Our leadership team member, Nora Szabo led a panel with Jennifer Geary, Manjira Sen-Gosain and Balbir Bakhshi for this webinar session on Navigating the role of a CRO, and gained insight on:

  • Career path to CRO
  • Hiring and retaining female talent
  • How to create, grow and retain the right risk team
  • What are the emerging risks CROs are focused on?
  • How are risk and organisational strategy linked in practice?

Event Takeaways

Nora Szabo form the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) and member of the WiRC Leadership Team interviewed Balbir Bakshi, CRO of the LSEG and Jennifer Geary, author of “How to be a CRO” and ex CRO.

The Route to CRO

“We’re seeing that risk is becoming a career path in itself” said Jennifer Geary.

Jennifer’s role to a CRO was through Audit. Balbir Bakshi, on the other hand started his career wanting to be trader but ending up in risk stating one of the reasons he likes risk is that “.. no two days are the same”.

Risk is somewhere you can see the end to end process, get involved in strategic matters that impact the business and can help to drive the business forward. Whilst a traders risk path may be structured and focus on that one element itself, the route to CRO may come through working across different disciplines of risk or moving from the front office into risk. Understanding the commercial decisions the business makes and how the business operates are critical to be a trusted partner as a CRO.

Does risk create barriers for the business?

Risk is sometimes misinterpreted as a function and that creates barriers. Balbir explained there are risk functions that run an audit style check the box approach in the 2nd line with  a clear division of 1st and 2nd line with a very formulaic approach which doesn’t work well because those risk management departments have less authority, less of a voice and less impact. “What makes a really successful risk management function is when the 2nd line become a trusted advisor, a trusted partner and only then do you get the respect and transparency and become an informal sounding board before things even become a proposal” Balbir explained how taking a commercial view is important to getting a seat at the table and being listened to.

Jenifer Geary added an analogy she picked up along her career “risk management should not be considered the brakes of an organisation; it’s the clutch or the accelerator” which provides control and allows the organisation to move forward.

Balbir shared the LSEG tag line for risk as “enabling safe growth”. Adding risk management is about how can we grow safely? It is not about saying no but providing alternatives for safe growth.

Risk starts with strategy

Both Balbir and Jennifer explained the importance of risk management being tied to the business strategy. Risk and strategy are interlinked and one needs to understand what the organisations USP is, where it’s going, how it’s growing. Setting the risk appetite in line with strategy is fundamental, as is understanding a 0% risk tolerance is not realistic. Scenarios need to be developed to understand the impact on strategy and then the impact on the risk appetite. If you can do this, you can make sound business decisions and manage risk.

Hiring and retaining talent & Diversity 

Balbir is a huge advocate for diversity and explained strategies he has implemented to ensure that he builds and retains diverse teams. Balbir explained how there is a good pipeline of female candidates at the junior end but that it tails off and sees mentoring and sponsorship as a key driver stating that having  “someone who can be your champion when you’re not in the room” is a key driver for helping to retain talent and for one’s own career development.

Sponsoring returners for work programs; bringing senior front office staff for example into risk roles or people who have worked in complimentary roles and offering flexible work environment is key. Jennifer calls this a “hygiene factor”. Stating “if you think you need people in 5 days a week you won’t get a diverse slate”. There is a much better chance of building a diverse workforce “if you have more modern hybrid work practices”.

Embedding requirements for diversity into HR processes e.g. only using recruiters that walk the talk and provide diverse candidate slates and improving approaches to promotion internally are other drivers for developing diverse teams.

Talking about targets for more females at the top of an organisation and more diverse candidates Balbir explains that “targets do focus the mind” but there is a love hate relationship with targets. It is “not just about meeting a number, …numbers do not make [diversity] sustainable but may promote a change in behaviour and prompt the focus that may be considered more optional or further form the mind in the past”.

Promoting mobility, keeping learning paths open and manager training are all required. For example managers need to be able to read their staff. Just listening to the loudest voice in the room who says they can do an advertised job and would like to be considered may exclude candidates who implicitly think they are going to be considered for the role because they perform well, have had good performance reviews but have not explicitly said aloud to their boss they want that role.

Nora added that WiRC is demystifying what we do in risk roles through group mentoring sessions that help people in related areas to understand what other parts of the organisation do.

Growing a risk team

To build and grow a risk team understanding the capabilities required, asking how do you fill those and build a complimentary team of people who think differently and approach things from a different perspective is key. This is where diversity of background, gender etc. really helps at the leadership level. Balbir explains that the “…last thing you want is group think” because you need to be able to assess: What are the biggest risks coming up in the future that’s going to impact us? If you have different opinions and diverse candidates from the business and specialist risk managers then you get independent thinking, stress testing and scenarios becoming realistic and fruitful. 

The Top risks on the mind of a CRO

  • Since Q2 last 2021 Geopolitical risk with the Russia, Ukraine war and the geopolitical instability with China is even more pronounced now. The US elections and European dynamics are additional factors to consider.
  • A constant is the cyber landscape
  • ESG and sustainability are increasingly important e.g. Where is your supply chain? Are your suppliers near coastlines at threat of flooding? As an insurer how will you insure these types of properties? Is what your organisation does a force for good for the world? That will be a fundamental question.
  • Crowded trades – where everyone is one directional e.g. crypto
  • Risk of data compromise, risk of outsourcing 3rd party 4th party risks.
  • Market risk – interest rates and inflation and the people landscape has changed substantially

To manage much of this Jennifer explains the need to be looking outside and anticipating the next thing that can go wrong using data and technology to connect risks, using more intelligence and a taking forward looking inquisitive views.

What do you enjoy the most in a CRO role? “You get to see everything … in an evolving area” and help to manage risk which is gratifying… states Jennifer Geary to end the session.

Written by Rupal Patel, WiRC Founder and Head of Data Insights & Risk Intelligence at Acin

Chair & Speakers

Nora Szabo

Leadership team, WiRC; Director Risk Insights at LSEG. Nora has a background in Derivatives and Operational / Non-Financial Risk Management in Investment banks and currently manages Risk Insights for LSEG.


Jennifer Geary

Jennifer Geary is an author, COO and CRO with over 25 years’ experience in finance, technology, risk and legal, across diverse industries from financial services to not-for-profit. Jennifer qualified as a Chartered Accountant in Ireland and spent two years in New York before settling in London. She has worked for large banks such as Barclays and Santander, several fintechs and was COO of Save the Children UK. She has obtained qualifications in PRINCE 2, CISA and CISSP and most recently, in Sustainable Finance and ESG Investing with NYU Stern. She is also a speaker and mentor to Irish companies looking to scale internationally.


Manjira Sen-Gosain

Manjira Sen-Gosain joined Citi as the UK Chief Risk Officer (CRO) in January 2022. Manjira leads the UK CRO team which is responsible for the oversight and risk management of Citi’s UK legal entities, including Citigroup Global Markets Limited (CGML), Citibank UK Limited, Citibank N.A. London and Citibank Europe PLC London. She works in close partnership with the regional and global risk teams to set and maintain risk appetite, oversee risk identification and second line challenge, and manage key regulatory risk deliverables and projects for the UK legal entities. Additionally, Manjira serves as a core member of the UK Executive Committee and UK management team, as well as the EMEA Risk Senior Leadership Team. Manjira brings over 20 years of experience in both financial and non-financial risk management and joins us from HSBC where she was the Regional CRO for Wholesale Banking, Markets & Securities Services and the Regional Head of Risk Strategy. Previous roles include Chief of Staff / Head of Risk Strategy to the HSBC Bank PLC CRO where her responsibilities included operational risk management, risk appetite, stress testing, model risk and risk governance, and control across the region. Prior to that, as Head of Wholesale Credit, Market Risk and Risk Strategy for HSBC Private Bank, she oversaw the core risk management for the private bank’s 15+ locations globally.


Balbir Bakhshi

Balbir Bakhshi joined London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) in January 2021 as Group Chief Risk Officer and member of the Executive Committee. Balbir is also a member of the Boards of London Clearing House Ltd, London Clearing House S.A and Tradeweb LLC. Prior to joining LSEG, Balbir was Group Head of Non-Financial Risk Management and member of the Risk Leadership Team at Deutsche Bank. He was instrumental in the development and implementation of a major remediation program to develop best in class Non-Financial Risk management capabilities at Deutsche Bank. Balbir also served on the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bank Luxembourg S.A. and was Chair of its Risk Committee. Balbir spent over 21 years at Credit Suisse in a number of senior risk management roles. He held positions including, Global Head of Operational Risk Management, UK Investment Banking Chief Risk Officer and Head of Market Risk during that tenure.

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