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What does a Risk Intelligence Analyst do?

Posted By Rachel Bode, Tuesday, August 30, 2016

This is the first in a series of blogs exploring the varied careers and positions that a risk intelligence analyst can hold, jobs they can do, and impact they can have on different types of organizations... 

When people ask me what I do, my reply -- “I work in global security intelligence for a major medical device manufacturer” --is often met with a nod and an “OK… what does that mean?” Fair question. In my previous job in national-security intelligence, people usually assumed I was a spy. Or they feigned understanding when I told them that I analyzed political and military developments in South Asia and the Middle East. At the federal level, intelligence analysis typically focuses on a particular geographic, functional, or technical topic. Federal analysts will zero in on a small slice—national governance, security ministries, or orders of battle—of a larger problem set, such as a country or region. In the private sector, the role of the risk intelligence analyst may vary, but the analyst is likely to have broad responsibilities, ranging across all aspects of a corporation’s interests.  In my job at SJM, one day may resemble another but rarely are those days consecutive. In just the last several months I have written products on security and business implications of impeachment proceedings in Brazil; assessed the Brexit; researched potential physical and data/IP implications of Pokemon GO™; crafted due diligence and country risk assessments; consulted with travelers heading to volatile areas; prepared incident notifications to our Crisis Management Team, and, from my dining room table, supported travelers in emergency situations. And these are just a few of the varied tasks that fall to our team.

Small Size, Broad Mandate

 The small intelligence staffs of the private sector account for the broad range of their responsibilities. In government, I was one of several thousand analysts at my agency, in an intelligence community of 18 member agencies. Now, I am one of two with intelligence responsibilities in a global security unit that totals fewer than 20 and supports an organization of over 18,000 employees. At its core, the role of the risk intelligence analyst in the private sector is to enable the conduct of business, through proactive identification, assessment, and mitigation, of risks facing company personnel, facilities, and operations around the globe. Daily duties include supporting travel security and assessing geopolitical and security risks facing the company, as well as tasks from other segments of the business, with a healthy dose of responding to emerging events or terrorist attacks. Questions that don’t have a clear answer wind up on our desks. A major challenge for the private sector analyst is providing solutions that enable business to be conducted. Some risks could be easily eliminated or mitigated by simply declaring an area off-limits, but the requirements of business—or research, or international aid—rarely allow for such a simple solution. Instead, we strive to offer solutions that allows operations to continue without exposing the organization or its people to undue risk.

Sources – Your Network is Invaluable

One constant from government to the private sector is reading and writing. Another is the value of a network of contacts.  Despite what the movies depict, most intelligence analysts are keyboard warriors, spending large chunks of their days researching  and writing assessments and briefs. Risk intelligence analysts largely consume open source information, news media, and vendor curated information. Just as important, they interact with counterparts across industry, government personnel, and, when appropriate, leaders within the business. In my experience,  these relationships are invaluable.  Although vendors or government sources often have excellent information, even richer information will come from people on the ground or from talking through a difficult situation with someone who has faced similar challenges. Distilling this information into a written product that adds value or raises awareness of potential risks—before they become real problems—is a core mission of the risk intelligence analyst. Written products can vary greatly by organization. Some teams may have a regular recurring product line supplemented by special requests while others may purely react to questions from the business. Perhaps the greatest opportunity for a risk intelligence team is to anticipate questions and have a written product available for leaders before they can ask for it.

BLUF is Essential

Like government and military leaders, senior executives do not have time to read 30-page reports on the latest developments in a country or region. Providing the bottom line, up front (BLUF)—why does this matter to me or to the business?—is key. At SJM, our written products have ranged from 12-15 page comprehensive risk assessments on priority countries to short, one-paragraph assessments on a developing incident. Most of our products -- on topics such as Brexit or the security environment following a major attack -- will be two to three pages at most. Incident notifications and post-event assessments will also be posted on our internal travel security pages for use by future travelers. For executive, high-risk, or complicated travel, we prepare tailored travel briefs with safety and security information, specific guidance, and practical travel information. But whatever the format, providing answers to the ‘so what?’ questions the CEO or business units may have allows them to make strategic decisions. Additionally, in crisis events, being able to quickly provide insight and nuanced assessment of impacts to the business can provide leaders with a major advantage as they consider employee and company safety and shape the company’s response to disruptive, dynamic global events.

Sam Talbott is a Global Intelligence Analyst for St. Jude Medical, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Prior to joining St. Jude in May of 2015, he spent nearly four years as a political/military intelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency at US Central Command. While at CENTCOM he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and served on the command briefing team, presenting daily intelligence and operational updates to the CENTCOM command staff. Before working in intelligence, Sam traveled widely while working in business development for a major educational assessment organization. He is Vice Chair of the Midwest Regional Analyst Roundtable (MRAR) and an AIRIP member.

 

Tags:  AIRIP  AIRIP News  Information Sharing  IntelligenceCareers  Networking  Risk Intelligence  WhatDoesARiskIntelligenceAnalystDo 

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AIRIP Welcomes Three New Board Members

Posted By Rachel Bode, Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Association of International Risk Intelligence Professionals (AIRIP) is pleased to welcome Alan Orlob, Charles Randolph and Dawn Scalici to AIRIP’s board. They join our current board members, Paul Florence, Jessica Hern, Linda Millis and Meredith Wilson. As a group, the board oversees AIRIP’s finances, sets strategic direction, consults on new and on-going initiatives, sets organization governance plans, and act as ambassadors for the organization.

 

Serving on a non-profit board is a time commitment, and we are thankful for their support as we move into AIRIP’s second year. These board members, elected by the current AIRIP board, will serve AIRIP at a time of growth and change for the organization. They will attend their first board meeting in August, and we use that time to begin planning the next stages of growth for the organization, as well as check-in on some current initiatives. They will get the opportunity to see these initiatives into fruition as they serve a three-year term.

 

We are excited for the possibilities that leadership growth can bring to AIRIP, including membership growth, increased visibility, online community engagement, event attendance, and more.

 

Full board member bios are available on our new AIRIP Leadership page!

 

AIRIP Board Members:

Paul Florence, Vice President, Concentric Advisors

Jessica Hern, Global Intelligence Manager, St. Jude Medical

Linda Millis, Executive Director, The Daniel Morgan Academy

Alan Orlob, Vice President Global Safety and Security, Marriott International

Charles Randolph, Senior Director Executive Protection, Event  Security and Intelligence, Microsoft

Dawn Scalici, Government Global Business Director, Thomson Reuters

Meredith Wilson, Founder and CEO, Emergent Risk International

Tags:  AIRIP  AIRIP Board  AIRIP News  mission  Risk Intelligence  Risk Intelligence Organization 

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To Share or Not to Share

Posted By Rachel Bode, Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Information Sharing as a Force Multiplier in Risk Intelligence Programs

Intelligence analysts in the private sector often function as a team of one. Information sharing groups have been a tremendous force multiplier for single analysts and small teams in the industry. So while teams of one intelligence analyst are less and less common, the need for information sharing and benchmarking remains. Governments have teams across agencies focusing on issues and sub-sets of issues, or whole countries down to very specific geographic areas. But an analyst in a private sector organization could be expected to produce analysis on macroeconomic impact of the Brexit one day, security conditions affecting facilities in a high threat security environment the next, and the reputation impact of a cyber breach the third.

Arian Avila, Director of Intelligence and Analysis for Bank of America’s Global Security team, and Corey Vitello, Senior Director of Global Safety and Security at Visa, explore Information Sharing in AIRIP’s first white paper.

  • Did you know there are example charters, and multiple group protocols to choose from?
  • What internal stakeholders should sign off on participation? Will you need to clear each information sharing exchange, or does clearance for participation in a group mean that any information can be shared over a period of time?
  • What will happen to information you share with other organizations? Will they protect your information?
  • What does the information sharing process look like?
  • How do you know what you can share outside your organization?
  • How do you, or can you, share with competitors?

Ms. Avila and Mr. Vitello outline these and other potential concerns for you to consider as you look at joining an information sharing group.


To Share or Not to Share      

 

AIRIP’s member portal has great information sharing capabilities, with discussion forums and common interest groups, as well as a knowledge library. There are also many informal information sharing groups within the private sector intelligence space. As a current and alumni member of these organizations, I can vouch for their trust and authenticity, as well as the value they have provided to my intelligence practice. I encourage you to read our white paper, and then consider using AIRIP as your information sharing platform, joining one of the other information sharing networks already in place, or starting your own. 

This White Paper is available to AIRIP Members via our member portal. To view the white paper, we invite you to Join AIRIP!

Tags:  AIRIP  AIRIP News  Information  Information Sharing  mission  Networking  Professional Standard  Risk Intelligence  White Paper 

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Building Resilience in Risk Intelligence

Posted By Rachel Bode, Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Meredith Wilson, Founder of Emergent Risk International , and AIRIP Board Member, with collaborative input from Rachel Bode, Founder of the Association for International Risk and Intelligence Professionals, recently published an article on LinkedIn. The post, Building Resilience in Risk Intelligence, is included here:

Building Resilience in Risk Intelligence 

Intelligence, when done well, should be a valued function that organizations think twice about before cutting head count – especially in a downturn.  This is demonstrated clearly in companies where risk intelligence has become a vital function that grows in spite of downsizing.  But it can go the other way too: functions that fail to demonstrate their strategic relevance are often the first to go (although they can also go for myriad unrelated reasons over which personnel may have no control at all). More than established professional functions with clear missions, risk intelligence professionals still need to consistently demonstrate their mission, value, and why they are a need-to-have, rather than a nice-to-have function. 
 
Here are a few thoughts on how to increase the resilience of your risk intelligence team (even if you are a team of one):
 
Be VERY smart on your business. 
 
Your team needs to know the business they are working in and align with its needs and priorities.  For example, risk intelligence professionals in a heavy commodities trading company need to take the necessary time to understand what that entails and how it affects the company’s risk profile.  If you work for a technology company with 20 different lines of business, over time, the team needs to understand each of those lines of business.  By not doing so, the team risks becoming seen as something that can be outsourced in a downturn.  After all, why pay for an in-house intelligence team if a contractor can provide roughly the same general analysis that doesn’t account for the specificity of the business? 
 
Be smart on what businesses are talking about.
 
In his annual letter to shareholders, Warren Buffet warned of the instability that a successful attack on the U.S. economy could have. He continues on to discuss the inability “for investors and corporations to shed this risk”. 
 
“There is, however, one clear, present and enduring danger to Berkshire against which Charlie and I are powerless. That threat to Berkshire is also the major threat our citizenry faces: a “successful” (as defined by the aggressor) cyber, biological, nuclear or chemical attack on the United States. That is a risk Berkshire shares with all of American business. ... Subsequently, we’ve had a few close calls but avoided catastrophic destruction. We can thank our government – and luck! – for this result.”
 
Analysts can highlight thought leadership of individuals like Warren Buffett in program justification, strategy development and analytical thought. Including references to relevant business leaders shows that you understand your business, its peers and competitors, and the current economy, bringing additional credibility to your work as a business advisor. To use Mr. Buffett’s words: businesses can never fully “shed the risk” of catastrophic events, but as a risk intelligence advisor with business credibility, risk intelligence becomes a key partner in understanding the breadth of risks, planning for strategies for mitigating loss and taking advantage of opportunities afforded by a rapidly changing global business environment. 
 
Take time to build a strategy.
 
Risk intelligence functions are often one-person teams with competing fires to address daily. Prolonged work like this for years, constantly reporting threats and bad news, can feel like progress and added value. Especially for those who like a very fast paced environment, this constant crisis mode activity seems like “what we should be doing.” In reality, colleagues may be wondering what it is we do all day. Many executives especially are well read, with tight leadership across their regions and businesses. They likely know the issue and business impact before an analyst can. Thus, no matter how many fires we put out, we need to do the deep thinking and deep work to add strategic value to our business.  That requires a strategy of your own.  What is the unique perspective and value add that your team brings to the business? How do you leverage that value?  How do you build in time for strategic work? How do you present analysis in a manner that is engaging and drives innovation (especially when we’re used to telling the bad news stories)? Warning executives about travel risks is important, but can easily be outsourced.  Demonstrating the strategic impact of long-term geopolitical issues and highlighting opportunities based on your unique knowledge of the company footprint overlaid with your risk intelligence subject matter expertise cannot be so easily replaced.
 
Drop the jargon.
 
Risk intelligence professionals, like most professionals, tend to have a certain vernacular that we use with our colleagues.  Often it is a combination of words utilized during our government service days, and words we’ve picked up from colleagues who do the same.  Within circles of like-minded professionals, this is fine.  In our writing and communication with our business partners, it is not.  To communicate in this manner risks looking like an outsider in your own company, and/or alienating people with scary sounding communications.  Think about ways to eliminate or greatly reduce the use of words like threat, violence, and other highly negative words in your writing and speech (you can still convey risk without overuse of these types of words).  Study other modes of communication to find a style that will work within your business. Evaluate your writing for too many phrases and hyperbolic words that imply alarmism.  All of these things increase the perception of risk intelligence as a barrier to business, instead of being a vital part of business growth (which it is!).
 
Build the profession.
 

Because it is still a young profession, there is still so much room for creativity and new approaches to our field.  It is also still in a nascent phase of development that requires more standards and structure to truly professionalize it.  Consider taking a committee or supporting role in helping to better develop the profession through organizations like the Association for International Risk and Intelligence Professionals (AIRIP), the Analyst Roundtables, or other organizations working to promote and professionalize the risk intelligence profession.  Write an article for LinkedIn or a professional risk management publication.  The more we build the field and create professional standards around what it means to be a risk intelligence professional, the better business will be able to understand the true power of our profession to build business resilience. 
 
Take a few steps back.
 
As hard as it can be to set aside the immediate; in order to do our jobs well, we sometimes need to take a few steps back and think about whether we are doing the job to the best of our ability.  Are we so busy answering the mail that we are leaving much of our talent and potential value add on the table?  Next time you have a breather, sit down and start working on that strategy.  Set aside two hours on your calendar every week to focus just on this – no emails, no phone calls, no scanning the news. What are your goals for strategic work?  Do they align with your company’s strategic priorities? How can you position your function to assist with this type of work?  How can you show thought leadership within your role?  Build bridges with your internal business partners, build knowledge of their roles, build a strategy for success and you will build resilience for your intelligence function and for your business.
 

    

 

Tags:  AIRIP  AIRIP News  Information  resilience  Risk Intelligence  Risk Intelligence Organization 

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AIRIP Launch a SUCCESS!

Posted By Rachel Bode | AIRIP CEO, Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Risk Intelligence Trade Association

Thank you for the overwhelming response to the AIRIP launch! We have had such a great time this week chatting with you by phone and e-mail about the many possibilities and promise for this organization. Many of you have signed up as members, and others have committed you and your teams to joining. It’s such a confirmation of the need for this organization and this work, and we are excited to get it started with you!

The great response to the organization means that we can move forward right away on finalizing the scope for the next phase of our website, which will include a members-only portal. Many of you have asked for things like a member directory, a discussion forum, and a library of program documents. It’s coming! We are excited to be able to move forward on these things.

We are also excited to meet each and every one of you – members and prospective members alike – at our Inaugural Event on November 17 in Washington D.C. Don’t forget to register and get your tickets soon! There will be breakfast, networking, and a great line-up of speakers. Tickets are free for those who become members by September 30, 2015.

Thank you again for the great welcome! We are so excited to take this step in formalizing the work of the risk intelligence profession.

Tags:  AIRIP  AIRIP News  Risk Intelligence Organization 

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