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Operational Risk


Operational risk refers to the potential for loss resulting from failed internal procedures, systems, or people, or from external events. It encompasses a broad range of risks, such as IT failure, fraud, reputational damage, or even natural disasters disrupting business operations. Essentially, it is the risk of business operations not going as planned.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Operational Risk” is: Operational: /ˌɑː.pəˈreɪ.ʃən.əl/Risk: /rɪsk/

Key Takeaways

<ol> <li>Operational Risk represents the risk of loss resulting from inadequate or failed processes, people, or systems. Mistakes can occur through a range of actions or events, such as fraudulent activity, system failures, or inadequate procedures. </li> <li>Operational Risk can be mitigated with good management practices, including developing strong systems and processes, hiring and training the right people, maintaining equipment, and reviewing and improving operations regularly. </li> <li>Measuring and managing Operational Risk is crucial. This includes developing risk indicators, monitoring and calculating risk exposures, setting risk limits, and implementing contingency plans. It is important for organizations to understand this risk to be able to reduce the potential negative impacts on business performance. </li></ol>


Operational risk is a critical concept in business and finance as it represents the potential for failures in a company’s day-to-day operations, which can directly impact its financial stability and reputation. Such risks can arise from various sources, including but not limited to, internal processes, systems, employees, or external events. Mismanagement of operational risk can lead to significant financial losses, regulatory penalties, and damage to a company’s reputation. Thus, understanding and actively managing operational risk is a crucial aspect of maintaining business continuity, ensuring compliance, and fostering sustainable growth.


Operational risk is central to the practice of risk management in businesses as it involves the risks and uncertainties of day-to-day business operations. Oftentimes, these risks cannot be foreseen, but with careful planning and management, their impact can be minimized. Operational risks encompass all internal risks arising from the people, systems, and processes through which a company operates, as well as any external events that may affect these operations. These could include everything from human errors, fraud, system failures to external events such as natural disasters.The primary purpose of understanding and mitigating operational risk is to maintain operational efficiency and ensure business continuity. A robust operational risk management strategy helps businesses prevent financial loss and maintain they credibility, which is particularly crucial for financial institutions. Not only does it reduce potential losses, but it also helps organizations improve their business decision-making mechanisms, enhance their risk mitigation measures, and ultimately achieve their strategic goals. In a broader sense, managing operational risk also plays a vital role in regulatory compliance, underlining its significance in the world of finance and business.


1. Cybersecurity Breach: In the modern digital world, one of the biggest operational risks companies face is a cyber attack. For instance, the 2017 Equifax data breach exposed sensitive personal data of more than 147 million people, leading to massive financial losses, damage to reputation, and various lawsuits.2. Supply Chain Disruptions: These risks can arise when businesses are not able to receive raw materials, manufacture products, or deliver services due to disruptions in their supply chains. A recent example is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, where many businesses globally experienced severe supply chain disruptions due to lockdowns and other containment measures taken.3. Human Error: Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 is a good example of operational risk due to error and system failure. In 2016, due to a design and manufacturing flaw, the device’s battery would overheat and sometimes catch fire. Samsung had to recall around 2.5 million phones, which resulted in billions of dollars in lost sales and compensation, and subsequent damage to the brand’s reputation.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Operational Risk?

Operational risk is the risk of loss resulting from inadequate or failed internal processes, people, and systems, or external events.

Can you provide some examples of Operational Risk?

Examples include system failures, fraud, data breaches, business disruptions due to natural disasters, human errors and procedural failures, among others.

How is Operational Risk measured?

Operational Risk is often measured using operational loss data and risk self-assessments. Techniques such as Key Risk Indicators (KRIs), scenario analysis, and audits can also be used.

What are some methods to manage Operational Risk?

Operational risk can be managed through a combination of prevention, detection, and correction strategies. These include implementation of strong checks and balances, regular audits, staff training, and adequate business resiliency and contingency plans.

How does Operational Risk differ from Financial Risk?

Financial risk is associated with the financial aspects of a business such as market, credit, and liquidity risks. Operational risk, on the other hand, focuses on non-financial risks that could impact a business’s operations.

Why is Operational Risk important?

Operational Risk is important because it can impact a company’s financial performance, reputation, and regulatory compliance. Identifying, assessing, and properly managing operational risks is crucial for a company’s sustainability and growth.

What impact does Operational Risk have on businesses?

Operational Risk can lead to losses through financial penalties, business disruptions, reputational damage, and even business failure.

Who is responsible for managing Operational Risk in a company?

All members of an organization have some level of responsibility for managing operational risk. However, key roles include senior management, risk management teams, compliance officers, and internal/external auditors.

Can Operational Risk be completely eliminated?

No, Operational Risk cannot be completely eliminated as they often arise from unpredictable and uncontrollable external events. However, they can be minimized and managed effectively through robust risk management strategies and controls.

What is the role of technology in managing Operational Risk?

Modern technologies like analytics, AI, and automation can significantly assist in monitoring, detecting, and assessing operational risks. They can help in early detection of potential issues, thereby aiding risk mitigation.

Related Finance Terms

  • Operational Risk Management
  • Risk Assessment
  • Business Process Management
  • Internal Control Systems
  • Operational Loss Events

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