Thursday, June 28, 2012

" deal with nuance and complexity and to comment on things others are ignoring."

When I let former Citigroup risk executive Howard Stein, a colleague in the risk thought leadership arena, know that I was also going to be writing for The Risk Universe, a new British digital magazine, he noted that he too "now want(s) to offer opinions and to deal with nuance and complexity and to comment on things others are ignoring."

I could not have said it better myself.

So I've negotiated my first piece, due late next week, will be a combination book review/essay about Kirsten Grind's The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual--The Biggest Bank Failure in American History.

It's been three years, and that's probably enough time and perspective for me to re-frame Grind's excellent narrative -- as well as Kerry Killinger's letter about the book to friends and family -- into the four operational risk failure areas that I write and teach about -- people, process, systems and/or external events.  All are at play in the Washington Mutual story.  All will be discussed in terms of my own understanding and Grind's book.

I think about how long I have been writing on risk issues, and realize this could be one of my most personal and consequential pieces.  And the platform in the seventh issue of The Risk Universe seems just right.  For those who keep asking and don't follow me on Facebook, I have a lot of other reading to do in order to clear my head.  In addition to Grind's book, I'm reading The End of Wall Street by Roger Lowenstein (recommended by Bill Longbrake), as well as Last Man Standing by Duff McDonald, Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin, and House of Cards by William D. Cohan.  And I'm thumbing back through Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and Shakespeare's major tragedies.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 25, 2012


We've had a rash of media stories on computer passwords recently.  I wrote a bit about the issue when it was discovered that a large number of LinkedIn passwords (lightly encrypted) had been posted on the web.  Like many of you, I realized that I had used my LinkedIn password for other secure websites as well.  The result was that I went through and changed all my passwords that morning.

I do not use an electronic password manager -- though I plan to do some research on how safe such solutions are -- nor do I have sticky notes sitting on my computer to remind me of an assortment of passwords.  I try to pick passwords that I can easily remember.  I've heard the suggestion that one can take a phrase or even the name of a song and use the first letter of each word and then add some numbers -- an example would be "the will is greater than the skill 12"  which would be "twigtts12."  (Thanks to Muhammad Ali for the quote.)

The challenge, of course, is that you need to have a password for any number of websites.  Perhaps it's worth it to classify the sites in terms of risk of exposure and assign passwords accordingly.  Having your Facebook or Twitter site hacked is hardly the same as having a transactional (as in money) website's password stolen.

Whatever you do, do not use the same password for all your sites.  Just think what a hacker could get if your LinkedIn password were the same, for instance, as your online banking password.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Managing your time

Juggling multiple priorities at work and home can lead to burnout.  Here's an article that discusses managing the risks of being overly busy.

It's the first day of summer.  Maybe the article can offer you some tips on how to avoid burnout by finding a better balance work and home life.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Traveling light

For those of us who like to do the research before we go, there's an innovation worth noting.

Let's hear it for truly mobile devices with screens large enough to read maps and references without  carrying travel books and maps when we are on the road.  That's my own iPad2 set to Lonely Planet, only one of many useful sites you can refer to in the midst of your journey to plan day trips or get more information on sites you are visiting -- whether it's a lively urban city like New York, or China's Silk Road.  Other online favorites include anything at all from Rick Steves.  (I must confess that, in line with advice that came from a respected professional, I used to remove relevant sections of Rick's thick books so that I did not have to carry the whole book with me when in other countries.)

If you're traveling in another country, it's also worth it always to mark the U.S. State Department sites designed to assist travelers, in order to understand if there are risks you need to take into account.

Wherever you are going, travel light.  And travel safe.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hotel room hackers

Every time you turn around there's another risk that perhaps you had not thought of.  In reading Microsoft's summer security newsletter, I came across this advice for those who use computers while on the road, specifically in hotel rooms.

Who would have thought that hackers would have looked at hotel networks as a way to steal information?  Nevertheless, it's a reminder to follow advice in my book -- be sure to install all security patches sent out by manufacturers like Microsoft, as well as update other security software you might run from companies like Trend Micro or Symantec.