Research has shown that enterprise risk management (ERM) adds value. One research paper showed that ERM adds to the value metric called Tobin’s Q. Other award-winning research has shown that ERM enables better decision making. The authors of that research state:
“Specifically, as companies implement an ERM process, the new knowledge it provides them about objectives, risks, oversight, information and communication, and the internal environment leads to enhanced management, as evidenced by increased management consensus, better-informed decisions, better communication with management regarding risk taking, and increased management accountability. This enhanced management, in turn, leads to improved performance.”
ERM and Reputation
As an extension, it would make sense that there would be some impact on reputation risk if a company does ERM well, is sophisticated at ERM, and has developed a mature process. While this common sense may prevail, empirical data and testing is lacking. This is primarily because measuring both ERM and reputation risk is not so easy. But the questions remain:
- Is there a relationship between ERM effectiveness and reputation?
- Furthermore, does this relationship show up in performance metrics?
While we cannot answer these questions here, we can explore some simple relationships and at least gain a few insights. Admittedly, reputation risk and ERM are still young disciplines and more data is needed to explore these and other questions. Any attempt to answer these questions with current data carries some caveats. First, this is complicated data from nonfinancial firms and all data was before the year 2014. Second, these are simplistic looks at the data as split into the upper and lower percentiles (split at 50%). Third, the information discussed below reveals levels that have not been tested for statistical significance. In spite of these, let’s examine what may be obvious to some business risk experts.
What data reveals about ERM and Reputation Level
The big question might be, “Do we see higher reputation levels associated with better ERM?” The answer is not yet (at least in this data at this point in time). Companies in the sample with lower reputation scores have higher ERM effectiveness scores than companies with higher reputation scores.
A good researcher knows to develop the theory first and also to consider alternative explanations. It is wise to follow that process. For example, in this sample companies with greater reputation are bigger than the lower tier reputation companies. It might be true that larger companies have more difficulty building a more mature ERM capable company because they are so large and spread around the globe. It could also be true that smaller companies are over confident in the ERM processes. Either theory (and others) could explain why the high ERM and high reputation levels do not match up. This testing is left for future research.
The Volatility Theory
An alternative theory (what academics explore and test) is that the level of reputation is not what’s important because the company already had their long-standing (developed over many years) reputation when they established ERM. Instead, it might be true today that the real reputation value of ERM is that it helps manage the volatility around reputation because the company is better prepared, sees the reputation risk, correlated risks, helps get the companies ahead of the risk events, and helps them understand how these events might play out and impact the organization’s reputation.
Examining the data shows that the answer on volatility is that this could be true. The data show that at set reputation levels (meaning when the data is split on high and low reputation volatility levels), better ERM leads to lower volatility in reputation at both levels and that is probably a very good thing for most organizations. It appears that ERM does have an impact on reputation but the impact is likely on reputation volatility.
Prior research shows ERM adds value and helps improve decision making. With further testing, future research may be able to confirm another obvious truth, that better ERM improves reputation. But it may be doing so in a surprising way via reduced volatility of reputation.