Risk in focus: Claudia Nastase

The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) talks to Claudia Nastase, IRMCert Senior Risk Management & Compliance Advisor Kinshasa, DRC office UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) on what working in risk is really like and what advice they would share with people looking for a career in the industry.

How did you get your job?

Enterprise Risk Management has become an increasingly important approach for the United Nations, and specific positions for Senior Risk Advisors have emerged in a number of agencies in the last decade. I had previously built my career within the UN system for 15 years, in different agencies, including in positions related to management, change and reforms, or finance; in locations as varied as Ethiopia, Gaza, Ivory Coast. This enabled me to understand the complexity of processes, challenges, strengths and weaknesses of the system, a key asset as I started working as the first Senior Risk Management and Compliance Advisor in the Democratic Republic of Congo at UNHCR a couple years ago.

What’s a typical day like as a Senior Risk Management & Compliance Advisor?

As Senior Risk Advisor, I am part of the Senior Management Team of UNHCR in the DRC, which objective is to ensure the protection of uprooted people in the country. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the riskiest and most complex contexts in the world, where high risks such as humanitarian emergencies, epidemics, insecurity due to armed groups are only a few examples of what we are dealing with on a daily basis. In a typical day, I would collaborate with the various risk owners on the mitigation treatments of our major risks, and find diverse ways of engaging with the staff at large on risk management through training or specific projects, meetings and forums, in order to embed risk culture in the daily operation.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The diversity of topics you end up covering is very large, since they relate with the overall management of an operation. I enjoy the multi-faceted skills you build over time in this type of work. I also love tackling complex difficult issues, sometimes during a time of crisis or emergency, with the aim of identifying the best way out, using strong problem-solving skills. I believe this can only be successfully achieved as a team, and the Senior Risk Advisor shall be able to create the relationships and links between departments that enable this effort to become productive.

What are the challenges?

Many. The context is very challenging as one can imagine. The resources are little to deliver our mandate and reach our objectives, so every day is an arbitrage between various crisis, risks and issues. Good risk management practices requires that one remains focus on the biggest risks and prioritises the work around tackling what could most impact our ability to deliver. Strategic planning and prioritisation are key to our roadmap particularly in a field where you are required to do more with less every year.

What made you decide to study the International Certificate in ERM?

I had a rather long experience within the UN but little exposure to risk management as I started my Senior Risk Advisor function. I felt the need to deepen my theoretical understanding of this discipline, first to structure my thinking and my work-plan, but also to be able to train efficiently other colleagues by using the most appropriate terminology and method.

What has it taught you that you can immediately put into practice?

The categorisation of risks, the most relevant treatments and responses, the practical examples given from other private or public organisations have been immediately useful for immediate application in my analysis and in the practical solutions I could adapt to our needs.
What would you say to other people considering studying the qualification?
No matter how experienced you are in your field of work, adding a strong theoretical structure to your thoughts will bring you much value. It will give you the clarity and coherence needed in an area that is by nature complex and multiform.

Top tips:

If you’re looking to become a Risk Management Advisor in a large organisation, my advice is that you:
> Diversify your technical skills upfront by working in different departments or locations and understand where the main bottlenecks are
> Enhance your personal skills by becoming very adaptable and resilient at all times, risk management is not the type of work that follows a strict roadmap
> Improve your soft skills, because your main challenge will be embed a strong risk culture within your organisation, through trainings and various capacity-building initiatives. No successful risk management culture will be achieved without a solid teamwork.Click here to add your own text