“I am passionate about FERMA,” says Julia Graham the new president. “I’ve had a marvellous career in an industry that matters a great deal to me. I’ve built up knowledge and a network – and I want to use this role to give something back to the profession. I am a European first and a Brit second and I support FERMA’s mandate and its unique position in Europe. What an opportunity!”
After a brief consideration of a career in the military, Julia started her professional career with Yorkshire General that eventually became Zurich and General Accident that became AVIVA moving to Royal Insurance – where she spent over 25 years. Starting as an underwriter, she made a fairly traditional, gradual advance through the business, but it was something of an unusual career path at the time for a woman in the industry.
Having drafted a paper for the board of the Royal about developments in corporate governance at the time of the Cadbury Report in 1992 and how the firm might respond, Julia found herself as the firm’s first head of risk management in 1994 and moved back to the firm’s headquarters in London.
In 1996, Royal merged with Sun Alliance to become Royal Sun Alliance – now RSA – and Julia was appointed the merged firm’s first global head of risk management and compliance at group head office London.
She became secretary to the firm’s risk committee – which operated (ahead of its time) on an enterprise-wide-basis and was a member the company’s gold global crisis management team. This latter role included dealing with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and various other strategic events including several episodes of kidnap, as the firm had a material foot print in South America. She maintained an active role in insurance through overseeing procurement of the group’s own UK and global insurance programmes
In 2004, headhunters approached Julia for a job she might never have considered otherwise: a risk management and insurance role for an emerging international law firm on the move. DLA Piper had big ambition and was growing globally. It realised it needed someone with a risk management background for support for the journey.
Today Julia is the International Director of Risk Management and Insurance for the firm, which globally now has more than 4200 lawyers in 35-plus countries. She manages a team of dedicated risk and insurance professionals operating in Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. She travels a lot; it’s not unusual to hear from her riding the time zones from Singapore, Brussels or Chicago.
Her responsibilities include designing and embedding the firm’s enterprise risk management framework and system. She is involved in all aspects of the firm’s risk management, including membership of the board’s risk committee and firm’s client committee, chair of the global business continuity and gold crisis management team, and risk management training for its lawyers, among others.
Julia has always given her time generously to professional organisations, including FERMA. She has held senior roles in the UK’s Chartered Insurance Institute, of which she’s a fellow, and the Business Continuity Institute of which she is also a fellow. She was a board member and then chairman of Airmic before becoming a board member of FERMA in 2010.
Developing the profession
One of Julia’s most important and continuing interests is the development of the profession, and she sees building international standards and recognition as fundamental to that objective. She believes strongly in FERMA’s certification project and is a member of the certification working group. Delivery of the certification project is one of her main goals in her term as president.
Julia has also been involved in the development of ISO 31000 and 31004 and is the UK head of delegation for the ISO Risk Management Standard Technical Committee and a member of the associated working group for both standards.
Over the next two years, Julia believes, the role of the FERMA board will be one of building on good foundations. “In the past two years, we have invested time in developing the FERMA Vision and I do not propose reinventing what we have.”
In addition to certification, her aims include developing and strengthening the organisation and its permanent staff, focussing on things that member associations cannot easily do for themselves – helping them to grow and support their members – and seeing FERMA continue to take a leading role with the EU.
“We are a natural ‘go to’ place for the Commission to approach on matters of governance, risk, compliance and insurance”. She also wants to see FERMA continue expanding its contacts with other risk management associations and building partnerships with other organisations with an interest in risk.
“Most of these objectives are not new, and while there may be other objectives, I would like to see these through to successful conclusion building on the work already done. If we achieve all of these then I think we will have done a good job as a board.”
Julia sums up her approach to the FERMA presidency: “I like to work hard and be serious, but have fun too. If there was no enjoyment, then this would not be the role for me. I want others to feel the same and travel this journey with us all at FERMA.”