Daniela Parker, chief risk officer, Resource One Credit Union

Risk conversations enable better decisions

Managing risk boils down to having processes in place to capture threats and their potential impacts.

February 7, 2023

Daniela Parker knows how the unexpected can trip up the unwary. On her first day as chief risk officer at Resource One Credit Union in Dallas, she stepped in a hole and broke a bone in her foot.

Her foot has since healed, but she uses her bad break to start conversations about risk management.

“There are traditional forms of risk such as safety and insurance that are a bit like my broken foot,” Parker says. “And then there’s enterprise risk management [ERM] that looks at risks from a much bigger perspective.

“My approach to risk management is about enabling the organization to make better decisions,” she continues. “My job is to ask the right questions to ensure people make decisions with an understanding of everything they need to consider.”

Parker began her career in retail banking and then worked for 18 years at a Washington credit union, where she started as a branch manager focused on sales and operations before running a division of branches.

She leaped at the opportunity to explore risk management and spent eight years in that role, growing the team from one employee to 20 as the department gradually added ERM, business continuity, vendor management, compliance, safety and physical security, information security, operations risk management, fraud and financial investigations, and more.

Parker relishes the opportunity to use risk management to maximize opportunities and minimize risks at the $800 million asset credit union. Creating a risk management culture is essential to break down organizations’ tendency to manage risk in silos while allowing employees to recognize their built-in tendency to assume positive outcomes will always be more likely than negative consequences.

‘The entire organization has to understand how to ask the right questions and make decisions.’
Daniela Parker

Moving from Washington’s environment of pandemic caution to Texas’ wide-open approach shifted Parker’s perspective in 2022. Giving up driving for four months while wearing a “boot” to allow her foot to heal was another shift. 

Parker worked from home and relied on her husband and son for transportation.

Meanwhile, she pondered credit union risks including supply chain issues, labor shortages, inflation, reliance on third-party vendors, regulatory pressures, and cybersecurity threats. 

Those issues will continue in 2023, Parker says, along with pressure to compete with fintechs and other nontraditional banking providers in an ever-changing financial environment. 

2023-2024 CUNA Environmental Scan

While a recession isn’t a foregone conclusion, members are still feeling the impact of a changing economy, in particular inflation and rising prices, she says. “From a strategic perspective, how do we stay focused on our business model and make sure our strategies are viable, and where we can take calculated risks to continue to help our members? How do we look at upside risks, where risks are really opportunities?

“It boils down to having processes in place to capture risks and their potential impacts, and then determine how to mitigate them.”

Parker says it’s essential to include employees in open-ended conversations about risk that prompt staff to ask the right questions. She advises using surveys, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal) analysis of key external factors, and other tools to promote discussion.

Parker sells the benefits of having open conversations about risks and ongoing risk management while emphasizing that these discussions are not performance reviews so employees can be open.

“The entire organization has to understand how to ask the right questions and make decisions.”