A strong risk management framework makes risk management everyone's responsibility — and key to shared responsibility are strong partnerships across all lines of defense. That's the concept behind Freddie Mac's Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) division's Power of Partnerships (POP) program, an effort designed to spark unity and inspire companywide conviction in the goal of managing risk.
ERM launched POP to help employees learn new skills and strategies for building stronger partnerships and greater influence across the business.
Motivated to develop effective leaders and cultivate communication skills across ERM, Anil Hinduja, Freddie Mac's chief risk officer, invested in POP to help ERM employees improve their interactions with one another and people in other divisions. The program involves learning sessions, peer coaching, cohort check-ins and monthly workshops that focus on different aspects of effective partnerships, such as active listening and logical persuasion.
"POP is about building effective relationships with everyone — it entails working collaboratively and in partnership to ensure safe and sound risk management practices within Freddie Mac," said Anil. "We are changing our relationships by having different conversations. It's about building trust, becoming better listeners, asking better questions and being open to different perspectives."
ERM kicked off POP with a conversation with leaders at Freddie Mac to get a pulse of how the division is perceived in the company and what the future could look like.
"We discovered that there was a clear opportunity for better collaboration and improving the way we interact to create a strong and effective risk culture," said Meredith Marshall, human resources business management director for ERM. "We know our best work comes from being fully present, connecting with others and listening to have creative conversations."
Team members set out with connectivity on their minds. They began meeting with business partners for coffee chats in informal settings to put their training into practice. Many employees cherished the ability to meet and talk with people they wouldn't otherwise interact with on a regular basis. Others appreciated the face-to-face engagement that comes less frequently in the age of digitized workspaces.
"We're all human and we sometimes get caught up in our daily work functions, especially on the technical side. Since much of our work is digital or on paper, we can lose that soft touch if we don't meet," said Jim Hassenbein, commercial real estate credit risk oversight director.
In addition to the coffee chats, POP introduced peer coaching sessions within ERM. More than 50 different groups of four to five people meet monthly to talk about their work commitments. These meetings provide a comfortable space for employees to share personal goals, be held accountable by their peers and receive feedback on their progress.
POP is an important part of a larger effort to augment how ERM identifies and assesses risk across the company by forging and engaging partnerships. One Risk, ERM's mantra for prioritizing collaboration, is the engine that powers effective and efficient risk management practices at Freddie Mac.
"One Risk is about working together toward a shared outcome with trust and reliance on each other," Anil said. "It is an essential ingredient of a strong risk culture. I see Freddie Mac's role as a steward of the U.S. housing finance system and One Risk as a unifier toward that common purpose."
Through One Risk, ERM is laying a foundation of unity to help Freddie Mac build a world-class operating platform and lead the housing industry.
"Ultimately, great partnerships help us to become a stronger, more cohesive company," said Jim. "They put us in the lead."
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