Luke Taylor Interview: Why We Need a New Awards Body

There are many awards bodies, and many recipients of awards. On a few occasions I have been asked to judge awards, and I have even been known to hand them out. So with so many awards already being given out, do we really need a new awards body? That was what I wondered when Luke Taylor (pictured), the founder of the Risk Reward Awards, first told me of his intention to launch a new award for telecoms risk professionals. Luke seems determined: he will be presenting the first Risk Reward Award for lifetime achievement on April 24th, at the RAG London conference. So why is he going to the trouble to establish a new awards body? This is what Luke told me when I interviewed him about it.

Eric: There are going to be some skeptics, but before we dive into the tough questions we should begin at the beginning. What is Risk Reward Awards?

Luke: Risk Reward Awards is an awards organization specifically for the telecom risk industry. Its sole purpose is to recognize contribution, collaboration and innovation in this space. Risk Reward Awards is a small group of people who have worked in the risk industry for many years and have been frustrated with the lack of recognition for businesses, individuals, consultants and vendors within the sector. It is kindly supported by some recognized leaders from the risk industry who have volunteered their time to judge and contribute opinion to different award submissions as they are released. It is a great example of individuals coming together from different areas of the risk business to recognize contribution.

Why did you start Risk Rewards?

I wanted to instill innovation, collaboration and importantly recognition by peers within the telecom risk industry. As I mentioned I have been in the telecoms risk business, working for a software and services vendor for twenty years and I have seen significant changes in how fraud, risk and revenue losses have been perpetrated in this time. I have also experienced the huge array of technologies and services introduced by the operators to satisfy consumer demand and remain competitive throughout this time. This has brought constant challenges and required continued enhancements to process the volume and varied sources of data and technologies and initiatives to understand, manage and mitigate revenue loss as quickly as possible.

The telecom industry is continually witnessing dramatic change. The capabilities, techniques and technologies for mitigation of risk have to keep pace. We are seeing disruption, competition, new technologies, new services, we are also seeing a decline in revenues and therefore the possible impact of poor risk controls is highly important.

This fast-paced change in technology and innovation is not reflected when it comes to appreciation, understanding and recognition of the individuals, teams, managers and departments working in risk. The sad truth is that recognition has not progressed adequately in this period.

Who will be eligible for these awards?

The Risk Reward Awards specifically recognize individuals, teams, departments, leaders and companies in the fight to manage risk within their businesses. It is also for the vendors, consultants and other individuals and organizations that have supported the corporations and have driven progressive, innovative technology forward in the risk space.

The Risk Reward Awards will celebrate and recognize all these endeavors. It will promote the achievements and act like an internal PR initiative to the risk industry and help people with recognition. It will help professionals in their career progression, bring individuals and companies together, encouraging them to work more closely for the common good of risk management.

The telecommunication industry and risk sector has produced some outstanding individuals who should be recognized for their commitment, contribution and efforts to raise the awareness of risk and how to successfully manage it. Everyone wants to be recognized for their contribution in business, be it the CEO, director, manager, analyst or administrator. It is right that good work is appreciated.

The objective of the Risk Reward Awards is to work with all facets of the risk industry to provide legitimate awards to those who deserve them. I want to change risk industry awards and recognize the contributions made by corporates and individuals, without being influenced by the amount a sponsor or vendor pays. The launch of ROAR! – Recognizing Outstanding Achievements in Risk – is something we should want to shout about.

That sounds great. I am confident that many people will agree with your goals. But why are you doing this? Why take on this burden? What does Risk Rewards Awards mean to you?

Well as you can see, I get a little animated on this topic. These awards will give me some sanity. After 20 years of working in the risk space, I am not ready to leave it just yet, I want to give something back. More seriously I need to pay bills and I have responsibilities of children to fund through school and university, I need a roof over my head. The Risk Reward Awards is not going to help me substantially with my financial requirements as it is a not for profit organization, so I will be undertaking business consultancy to support this but Risk Reward Awards is a route for me to try and resolve the some of the hurdles I experienced as a vendor in the risk industry for the greater good of all and for the philanthropic aspect of giving any monies made back from profits made to charities supported by telecom service providers and vendors.

We work very hard, we should find some time for a little self-promotion and some fun, hopefully these award ceremonies will be a small contribution to making peoples work and efforts end with a smile.

You mentioned objectives already, but tell me more. What are you hoping to accomplish?

To change the face of traditional industry awards, I have seen and experienced the ‘pay us x number of dollars’ and you will be in the top 100 providers, top 50 to watch, etc. buy a table of 10 seats to win your award, etc. No one wins in these scenarios, only the dubious organizers of such awards. The winner at the end of the day gets a very expensive piece of cheap glassware…

I could not agree more. One of my articles that generated most interest was about the boss of an RA software business who got himself ranked as the 95th most powerful person in telecoms. He was ranked above the European Commissioner responsible for digital markets! But this supposedly serious magazine and these supposedly serious judges said the boss of a software firm making $40mn a year – which was not even the biggest firm in its own little market – was more powerful than a government official who sets roaming rates for 500mn customers. Clearly that does not happen unless some judges are receiving an ‘incentive’ of the type that the European Commission does not hand out!

I want to formulate awards that are presented to people and corporations that have a reputation of meaning something, have credibility and will be appreciated by all those involved. I want to put some validity back into the risk space, by providing factual and concise successes within the risk industry. I want to add professionalism back to awards, that are nominated by professionals and judged by professionals. I want to provide visibility and transparency back to awards and provide complete clarity on award nominations and assessment.

Of course, I also want to give recognition where it is due and promote and recognize individual and collaborative contribution in the sector.

Why did you propose that the awards be presented at RAG conferences?

I hope this in some way will demonstrate and grow expertise in the risk industry and enhance innovation and thought leadership and go hand in hand with the Risk and Assurance Group’s own aspirations. That was the prime reason to launch the awards at RAG London on April 24th.

A lot of people say they value collaboration but the truth is people find it easier to talk about collaboration than to do it – and I say that based on experience. Why do you think collaboration is so essential?

I hope the awards will promote better communication and collaboration, where we will see and experience and reward such endeavors, which I know will drive innovation in the risk space. No one person can manage risk management, it requires team-work, communication and collaboration. As they say: ‘two heads are better than one’.

Being a cynic, and former auditor, my ears pricked up when you said there would be a philanthropic side to Risk Reward Awards. How will that work?

Yes, one of the other important objectives of Risk Reward Awards is to give any profits from undertaking the Risk Reward Awards to charity. Charities that will be selected by the award winners and the sponsors alike. Charities will be selected by the shortlisted candidates as well as the sponsors who kindly allow this award initiative to occur. The Risk Reward Awards has adopted the same outlook as RAG, being a not for profit organization that can give something back financially as well as strengthening and raising the profile of risk management in the telecom space.

I like what you did there – obviously I will not argue against RAG’s way of doing things. But I am also conscious that RAG has a long upward road ahead of it. Where do you see Risk Rewards in the coming years?

Being the ‘Oscars’ for the risk industry. That’s it. That is the objective.

You could not state it more plainly than that! So back to the present moment, what exactly will happen when you launch the awards at RAG London?

That will be our first award presentation. We have chosen to create a regional award category which we refer to as the Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award. There are a number of nominees that have been proposed and we are now collecting votes from the risk industry. Voting will be open until the April 24th.

Next year I hope to see more representatives from the wider European region. We have also just opened the same award for the Africa region and are inviting nominees of individuals which will be presented at the RAG Nairobi conference in September.

So telecoms risk professionals can go online and vote now?

Yes, they can vote online.

Then we should encourage them to do it! And with that, thanks for making time for this interview.

My pleasure. Thanks for giving me the chance to explain why I founded Risk Reward Awards.

The Risk Reward Awards European Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented on the evening of April 24th, at the London 2018 conference of the Risk and Assurance Group (RAG). Votes can be placed here.

And the Risk Reward Awards African Lifetime Achievement Awards is already open for nominees; see here.

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.