I have experienced numerous crises in the global environment during my career. These
have included LTCM, the bursting of the dotcom bubble and of course the global financial
crisis. But the one I recall most vividly was Black Monday, not because I was caught in the
middle of the event, but because having been verbally offered my first financial industry role
a month earlier I realised my career might be over before it had even begun!
Fortunately, I was also to learn that experienced financial professionals, being used to the
odd crisis or two, are often quite good at looking through such events knowing that calmer
waters will re-emerge. The job-offer held, and the rest is my own little history.
But not all financial professionals are long-serving, and fewer still have experienced many
crises. In addition, a crisis management plan based on the assumption that everything will
soon return to normal would not be the kind of suggestion we should expect our colleagues
or clients to buy into. Ask any ex-Lehman Brothers employee. For some organisations and
the individuals working within them, a crisis is something they do not get to recover from.
So, a plan to help organisations navigate through a crisis is desirable. But who should
design such strategies? Some years ago, a colleague uncharitably described my then Chief
Operating Officer as, “a guy who spends all day thinking about problems to solutions”. He
was correct. Our mutual colleague was a contrarian thinker and precisely the kind of person
you would want on your team to stress-test the assumptions underlying the design of a
robust crisis management plan.
Additionally, one should always be open to the idea of looking outside your organisation for
inspiration on how to do things better. We spend much time working within our companies
and are deeply committed to helping them succeed. Therefore, we understandably have an
inbuilt bias towards believing our organisations always have the keenest insights. But when
it comes to something as critically important as preparing to manage a crisis, we should
leave no stone unturned in pursuit of that plan we hope will see our businesses safely