What is Operational Risk? Understanding the Basics

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Operational risk is the possibility of loss resulting from inadequate or failed internal processes, systems, or external events. Businesses often overlook this type of risk, but it can significantly impact them. In this blog post, we’ll explore what operational risk is and how it can affect businesses. We’ll also discuss why organizations need to pay attention to their operational risks so they can adequately protect themselves. So get ready as we uncover the basics of operational risk management.

Types of Operational Risk

The four main types of operational risk are:

  1. People Risk: This type of risk arises from the actions of employees, contractors, or other stakeholders. This risk can be caused by anything from employee fraud to errors in judgment made by individuals involved in the business.
  2. Process Risk: This type of risk is associated with the processes and procedures used to carry out a company’s operations. It can affect organizations in various ways, including lost productivity, decreased efficiency, and even financial loss. 
  3. Technology Risk: This type of risk arises from the failure or malfunction of technology, including hardware, software, and telecommunications systems. 
  4. External Risk: This risk is associated with events and circumstances outside a company’s control. External risks can include natural disasters, economic unrest, political instability, and cyber-attacks.

Examples of Operational Risk

Here are some examples of operational risk:

  • Fraud and Theft: This operational risk involves the intentional or unintentional actions of employees or outsiders who steal company assets or engage in fraudulent activities, such as misappropriating funds or manipulating financial records.
  • Cybersecurity Breaches: With the increasing reliance on digital technologies, operational risks related to cybersecurity breaches have become a growing concern for organizations. These events can lead to unauthorized access, data loss, and reputational damage.
  • Natural Disasters and System Failures: Natural disasters or system failures, such as power outages, hardware failures, or software malfunctions, can cause interruptions or complete shutdowns of business operations, leading to financial losses.
  • Employee Errors and Omissions: Mistakes or omissions by employees, such as incorrect data entry or missed deadlines, can lead to operational failures that result in financial losses.

Identification and Assessment of Operational Risk

Identification and assessment of operational risk is a crucial aspect of risk management for any organization. Various techniques are used to identify risks, including scenario analysis, checklists, and interviews with subject matter experts. Risk assessment and quantification techniques, such as mapping and scoring, help organizations prioritize risks based on their likelihood and potential impact. Key Risk Indicators enable organizations to monitor operational risk exposure continuously by tracking specific metrics or data points that can indicate a potential problem.

Mitigation of Operational Risk

There are several ways to mitigate operational risks, including risk avoidance, risk reduction, risk transfer, and risk acceptance.

  1. Risk avoidance is the act of steering clear of activities that may cause risks. For example, an organization may opt not to invest in a market or sector that is deemed too risky.
  2. Risk reduction involves putting measures in place to minimize the likelihood or impact of a risk. One example is using security measures like firewalls and encryption to reduce the risk of cyberattacks.
  3. Risk transfer entails moving the risk to a third party, usually an insurance company. An organization may purchase insurance to shift the risk of damage resulting from natural disasters or other events to the insurance provider.
  4. Risk acceptance involves acknowledging the risk and deciding not to take any mitigation measures. This approach is used when the cost of mitigation outweighs the potential impact of the risk.

Implementing an Operational Risk Management Framework

Implementing an Operational Risk Management Framework involves a set of processes that helps businesses identify, assess, and manage operational risks. Here are some critical steps involved in this process:

Roles and Responsibilities of Key Stakeholders

Establishing clear roles and responsibilities for key stakeholders involved in operational risk management is essential. It includes assigning responsibilities to individuals or teams for identifying, assessing, and managing operational risks.

Developing and Implementing Policies and Procedures

A practical operational risk management framework involves establishing policies and procedures that guide the organization’s approach to risk management. These policies should be communicated clearly and enforced consistently across the organization.

Establishing an Operational Risk Management Culture

Creating a risk management culture is crucial for the success of the risk management framework. It involves promoting awareness of operational risks and encouraging reporting of potential risks by employees at all levels of the organization.

Measuring and Monitoring Operational Risk

Once the policies and procedures are established, it’s essential to measure and monitor operational risks continuously. It includes identifying key risk indicators and establishing metrics for measuring and reporting risk management activities.

Best Practices for Operational Risk Management

Implementing best practices for operational risk management is crucial for businesses to identify, assess, and manage operational risks effectively. Proactive risk management involves identifying potential risks before they occur, which allows companies to implement preventive measures before they become a problem. Continuous improvement is also essential, as businesses must regularly review and update their risk management frameworks. 

Integration with other risk management programs, such as compliance, financial, and strategic risk management, ensures that organizations have an overall view of their risks. Finally, regular reporting and communication of risk management activities enable businesses to respond quickly to emerging risks and provide stakeholders with the necessary information.

Challenges and Common Pitfalls

Implementing an operational risk management framework can be challenging and come with some common pitfalls. For example, businesses may need more resources to identify, assess, and manage risks appropriately. Another challenge can be inadequate data and information, which can lead to incomplete risk assessments. 

Additionally, an ineffective risk management culture can hinder the framework’s success, and resistance to change can make it difficult to implement. To overcome these challenges, organizations must be committed to establishing a risk management culture, investing in the necessary resources, and being open to change.

The Future of Operational Risk Management

The future of operational risk management lies in adapting to emerging trends and technologies, keeping up with the evolving regulatory landscape, and seeking opportunities for innovation and improvement. Businesses are adopting new technologies like AI and machine learning to enhance their risk management processes, and the focus on compliance and regulatory policies is increasing. By improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their risk management frameworks, businesses can protect themselves from risks and minimize negative impacts on their operations.


In today’s fast-paced business world, operational risk management has become a crucial aspect of running a successful organization. It encompasses an array of factors that can impact a company’s bottom line, reputational damage, and regulatory compliance. 

By partnering with Gables Search, you can rest assured that we will bring skillful professionals to your organization who can handle operational risk management flawlessly. Don’t let operational risk management become a daunting challenge for your business. Trust Gables Search today and be confident in your company’s future success.