Business of taking risks

To the average person, the thought process behind planning major crime is a foreign concept.

What goes through the mind of a perpetrator before they commit an offence is complex, with the exact reasoning often difficult to fathom.

Why am I thinking of doing this? What are the chances of being caught? What is the relative risk against the potential reward I will receive from doing this?

Question upon question will run through an individual’s mind before they commit to their actions, with the real results only coming to light once the crime has been committed.

Step into the business world and the thought process behind an individual contemplating major business risk is incredibly similar.

As the current economic climate in the north-east continues, companies are being forced into making major decisions which could have an impact on the front line; from staff welfare through to the efficiency of their own processes and procedures. The consequences of poorly made decisions could be disastrous.

Alan Smith

It’s this comparison between planning major criminal risk with major business risk that will be one of the main focuses of a conference to be held at The Ardoe House Hotel in Aberdeen on Thursday, May 26.

The event is being organised by Aberdeen-based Matrix Risk Control and is the brainchild of ex-Grampian Police senior detectives Mhorvan Sherret and Alan Smith.

Entitled Managing Risk, The Matrix Way, the conference aims to shine a spotlight on managing business risk, with speakers exploring the practicalities of doing so effectively.

Mr Smith, co-founding director of Matrix Risk Control, said: “Managing business risk has never been more important in today’s environment and we wanted to establish an event to help shine a spotlight into what is an incredibly important area that businesses from all sectors should take a vested interest in.

“We’ve attracted an informative range of speakers who promise to use their unique experiences to ask questions and showcase a different perspective to business risk and how it can be best managed.

“We’ll welcome key businessmen such as the chairman of Scottish Enterprise Bob Keiller; the CEO of Brisbane and London-based MPC Group John Smith; as well as Colin Maclachlan, star of Channel Four’s reality TV drama SAS: Who Dares Wins and who himself is a risk management consultant.

“The conference will also include an appearance by Bjorn Magne and Espen Fadnes, who combine being professional risk managers with high-octane extreme sport stunts. There really will be something for everyone.

“In leaner times, cutting costs can often be the kneejerk reaction that people turn to, but we want to ensure that businesses who do this are doing so with the appropriate assurances in place and that their actions are truly in the best interests of everyone associated with their company.”

Formed by Mr Smith and his colleague Ms Sherret in 2009, Matrix Risk Control specialises in all aspects of incident investigation, providing hands-on support, analysis and training aimed at improving performance, heightening security and increasing efficiency.  The company is built on their experience, with both previously holding senior roles within Grampian Police.  

It’s this insight and experience of major crime in 30 years with the force that has shaped Mr Smith’s own presentation at the conference: Risk Assessing the Perfect Murder. This may seem like an unusual starting point for an industry conference on business risk but it’s his time working on some of Scotland’s most high-profile cases that has helped him come to compare the process behind criminal risk with that behind business risk.

For five years from 1998, Mr Smith was a detective superintendent working on the Arlene Fraser missing person’s case which subsequently became a murder investigation before culminating in the imprisonment of her husband Nat Fraser in 2003 and again after appeal in 2012.

Consuming the best part of his life for the five-year period, the investigation, which still remains the largest of its kind undertaken by Grampian Police, gave him a first-hand insight into the thought process behind committing a pre-meditated murder.

He found that there wasn’t one specific mistake that caused Nat Fraser’s web of lies to begin to collapse around him. It was a culmination of a number of errors that allowed Mr Smith and his team to eventually work out exactly what had happened and why.

Fast-forward a number of years and it’s a similar scenario that is found at the root of all major incidents investigated by Matrix. In his experience, there’s rarely one defining decision that causes an incident to occur; it’s typically a series of minor errors both individually and organisationally that come together to lead to what are often catastrophic consequences.

Mr Smith said: “The Arlene Fraser case remains one of Scotland’s most high-profile and challenging murder inquiries ever to have taken place. In a nutshell, one man truly thought he had planned and executed the perfect murder, and he very nearly did apart from a series of minor errors that eventually led to his downfall.

“In my role at Matrix, I find a very similar pattern of events in nearly every major investigation we are involved with. Whether it is finding the reasons why a piece of equipment has failed, or it’s the contributing factors behind an environmental issue such as an oil spill, it’s very rare that it is one major decision that has caused the incident to occur.

“This is really the entire premise of the conference. A tough economic climate fosters an appetite for risk to be increased at a corporate level. We want to ensure that people understand that although the price of a barrel of oil has dropped, the price of a life will always be the same.

“Good decision making is at the heart of prevention and the sooner more people realise the potential consequence of their actions, the better it is for the industry as a whole.”


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