What is Risk? – Risk Management Terminology

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Definition of Risk

Risk, in risk management terms, refers to the potential for an unexpected, unfavorable outcome due to specific events or actions. It’s essentially the combination of the likelihood of an event occurring and the impact it would have if it did occur.

Components of Risk

Breaking down risk, we find two main components:

  • Probability: The chance or likelihood that a specific event will happen.
  • Impact: The consequences or outcomes that result from that event.

Types of Risk

Risks come in many flavors:

  • Operational Risk: Risks related to day-to-day operations of an organization.
  • Financial Risk: Exposure to money-related losses.
  • Strategic Risk: Risks affecting the long-term goals and strategies.
  • Reputational Risk: Potential damage to an organization’s reputation.

Risk Assessment

One of the key elements in risk management:

  • Identification: Pinpointing potential risks.
  • Evaluation: Analyzing the likelihood and impact of each risk.
  • Prioritization: Ranking risks based on their potential impact and probability.

Risk Response

Once assessed, organizations decide how to approach risks:

  • Avoidance: Steering clear of the risk entirely.
  • Mitigation: Implementing measures to reduce the impact or probability.
  • Transfer: Shifting the risk responsibility to a third party (e.g., insurance).
  • Acceptance: Recognizing the risk and opting to deal with the consequences if it materializes.

Continuous Monitoring

Risks are dynamic, not static:

  • Review: Regularly going back and analyzing if and how risks have changed.
  • Updates: Adjusting risk assessments and responses based on new information or changes in the environment.

Risk Appetite and Tolerance

Every organization has a different perspective:

  • Risk Appetite: The amount and type of risk an organization is willing to pursue or take on.
  • Risk Tolerance: The degree of variability an organization is willing to withstand in achieving its objectives.


Understanding risk is foundational to risk management. It’s about recognizing potential threats, evaluating their potential impacts, and then deciding on the best approach to handle them. An organization’s approach to risk is often shaped by its risk appetite, objectives, and the environment in which it operates.

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