The Business School and PlanPlus collaborate on risk profiling research project

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg once said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”


Rebecca Clement, who graduates from Humber’s Bachelor of Commerce Digital Business Management this spring, followed this thinking when she agreed to take part in her first applied research study. Ironically, it was about risk… financial risk, to be exact. The 23-year-old worked as a full-time research assistant last summer for a research project for the Ontario Security Commission (OSC). The OSC wanted to look at the usability and language of risk assessment forms currently being used in Canada. The problem: the way risk and risk tolerance are assessed and discussed varies greatly among institutions; it seems each one has its own definition and understanding.


Clement worked with a team that included Paul Griffin, the Associate Dean of The Business School at Humber; Shawn Brayman, the CEO and President of PlanPlus, a leading financial planning software company; American university professors; a top Canadian securities lawyer; and other partners.


“What is high risk? What does that mean?” asked Griffin. “What are the time horizons that people have for risk? No one knows how to answer that… everyone just brings their own bias. If you go to multiple financial institutions or speak with different financial advisors, there’s such a different perception of risk, and then people have their own perceptions,” continued Griffin. “There isn’t a standardized format or even standard language around risk.”


The project consisted of approaching investment firms, banks, and domestic and international regulators to conduct interviews, complete surveys, and provide current risk assessment forms. “It was my responsibility to ensure that no aspect was overlooked and that all project areas were continuously moving forward,” said Clement. “I was involved in conference calls between international regulators, solution providers and Canadian regulators. I helped with the creation of employee and corporate surveys, the retrieval and review of risk analysis forms and was often the first point of contact when outreaching on the project’s behalf.”


“Rebecca’s performance was outstanding,” said Griffin, noting she definitely put what she learned in her program to good use. Her Business Communication class helped her provide well-written, professional emails for all project contacts. Her Web Development class taught her how to create and distribute easy-to-understand surveys. Her Statistics course taught her about standard deviation, comparison and outliers – all of which proved useful when gathering and compiling survey results and interview responses. She was familiar with all of the research terminology used by the team, thanks to her Business Research Methods class. And her Supply Chain Management, Operations Management, and Project Management classes all contributed to her being able to organize tasks, create a project plan, and manage and meet multiple deadlines.


With the information successfully gathered, compiled and analyzed, the project team produced a detailed report on November 15 that quickly made waves. “It gained immediate recognition, not only nationally but internationally, because there was not a lot of work done in this area,” said Griffin.


“This report highlights the need for clarity and lays the foundation for further work that could lead to standardized guidelines and language when assessing risk,” he noted. For Clement, taking a chance on her first applied research project paid off big. “My experience was incredible,” she said. “I worked alongside leading academics and communicated with top level industry executives. And because of Humber, I had the tools to work at a high level with this team. It’s given me the drive and confidence to seek out my own opportunities to grow and develop professionally.”