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RMA’s Annual Conference: Practical Ideas for Unusual Times

Risk management is never easy, but the current environment is particularly challenging. It’s a lot to take in. This conference is built to take these big forces and break them down and address them in a practical way.

RMA’s virtual Annual Risk Management Conference takes place November 13-16. Over four days, the conference will address immediate pressures including deposit challenges, concentration risk, and spiking consumer credit risk and fraud, as well as strategy, culture, change management, and the outlook for regulation and the economy. With a theme of “The Evolving World of Risk and Opportunity,” it features 34 sessions, separate tracks for community banks and consumer lending issues, comprehensive programming for mid-tier and large banks, and 99 presenters and panelists.  

Laurie Foster, RMA’s credit program director, led the team that developed the conference programming. In the following Q&A, Foster discusses the event and how the sessions will benefit attendees and the institutions they represent.   

Q: What themes and industry challenges guided you and your team as you put the conference together? 

A: This conference was built for today’s challenges but with an eye toward the future, which, as we know, can arrive more quickly than expected. We are in an unusual and uncertain economy right now as we continue to work through the aftereffects of the pandemic: high inflation and interest rates, empty office space, a mostly tight labor market. And while COVID-era buffers like student loan deferrals and stimulus savings are ending or eroding, the overall economy is surprisingly strong. We just saw that GDP was up 4.5% last quarter. Meanwhile technology is advancing quickly, geopolitical risk is rising, and there is a flurry of regulatory activity and proposals.  

Risk management is never easy, but the current environment is particularly challenging. It’s a lot to take in. This conference is built to take these big forces and break them down and address them in a practical way that will benefit financial service professionals, no matter what role they play in their organization.  

Q: How did you decide on what topics to address and how to address them?  

A: Our industry steering committee—composed of seven leaders from member banks —was instrumental in helping us decide on the topics we could tackle, and how to approach each session in a way that would provide tips and solutions for the challenges they are seeing every day.   

Understandably, there has been a lot of attention on the issues around ongoing weakness in the office real estate market and this year’s bank failures. We are going to have plenty of related programming at the conference. We have sessions that address the concentration risk concerns that were highlighted by the liquidity crisis, including how concentrations in other areas besides loans—like deposits, customers, and third parties—can intensify risk and be extremely damaging. Another session looks at the interplay of liquidity risk, interest rates, and deposits, and the leading practices and regulatory priorities in that area. In terms of office space, we have separate CRE sessions for community banks and larger banks.  

But there is a whole universe of risk out there to be aware of and manage. We had a steady run of disasters linked to climate change this year. Climate is also contributing to the crisis in some property insurance markets, which is making it extremely expensive to get coverage. We will have a session on how that is affecting financial institutions.  

And we are experiencing an exponential increase in fraud, including check fraud, in the past few years. At the conference, an FBI special agent in charge is leading two sessions on fighting fraud and protecting customers. Of our three sessions overall that address fraud, one is geared for mid-tier and large banks, one is for community banks, and a third will focus on consumer portfolios.  

Q: What else is on the community bank track?  

A: In addition to fraud and CRE, there are sessions on stress testing, concentration risk, regulation, emerging risk, and lessons learned from 2023 CECL adopters. Not only will the community bank track sessions be focused on the particular challenges community banks face, the panelists will be from community banks.  

We also have a consumer credit track, which reflects the rising risk in this space despite other economic statistics that look strong. With consumers under inflationary and interest rate pressures, consumer credit risk is spiking. Fitch Ratings just reported that over 6% of subprime auto loans were at least 60 days past due in September—the most since they started tracking that in 1994. 

There are also two sessions sponsored by RMA’s Women in Risk and Assurance effort, including one on boosting your networking skills and effectiveness.   

There are a lot of sessions but we are providing them in a way that is manageable for the busy people who register for our conference. If you can’t watch the sessions at the original telecast time, they are available to watch on demand.  

Q: Who will some of the keynote speakers be, and what will they be talking about? 

A: Like the conference itself, our keynotes will examine the most important risks and opportunities now and on the horizon. In separate sessions, two top Moody’s economists—Mark Zandi and Cristian deRitis—will discuss the U.S. and global economic outlook, trends in consumer behavior, and other information that will help risk managers plan their strategies. Acting U.S. Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu will describe what the OCC will be focusing on in 2024, including efforts related to Basel III and climate risk management at large banks. Attendees will also learn how to promote and instill strategic agility from Katherine Pearson, an inspiring speaker who’s the founder of Enterprise Learning Solutions.  

Other keynote sessions will cover talent issues—including incentive compensation, DEI, and different generational perspectives—and leading practices for reporting to the board.  

We are also excited about a keynote called “Leading Through Change and Disruption.” It’s going to feature leaders from financial institutions, RMA, and BAI—the organization RMA is merging with in January. RMA’s CEO, Nancy Foster, and BAI’s CEO, Debbie Bianucci, are going to talk about the ways the strategic combination of RMA and BAI will make a positive difference in supporting banking careers, financial institutions, and the industry as a whole. 

Q: How do you put an ambitious, wide-ranging conference like this together?  

A: The same way we accomplish many things at RMA, which is mostly by engaging member practitioners with experience and expertise and asking them to share their learnings. Thankfully, our members recognize the value of peer sharing—they have benefited from RMA events themselves!—and are incredibly generous with their time and energy, as you can see by the long and diverse list of volunteer panelists and presenters for the conference. On top of that, we are very grateful to the regulators who will be participating in our panels, and to our sponsors and keynote speakers.  

Register here for RMA’s virtual Annual Risk Management Conference.  


RMA Virtual Annual Risk Management Conference Steering Committee 

Monica Bowe (Chair), EVP, Chief Risk Officer, First Busey Bank 

Shannan Herbert, EVP, Inclusive Credit, Stratyfy 

Mark Huffstetler, Head of Wholesale C&I Credit Risk, Truist 

Crystal Humphreys, Director, Risk Management, American National Bank of Texas 

Tom MacDonald, EVP, Chief Risk Officer, Maine Community Bank 

Julie Nosser, SVP, Director, Credit Risk Administration, Hanock Whitney 

Steven Reynold, EVP, Chief Credit Officer, Commerce Bank