Work-Life Balance for Risk Professionals



Risk Management scores highly for work-life balance among finance jobs according to Emolument’s survey based on crowdsourced data – ahead of Trading, Sales & Structuring, Research, Middle & Back Office and Origination / Advisory.  According to this data Risk Management is second only to Fund Management for work-life balance (and not by much!).

So why might this be and is this true of all Risk Management roles?

Risk Management for many strikes a desirable trade-off between being more demanding than a straight “9 – 5” job, having commensurately more attractive remuneration and lower career risk, but without exacting excessive demands on work-life balance. Having said that, risk management roles can vary enormously in their working characteristics. 

When assessing a role opportunity for work-life balance it’s important in the first instance to be clear on what it is that you value. Is it avoiding excessively long working hours or are you comfortable working long hours provided you have the flexibility to work around domestic commitments? Is it having work-from-home flexibility or are you more focused on having a predictable schedule that allows you to plan your work in advance, irrespective of location?... or is it something else entirely?

At one end of the work-life balance spectrum there are risk management domains such as operational risk (covering the gamut of fraud, systems failure, operational/workflow risk, third party risk, etc.) that are very process oriented and control heavy. Such roles tend to comprise a great deal of testing of processes and controls and although reporting deadlines are typically strict they are, nonetheless, predictable. While there are of course no guarantees, professionals in these roles can often stand a greater chance of being able to manage their own schedule and daily working hours and also – since much of the work can be done remotely – of adopting remote working for some of their working week. Quantitative / financial risk roles that are not proximate to the front-office (e.g., funding / liquidity risk management, credit risk, model risk management, etc.) can enjoy similar characteristics for similar reasons.

Front-office market risk analysis might be a good example of a risk management role at the other end of the work-life balance spectrum. The working life of a market risk professional who is sizing trades or risk with a trader and conducting and preparing risk analysis MI for management is likely to be somewhat low on predictability. His / her activity level will depend on how much risk the traders are taking on at any point in time or whether the P&L is particularly volatile. When markets are quiet or little risk is being taken on, going home early might be an option. Long working hours can be expected when markets are volatile and the desks are busy.

There are, of course, no hard and fast rules but hopefully the above examples give some pointers of what to look out for.  The circumstances of the business itself can influence work-life balance in the short-term – for example, if business volumes are growing faster than risk headcount, or if the risk team is particularly short-staffed owing to hiring difficulties.

So, in summary, be clear on what “work-life balance” means for you, acknowledge the likely differences across different risk management career paths, but above all – if this is an important criterion for you – ask the right questions at interview and, in an ideal world, meet and quiz some of the members of the team you’ll be joining.

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