Leaders Fly into Danger Zone: Ruth Prickett Reports from the Institute of Directors' Centenary Convention. (Risk Management)
Prickett, Ruth, Financial Management (UK)
Managing brands and coping with risk are the main concerns for today's captains of industry, according to speakers at the Institute of Directors' annual convention in London last month.
"Traditionally, a company's reputation was driven by product prices. Now it is driven by risk," said David Varney, chairman of mobile phone network mmO2. He highlighted two problems emerging in the market that his firm was trying to tackle before they could become damaging: coltan--a mineral used in mobiles that is being illegally mined in the Congo, fuelling civil war--and the danger that "adult" material could be sent to children's phones.
Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, admitted that Virgin Trains had not always enjoyed a good reputation. "With Virgin Trains we took on an enormous risk to the brand. Our best companies started from scratch, but in this case we bought an existing business," he explained.
Branson argued that his group's diverse portfolio of businesses meant that it was well insured against risk in one area. For example, he said, if the trains broke down, the passengers would at least be using their Virgin phones to tell people about it.
Risk was an important element of the speech by former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who pointed out that "for a fighter pilot, the danger is that people are shooting at you. …