A Revelation

I have written about it before, and I am sure I will write about it again.

… how financial risks that devastate firms aren’t random occurrences, as if the gods on Olympus toss dice to determine a company’s fate.

No. There are causes. And these are usually traceable to human frailties.

Most often, the specific human frailty is hubris.

Think Orange County, Enron, Bernie Madoff or MF Global.

But greed comes in a close second, as in Peregrine Financial, the Libor fixing scandal or IndyMac.

Other human frailties can play a role, including foolishness, cowardice, laziness and misplaced loyalty.

I was contemplating this, and it occurred to me that I might find a better word than “human frailty” to describe what I had in mind.

I try to be precise in my choice of words, so I looked up “frailty” in the Oxford English Dictionary.

What I found, following the definition, was a most wonderful quote the editors had included to illustrate usage:

All drama begins with human frailty.

Wow! That’s good.

I wanted to know who came up with this gem, but the dictionary didn’t say. I googled the phrase but found no hint as to the author.

Returning to the quote, I read it again:

All drama begins with human frailty.

Then it hit me:

“Drama” is a synonym for “risk.”

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4 Responses to A Revelation

  1. Tjemme November 20, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    How about: ‘The seven cardinal sins are ‘deadly’ because of the downside risks they entail .. ‘ :-)

    • Glyn Holton November 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      In my experience, one of the most effective tools a risk manager can have is a good moral compass.

  2. Patrick November 21, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    It DOES get at the human component in the equation.
    So then Drama * Variance, or does variance create drama?

    I’m glad a few of us continue to ponder the risk definition.
    I find it like love…we all know what it is, but none of us can operationally define it.

    Thanks,

    Patrick

    • Glyn Holton November 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

      What I really like about “drama” as a descriptor is the fact that it has no quantitative connotations whatsoever. Working in financial risk management, we are so used to attaching probabilities to “risks”. But no one would ever attach probabilities to “drama”. It is just semantics, but “drama” demands a different perspective–more human; more qualitative.

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