The French city of Versailles, 20 km outside Paris, has two palaces: the vast Royal Palace with its famous 75m mirrored ballroom, and on its doorstep, the Palais des Congrès, a more recent and modest establishment.

In October 1789, angry crowds forced the French royal family to flee their palace at the start of the French revolution. It was different in October 2012, when more than 300 risk and insurance managers met at the Palais des Congrès for the 2012 FERMA Seminar.

Versailles was welcoming, the autumn sun was shining and the discussions were constructive. Yet, clearly sweeping changes are taking place in the world. The financial and economic crisis is now into its fifth year and will clearly continue for some time. Companies are rethinking their business models, strategies and operations in response to this difficult situation.

The theme of the conference was Living and working in a riskier world. The risk landscape is changing rapidly and with great intensity, the President of FERMA Jorge Luzzi said as he opened the seminar and presented the results of the 2012 FERMA Benchmarking Survey.

One of the principal findings of the survey, said Jorge, is that today the board and the executive committee want to know more about the risks and the risk management of the business than ever before. The results also presented one of the best possible arguments why investment in risk management is not a luxury in even economically difficult times, he added.

The responses to the survey demonstrated a clear link between risk management and business performance over a five year period. There was a significant difference between the financial performance of companies with advanced risk management and those whose practices were not yet mature.

Jorge told the seminar: “Taken together, these findings suggest that we are in our best ever position to support our companies in achieving long term growth. Risk managers and the entire company can work together during periods of crisis and find opportunities.”