April 3, 2021 / VOLUME NO. 151
Hats Off to the Humble CRO

One of Robert Burns’ best-known, oft-quoted poems derived from an accident. 

The Scottish poet destroyed a mouse nest while ploughing his field. In the poem, “To a Mouse,” he apologizes and laments:  

“Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes of mice and men
Go oft awry.”

The global pandemic underscored how best-laid plans easily come apart when the unexpected occurs. But financial institutions proved themselves adaptable, as we find in Bank Director’s newly-released 2021 Risk Survey, sponsored by Moss Adams LLP.
And the humble chief risk officer often kept the ship afloat.

I interviewed numerous bank leaders as part of my analysis of the survey results for the third quarter issue of Bank Director magazine. In these conversations, it’s not unusual for a communications executive to sit in; they tend to simply listen. 

But in February, two of these executives — in two separate interviews — briefly interrupted just to brag about their CRO. 

One of these executives was Kathy Schoettlin, chief brand and culture officer at Evansville, Indiana-based Old National Bancorp, who praises Chief Risk Officer Scott Evernham’s role in the $23 billion bank’s response to the crisis. “I give Scott so much credit,” she says. 

Banks had to react quickly. Executives point to preparation and flexibility as key attributes that helped them weather these unique times; they also credit their employees.

“[It’s] always a team effort; it takes a whole team,” says Evernham. Consumers have high expectations for service, and employee safety has to be at the forefront. It’s a tough balance, so preparation and testing are critical. However, “you can’t think of every scenario,” he adds. “[A] big part of planning is being able to take different scenarios, and apply responses and reactions to one scenario that might also help you in other[s].”

The scale of the Covid-19 pandemic may have been unanticipated, but it promises to help banks strengthen business continuity plans going forward: 84% of respondents to our Risk Survey say their organization has made — or will make — changes to its business continuity plan based on this experience.   

• Emily McCormick, vice president of research
A benign credit environment grew increasingly uncertain in 2020, and remote work exacerbated cybersecurity concerns. The 2021 Risk Survey explores this dynamic.

“Conducted on the heels of a tumultuous 2020 — with the pandemic, social strife and political change continuing into January — the survey reveals high levels of anxiety across the risk spectrum.”

• Emily McCormick, vice president of research
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