How I came to research (and teach) risk

Posted by PHILIP LINSLEY - Mar 29, 2017

I have been researching in the area of risk for some years now. I was initially drawn to the area because of events such as the demise of Barings Bank (this was some time ago in 1995!) brought about by the rogue trader Nick Leeson and, unsurprisingly, we have witnessed other rogue trading incidents in finance since then. The (not always rational) actions of people are inherently fascinating and can lead to significant and unforeseen risks. This lead me to start reading and thinking about risk. 

Because of my accounting background I started looking at risks as described in company annual reports and began on risk disclosure research. This then lead on to my wanting to investigate risk management processes. But always in the background it is behaviour that keeps me thinking about risk. Hence, I now do a lot of research that is connected to trying to understand why people think certain risks are more important than other risks, why people think certain risk management processes are better than others and what behaviours this results in. The ideas of the anthropologist Mary Douglas have been valuable in helping me understand these risk-related behaviours and I have drawn on her ideas a lot in recent years.

Risk is now an important part of my teaching too. I deliver a module on 'Accounting & Risk' to Masters students. What I try to do is to introduce key risk ideas (such as Mary Douglas, Ulrich Beck, Paul Slovic, …) and to show how these are relevant to understanding different aspects of accounting (such as financial accounting, management accounting, auditing, …).

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