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  Issue 17 | Archive November 2013

MFE Holds a Joint Seminar with the CFA Society

On 20 September 2013, RMI¡¯s MFE students and alumni had the pleasure of listening to Mr. Nik Gowing at a joint event with the CFA Society of Singapore on the topic ¡°Skyful of Lies and Black Swans: Who Controls Shifting Information Power in Crises¡±. This talk was an extension of Mr. Gowing¡¯s peer-reviewed study at Oxford University. It predicts and identifies the new vulnerability, fragility and brittleness of institutional power in the new all-pervasive public information space, such as social media platforms.

Mr. Gowing argued that "the public information space has been turned on its head. But few at the highest levels of power are willing to realize that its new capacity to disrupt threatens their reputation or brand. There is a reluctance to learn from the destabilizing experiences of others in multiple fields and locations.¡± The hour-long talk was juxtaposed with examples from his own observation as an international journalist. The Arab Spring, the Qantas flight 32 engine incident, British Chancellor George Osborne¡¯s first-class train rides were cited as anecdotal evidence of how those in power failed to recognize the impact of almost instant publicity and manage the crisis as it unfolded. Closer to home, the 2011 Singapore General Election was highlighted as an example about how social media platforms assisted in one way or another in the outcome.

Mr. Lutfey Siddiqi, RMI Adjunct Professor and board member of CFA Society of Singapore commented, “Nik shared with us the benefit of his perspective as a news professional who deals with unfolding crises in real-time". He found two lessons were clear, “Firstly, building capabilities for resilience against unknown risks is as important as the management of known risks, and, it is now virtually impossible to control information in the midst of risk events.” He felt that organizations and leaders should build expertise on how to communicate and ‘stay ahead’ of information relayed at a retail level by citizens with mobile phones.

Mr. Gowing has been a BBC World New channel presenter since 1996 and was awarded an honorary degree by University of Exeter in 2012 for both his cutting-edge study and distinguished career in international journalism.

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Published quarterly by Risk Management Institute, NUS
Editor: Ivy Wang (rmiwy@nus.edu.sg)