inside
The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand

Company

"Every Employee Is a Risk Manager"

inside interview with Hagen Repke, Head of Group Risk Management.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Wolfsburg plant was full of posters designed to raise awareness of the subject of risk management by emphasizing that every employee is a risk manager. But what does risk management mean exactly? inside caught up with Hagen Repke (48), Head of Group Risk Management, to find out more.

Mr. Repke, what exactly is meant by risk management?
Quite simply, the word “risk” represents potentially negative developments that may arise in the future. Whenever we make decisions, whether that’s in our personal or professional lives, there is almost always a degree of uncertainty. We can’t predict the future, after all. It’s kind of like a weather report – the further ahead we try to look, the more uncertain the forecast. A thunderstorm at the weekend is a risk if, for example, a youth soccer team is scheduled to play. As for “management,” this is about taking a proactive and systematic approach to handling such risks. This means weighing up the weather risk and postponing the game if playing could pose a potential health risk.

So what does this mean for Volkswagen?
For Volkswagen, risk management is about preparing for potential future developments that may result in us not achieving our targets for the company as a whole or for our division. This includes detecting risks early, evaluating them realistically, and ultimately taking appropriate measures to avert or at least limit their impact. If we can achieve consistent success in this area, then the management of risks will become a real factor for  success at Volkswagen.

Could you give some examples of risks in the workplace?
There are examples to be found in all areas of the business, and there is often no direct correlation between these risks and our business processes. 
Take the subject of Brexit, for example. The planned departure of 
the United Kingdom from the EU is presenting considerable risks in some cases for virtually all brands within the Volkswagen Group. Potential customs duties, for example, could increase our costs significantly. Similarly, a drop in the value of the pound against the euro could lead to our vehicles becoming more expensive for the UK market. So to prepare for scenarios such as these, the Risk Management Group is coordinating 
an inter-brand, cross-divisional team of experts to determine the 
impact on the Group and 
consider what countermeasures may be appropriate. 

An illustration behind the risk management campaign highlights that every employee is a risk manager. Ultimately, every single person is an expert within their own field and best placed to know where risks may be lying in wait.      

Could you also list some examples of risks encountered on an average day?
Well consider the launch of a new vehicle. A potential risk here could involve missing the SOP deadline, which is when production is supposed to begin. This might be caused by supply bottlenecks with our suppliers, for example, or because longer development phases have been scheduled than the development process allows. Established processes are already in place to reduce the impact of most risks. Nevertheless, it is still important to stay abreast of new developments so that appropriate measures can be taken in good time.

Risk Management falls under the umbrella of the Integrity and Legal Affairs division. What exactly does risk management have to do with integrity?
Together with the topics of integrity, compliance, and culture, we are pursuing the same objective as part of the “Together4Integrity” (T4I) initiative, which is to act as a role model for all things relating to integrity and compliance. In terms of risk management, this means that we all share the same convictions and are acutely aware of potential risks. It is essential to not only see the risks, but also address them and find solutions. This calls for open and honest channels of communication with everyone on an equal footing. A risk is neither a mistake nor a problem. What is a mistake, how­ever, is failing to take risks seriously or keeping them a secret. This is when they do become a problem.

You have mentioned that all employees should be aware of potential risks. But the topic is called risk “management.” Shouldn’t this then be a matter for managers to deal with?
Quite the opposite! Risk management is far too important to simply leave it to the managers. Everyone is a risk manager, as everyone is an expert within their own field. This makes them best placed to know not only where risks may be lying in wait, but also how to assess them.

So what can I be doing as an everyday employee?
You need to have your “risk goggles” 
on while you’re going about your work! If you happen to identify a risk, please be willing to talk about it openly. Remain firm even if it involves unpleasant news. In the first instance, employees should discuss risks with their supervisors and take the appropriate countermeasures themselves. If this is not enough, they should then make the risks transparent and notify the next level of management. It goes without saying that we in the Group Risk Management division are also on hand to offer support.

Risk management

Group Risk Management is a branch within the management division for Integrity and Legal Affairs and currently has 
33 employees. Risk Management is responsible for implementing standards and processes to ensure that risks are assessed and managed consistently across the Group. This also includes providing advice and support to all employees involved in the processes along 
with their managers.


Employees with 
questions relating to risk management can email rms-ics@volkswagen.de. 
Alternatively, they can visit the Group Connect site at https://soco.volkswagen.com/sbc/community/group-risk-management.