Pierre Sonigo FERMA’s Secretary General received the prestigious lifetime achievement award from the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) at its inaugural global risk awards held in London on 28 February.
Pierre Sonigo with Marie Gemma Dequae
Richard Anderson, IRM chairman, said: “The lifetime achievement award is considered by a panel made up of IRM past chairmen. We were unanimous in our decision to make this award to Pierre, whose commitment to the risk management community has been inspirational to us all.”
Pierre has been FERMA Secretary General for nearly nine years. During this time he has been closely involved with FERMA’s work on the EU Environmental Liability Directive and Solvency II, among other projects. In 2012, he also received a special award from Strategic Risk for his outstanding contribution to risk management.
“The three themes of my career,” Pierre says, “have been commitment, education and communication.” He became interested in risk as an undergraduate, because safety issues were an important part of his studies in mining engineering. Then for his military service, compulsory in France at the time, he served as an officer with the Paris Fire Brigade.
The knowledge and practical experience he gained during those two years proved very useful. “This got me interested in fire risks and fire fighting technology, so there was a natural connection with insurance,” he explains. Wanting to work in the United States, he got a job with the mutual insurer FM Global where he was dealing with industrial fire and highly protected risks.
After several years back in France, his first move was to the French industrial group Pechiney as director of risk and insurance. During his 12 years with FM Global, Pierre had met some of the first risk managers who impressed him greatly, so when he was offered a job with aluminium conglomerate Pechiney, later Alcan, he persuaded them to make it a risk management position, rather than insurance buying job, even though neither of them was absolutely sure what it would involve.
“Since then, it has been my real passion,” Pierre says. He served as vice president for environment, health and safety and risk at Pechiney / Alcan until 2005.
During his career he continued with his education, taking an MSC in economics, an MBA in insurance and finally studies at the high level French Institut national des hautes etudes de la securité et de la justice.
In addition to his work with FERMA, Pierre has been closely involved with the risk management community in France, including the merger of two risk management groups which eventually became today’s AMRAE.
“I believe it’s important to have real commitment to risk management and to your national association. This is how you grow. You should continue to educate yourself by taking courses and attending conferences, reading professional magazines and even by giving classes. It’s often teaching others that forces you to structure your thoughts. Finally, I would say to risk managers, don’t be shy about communicating outside your organisation. Internal and external communication are vital to the profession.”