My Journey with IRMSA
Walking into the meeting room to present to Illinois State University professors, Risk Management and Insurance professionals, and graduate students from Ghana, I knew that if I was selected to participate in this program it would be a great opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience new things. Little did I know, this internship program would end up being a massive opportunity filled of so much information and memories that I will always carry with me. I spent the first part of my summer reading up on information about insurance and risk management in order to have a little more background knowledge about the information we would be presented throughout the program.
My journey began in Chicago’s international airport where I simply hoped I packed enough clothing and that I didn’t forget anything (which I of course did). After 25 very long hours of traveling, Connor Strole and I arrived at our hotel and began to prepare for whatever we may experience in the next 2 weeks. We didn’t have a clue on what we would be doing at each company that we would visit so our first few days at Nedbank were a pleasant surprise. We spent our days listening to many different speakers explain their roles at the bank and how their jobs pertain to risk management. The information was incredibly interesting and very different from what we are taught in the United States. It was intriguing to here just how integrated risk management is and how important of a role it plays in everything that a company does. This was also our first taste of just how kind and welcoming everyone was towards us. It was so heart warming to feel right at home while we were really thousands of miles from home.
After our 2-day visit at Nedbank, the four of us interns flew to Cape Town for the IRMSA risk lab and for a visit to Capespan. The risk lab and master class are the two days where information slowly started to click and make much more sense. Everything that we had learned at Nedbank was applicable to the information we learned at the risk lab. Having this realization made me view risk management in a new light and I was excited to learn more about how different companies manage their risks. The master class session really drove home all of the ideas that were presented during the risk lab. Being able to hear ideas from people working in many different sectors was very interesting and really opened my eyes to the different ways risk management affects companies.
A lot of information that I learned at the risk lab I began to apply to each company that we visited thereafter, the first being Capespan. We were given a tour of one of Capespan’s ports and got to physically see the operational risks that the company faces every day. It was very interesting to see just how crucial it is to have a risk strategy in case anything was to go wrong at any of Capespan’s ports. Our day ended early and we got the opportunity to explore more of Cape Town.
We were lucky enough to have the weekend off to see the beauty of Cape Town and let’s be honest; beautiful is too weak of a word to use to describe Cape Town. The four of us took a cable car to the top of Table Mountain and walked around with our jaws dragged on the ground from just how amazing the view was. We also decided to do the Red Bus Tour all day Saturday in order to see as much of the city as we could. It was nothing short of incredible and was hands down my favorite place I have gotten to travel to in my life. Sunday afternoon we returned to Johannesburg and prepared for a busy week ahead of us.
In Johannesburg we got to visit many more companies to learn about the risk management processes. The week began with us visiting Marsh to learn a bit more about the insurance aspect of risk management. This information aligned much more with what we are taught about risk management in the United States and answered many different questions I had about the role of insurance in risk management. We were also taken to a warehouse to do a walk around and see the possible risks a place like this faces. It was useful to be able to actually see the risks and be able to apply the different information we had already learned in the previous week about risk management. The actual site visits we got to partake played a big role in helping apply the information rather than just hearing about it and never seeing it in action.
We also had the pleasure of visiting the National Treasury and learning about risk management from a bit more of a political and financial point of view. It was fascinating to compare the differences in how the United States Treasury deals with finances and financial risks and how the South African National Treasury deals with the same issues. Followed by the National Treasury visit, we also visited Royal Bafokeng Platinum where we learned a lot more about how the company has chosen to deal with some of the risks it faces. The initiatives that the company is taking to not only help its employees but also minimize its own risk are incredible. I was amazed at how much RBPlat are willing to do to not only itself but for those who work for the company. Our busy week ended with visiting Tsogo Sun and being shown around the Bird Garden where we had to do our own assessment of possible risks that still exist in the area. We were able to find a few risks and also had time to brainstorm ideas of how to deal with the risks and possible implications of the risk. This was a great way to end our internship and apply all of the knowledge we gained throughout the two weeks.
After our final presentations, we had a bit of time to explore Johannesburg and spend our last night together. Over the two weeks it felt as if us interns had grown into this little family and it was painful to have to say goodbye. My flight was late on Saturday evening so we spend Saturday driving to the Northwest of Johannesburg where I was able to feed giraffes, which was hands down the best moment of my life since they are my favorite animals. The day ended with hard goodbyes and reminders that Connor and I will return to these cities that we had fallen in love with.
There was no way that that evening in May I would have been able to guess just how amazing of an internship this would be. But by the end of the program, I knew that this was a massive eye opening opportunity to not only explore a new country but to learn so much information and develop a bigger interest in risk management. I cannot thank IRMSA and my little South African family for everything they did for me and for making this such a wonderful experience.
Pictures of my Journey