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Jobs in finance: what does a bank risk officer do?

03 July, 2020Rob Thompson

Are you looking for a stimulating, varied role in banking, finance or financial services? A job where you're always learning and adapting to the fast-changing world? If you enjoy a challenge, a career in risk management could be for you.

What is a risk officer?

Chessboard with fallen piecesTraditionally a bank risk officer assessed bank loans to make sure they were sound. However, in the modern world risks are very complex and varied.

There are many interesting risk management roles, for example covering:

  • credit assessment
  • market risk – currencies, interest rates, trading
  • operational risk – avoiding operational errors, ensuring the security of IT systems, maintaining operations in a crisis, eg a pandemic
  • regulatory risk – ensuring the bank operates within the law – and
  • guarding against financial crime.

Where does a risk officer work?

You’d work in the risk management department – the nervous system of the bank – identifying and responding to risks wherever they arise.

The chief risk officer (CRO) oversees the risk management department and reports to the board, the regulator and the chief executive. 

A risk management team works closely with other departments in a bank, so you’d be collaborating with colleagues to identify, assess and take actions.

But it’s not just about collaboration. As you progress through your career, you’ll need to push back against colleagues who want to take on too much risk – especially at senior level.

It’s a people job. You’re unlikely to be stuck behind a desk all day! Risk officers go out to visit businesses, clients and other stakeholders to make assessments. So it helps if you enjoy meeting people.

Why does risk matter?

Stack of coins balancing on building block towerIf risk isn’t managed well, a bank or financial institution could fail.

When that happens there’s a knock-on effect on the bank’s customers who could lose their homes or livelihoods.

And, as we saw in 2008, when banks fail, the economy of a country – or even the whole world – can be devastated.

This is an important job.

How do you become a risk officer?

You must be logical, well organised, adaptable and have a high level of intellectual curiosity – with strong principles to do the right thing at all times. In most cases, you’ll have a degree.

You may be lucky and find a place on a graduate training programme. Otherwise you should consider assistant roles in the risk management department of a bank.

Paul Howard is a Risk Management Consultant at Bank ABC and has nearly 30 years’ experience in senior risk management roles.

He says, “You have got to have a lot of energy, to be relentless, consistent and principled. Engaging with the business to support their aspirations safely can be a fine balance on occasions.”

He adds that once you get a role, you should never be afraid to ask questions.

“Everything you do in the workplace is an education. You have to be determined, committed and interested enough to make the most of that.”

Is there a qualification?

Yes. Level 4 Risk and Regulation in Banking (RRB) is a good start and will help you explore:

  • the fundamentals of risk – risk culture, appetite and tolerance
  • how risk is measured and managed
  • how to analyse and model risk
  • the causes and consequences of financial crises and scandals, and
  • how banks are regulated and the risks they currently face.

As you progress in your career, you may consider further study, such as:

How long does it take to qualify?

If you register for RRB, you’ll have 12 months to complete and sit the exam but most students study the qualification over six months. Registration is open all year round and study is online, so you can work at your own pace.

FRMB and MOPR are both studied over six months and assessed by a written exam and piece of coursework respectively.

What's the best thing about this role?

Paul Howard says, “The role involves many things including oversight, challenge, counselling, reviewing, checking, networking, all people skills .

“You have to have to be an arbiter, ambassador and enforcer. In some instances, the skill can be having a good nose for what needs closer examination and what does not. It’s never boring.”

Related content

More about Level 4 Risk and Regulation in Banking (RRB) 

More about Level 6 Financial Risk Management in Banks (FRMB)

More about Level 6 Managing Operational Risk & Governance (MOPR)