Contradiction as usual: the ordinary life of risk managers between regulation and operation

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Risk management policies and methods are increasingly prescribed by regulators. This fits at least two developments over the past decades. First, public regulators and enforcers increasingly base their efforts on their own risk assessments. Second, public regulators increasingly rely on self-regulation, shifting responsibilities to regulate risks to companies whose operations are risky in the first place. These developments make the role of risk managers all the more important for the effectiveness of regulatory policies that seek to mitigate risks for society. Risk managers have a unique position in between regulators and enforcers on the one side and company operations on the other. This paper reviews how this linking-pin role of risk managers is perceived in organization and regulation literatures. Four different roles of risk managers are distinguished: - Risk managers as technostructure, translating regulatory policies into standards for operations; - Risk managers as ‘street level- bureaucrats’, coping with a variety of regulatory policies on the one hand and operational complexities on the other hand; - Risk managers as boundary spanners or gatekeepers, explaining and framing practices towards regulatory policies; and - Risk managers as agents of regulatory communities, (re)interpreting policies and practices with regulators and operators. All roles assume different motives, means and positions towards the regulator. The results of an empirical study on risk managers in three Dutch sectors provides illustrations of these roles in the day-to-day organizational reality. Of course real-life risk managers are hard to categorize. It will be concluded that risk managers play multiple roles simultaneously. However, preliminary findings also indicate that some roles may mix quite well, while some prove outright contradictory. Further empirical work should focus on the way risk managers combine the various and the consequences for the effectiveness of regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of RegGov2016
Subtitle of host publicationECPR Standing Group on Regulatory Governance Sixth Biennial Conference
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventECPR Standing Group on Regulatory Governance Sixth Biennial Conference: Between Collaboration and Contestation: Regulatory Governance in a Turbulent World - Tilburg, Netherlands
Duration: 6 Jul 20168 Jul 2016


ConferenceECPR Standing Group on Regulatory Governance Sixth Biennial Conference
Abbreviated titleRegGov2016


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