optimize the system.
Drawing on the expertise of Beth Watson’s (Customer Success Director) knowledge of the SRA Watchtower platform, the bank embarked on a journey to peel back unnecessary layers and hone in on the most critical components. This collaborative deconstruction process, guided by strategic decision-making, aimed to enhance the precision of risk reporting, and ensure a more responsive system, capable of promptly reflecting significant market changes. Through these efforts, they exemplified the importance of not just having a comprehensive risk management plan, but also consistently refining and adapting it to maintain effectiveness in the face of evolving challenges.
Robin’s unwavering emphasis on collaboration has been and continues to be a cornerstone for the effectiveness of the overall risk program. Recognizing the intricate nature of risk management, she shares how imperative it is to foster collaboration not only within the risk management team, but also with team members and managers across the entire enterprise. She acknowledges that everyone within the organization plays a role in risk mitigation.
“We all have blinkers and taillights on our cars right? So, we are all managing risk every day,” said Robin. “Engaging with stakeholders one-on-one, ultimately what you're doing is conducting a risk assessment - not just generating a report and getting to the point where those stakeholders are using this output in their decision making and this is serving as a framework for ongoing conversation,” observed Ed.
A pivotal aspect of this collaborative journey is the concerted effort to simplify complex processes. Robin acknowledges that the intricacies of risk management can be daunting, and to truly harness the collective intelligence of the organization, simplification becomes paramount. By breaking down complex procedures into comprehensible elements, she can ensure that every team member, regardless of their background or expertise, can contribute meaningfully to the risk management discourse. This simplification process not only enhances understanding but also facilitates more effective decision-making across the organization.
Robin also shares how diverse perspectives from different corners of the organization add substantial value to the risk management framework. This involves not just extracting data but engaging in a dialogue with team members, understanding their unique insights, and incorporating these perspectives into the overall risk management strategy. The result is a risk management framework that is not only robust in its structure but is also enriched by the collective intelligence and diverse expertise across the Bank.
At the onset, Robin had the strategic vision for their risk management platform to not just be another reporting tool, but to be a catalyst for ongoing and meaningful conversations. This innovative perspective transforms the risk management process into a two-way street, where insights flow not only from data to a report, but also from stakeholders to the very core of risk assessment and strategic prioritization.
To breathe life into this vision, Robin treats risk assessments as a collective effort and ensures that diverse perspectives are not just acknowledged but actively integrated into the risk management fabric. The strategic use of leveraging their risk management platform as a conversation starter aligns with her commitment to transparency and inclusivity. It also transforms risk assessments from a solitary activity into a shared journey, where collective wisdom guides decision-making. This approach not only generates valuable insights but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement.
In her quest to modernize risk management, Robin envisioned a comprehensive framework that transcends traditional silos. This holistic approach intricately weaves together crucial elements, seamlessly integrating meticulous risk assessments and the implementation of fiduciary controls. Departing from fragmented practices, this integrated framework underscores the interdependence of various facets within the organization.
At its core lies the principle of continuous improvement. This principle emphasizes adaptability, ensuring the risk management process remains a dynamic entity, consistently aligning with the organization's overarching goals.
By prioritizing a forward-looking approach, Robin is not merely safeguarding against complacency but actively positioning the bank to proactively address emerging risks and capitalize on strategic opportunities. Her commitment to unity and adaptability sets the foundation for a resilient and future-ready risk management strategy, exemplifying MapleMark's dedication to navigating the complexities of the financial landscape with strategic foresight.
Overall, Robin's leadership at MapleMark showcases innovative risk management strategies, positioning it as a constructive guide rather than a regulatory barrier. From addressing growth challenges to fostering collaboration, her insights emphasize adaptability and inclusivity. The envisioned holistic framework and commitment to continuous improvement set her and the Bank on a resilient and strategically forward-looking path.
Stay tuned for more valuable insights from Robin, as we will have her back on the show in season two of the Risk Intel Podcast to discuss best practices on building and enhancing risk management programs. We will dive into her plans on evolving the risk program, exploring how MapleMark Bank navigates the complexities of growth and adapts its risk management strategies to prepare for the future.