From police detective to director of a company that employs over 56,000 people, Jason Breton reflects on how completing a risk management masters enabled him to change careers, and carve out a valuable niche navigating and advising on risk.
As a Detective Chief Inspector with NSW Police for 24 years, Jason Breton was used to managing all kinds of risks. But, when the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit in 2007, Jason could see that strategic risk management was an emerging field. Businesses were looking for guidance around managing uncertainty, and achieving growth in an increasingly competitive environment.
Jason handed in his notice with the police force and embarked on a career as a risk consultant. However, he soon recognised he needed to learn more about applying contemporary risk management techniques if he wanted to make it a viable, long-term career path. This is how he ended up at UNSW Business School completing a risk management masters, graduating in 2012.
Having a formal risk management qualification allowed my consultancy [at the time] to develop into non-traditional risk areas, like strategic decision making, data analysis, and schedule and program risk analysis.
Director Of Support Services,
The value of risk management for businesses
“Having a formal risk management qualification allowed my consultancy [at the time] to develop into non-traditional risk areas, like strategic decision making, data analysis, and schedule and program risk analysis,” says Jason.
“It provided me with the information to engage with boards and the C-Suite, and demonstrate how risk equals uncertainty, and that by treating uncertainty with transparency they could make better decisions.”
Why risk management professionals are in demand
Financial markets are interdependent and interconnected and, as a result, professionals who can reduce the amount of risk in the markets, or the risk associated with the companies they are working for, are in high demand.
Jason is now the Director of Support Services at Downer, an ASX-listed company that provides transport, mining, communications, rail, engineering, construction and maintenance services throughout the world. He’s been with Downer, in a senior risk role, since 2013.
“The great advantage of the risk management masters is in its universal application to a global marketplace and across every industry – whether that’s NGO, government, corporate or otherwise,” he says.
“Students can literally hit the ground running and create real value for prospective employers.”
Jason says understanding the value of managing uncertainty is a key component of his career success since graduating.
“I learnt more and now know more about uncertainty as it relates to risk,” he says.
“Managing risk is practical, real and very valuable to employers who understand this.”
Can risk managers prevent the next GFC?
Navigating potential risk that may lead to the collapse of financial systems, and being aware of investment strategies (which could reduce risk, but also maximise return on investment for shareholders) are key components of risk management.
“We are seeing more connected national and international markets, and because of that, we are seeing more risk,” says Fariborz Moshirian, Professor of Finance and Director of the Institute of Global Finance at UNSW Business School.
“Companies are looking for people who know how to navigate risk and mitigate the impact of the risk.”
According to Fariborz, not enough has been done since the GFC.
“The underlying causes of the recent GFC haven’t been addressed, so global banks are still at high risk, as is the stock market,” he says.
“Given the current global financial system, it’s really a question of when the next GFC will happen and the magnitude of the crisis. Being an expert in risk management means you are exposed to some of the tools that you can apply to mitigate a future national, regional or global financial crisis.”