Risk Management Articles

Fostering Risk Awareness in Your Local Government

When Colin Fisher joined the City of Penticton (the “City”) as its Controller in 2011, he brought with him an understanding of risk management gained in a very different field – the financial services industry. He had worked in credit unions for 22 years, largely in the position of controller or chief financial officer, and had taken on the role of risk management officer throughout that time.

Now the City’s Chief Financial Officer, Colin shares the steps he took to create a risk management policy for the City. 

Building a Culture of Risk Awareness

After joining the City, it became apparent to Colin that it was important to build a culture of risk awareness across the organization. While risk management was already practiced at the City in an informal way, Colin saw the value in developing a risk management policy so that risk awareness would be consistent across departments. His goal was for everyone at the City, from Councillors to managers to staff, to make decisions with a risk management mindset.

Creating a Risk Management Committee

In pursuing this goal, Colin realized his first step was to get people interested in and talking about risk management. He understood that “buy in” was necessary before a risk management policy would be developed. He needed help with this goal, so he set to work assembling a risk management committee. The committee was composed of key managers throughout the City. This included the Information Technology Manager, the Acting Manager of Facilities, the Safety Coordinator, the Manager of Bylaws, the Supervisor of Public Works and the Logistics Manager. Colin also invited a member of City Council to sit on the committee.

Seeking Guidance from the MIABC

Realizing he needed a better understanding of risk management from a local government perspective, Colin attended the MIABC’s Risk Management Conference in Vancouver, using funds from the MIABC’s Risk Management Grant. Particularly relevant to Colin’s work was a workshop led by Megan Chorlton, the MIABC’s Director of Member Services, on how to draft risk management plans and policies.

Drafting a Risk Management Policy

Since then, Colin has set to work drafting the risk management policy. This has been no small task. The policy touches many areas, including reputation, facility, financial, legal, policy and information technology risk. In addition to Chorlton’s workshop, Colin obtained guidance from the risk management policies in place at other local governments.

Creating a Living Document

The risk management policy is now in draft form and the next step will be obtaining the approval of the Chief Administrative Officer and then City Council. Even after it is adopted, Colin expects it will be a living document that is revisited continuously over time. He hopes the policy will provide guidance to City managers and staff in making everyday decisions, both large and small.

About Colin Fisher

At the end of this year, Colin will be retiring from the City. This will mark the conclusion of a 37-year career in accounting and financial services. A native of British Columbia, Colin pursued his postsecondary education at the University of Victoria, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics in 1979. He went on to work in the family business, then entered the credit union system in 1989. In 1993, he obtained his Certified General Accountant (CGA) designation. He worked for a number of credit unions, always in the position of controller. He took on a new challenge in 2011 when he entered the field of local government as the City of Penticton’s Controller. Two years later, he was appointed Chief Financial Officer.

Colin reports that it was a difficult decision to leave the City and he will miss the “wonderful group of people” he works with. That said, he and his wife, Hayley, who have two universityaged children, decided they were ready to start their retirement while they could still enjoy their favorite activities. They look forward to filling their time with motorcycling, travelling and cross-country skiing. 

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