Operational ResilienceGamechangers in Resilience: Crossing the River

In today’s constantly evolving business landscape, adaptability stands as the cornerstone of a company’s triumph. This is the premise of the ‘Gamechangers in Resilience’ interview series. This platform serves as a tribute to influential leaders who exemplify remarkable resilience in their work, in their interactions with clients, and within their communities.

Through this series, we endeavor to showcase voices from diverse corners of the world. These exceptional individuals not only empower their teams and communities to prosper in challenging circumstances but also lead by example. iluminr commends their achievements, shares their valuable insights, and honors to their unwavering dedication to achieving success, even when faced with formidable obstacles.

As Strategic Advisor at iluminr, James Hardy is harnessing his deep knowledge to advance the company’s strategic goals, guide go-to-market initiatives, and foster innovation. His appointment underscores iluminr’s dedication to collaborating with industry visionaries to deliver cutting-edge solutions.

A seasoned leader and the Founder of Iroko Advisors, James brings a wealth of expertise gained over his distinguished career, marked by a deep commitment to enhancing resilience in an ever-evolving operational landscape.

Prior to his current role, James served as the Chief Resiliency Officer at State Street, where he played a pivotal role in strengthening the organization’s ability to adapt and thrive in the face of diverse challenges. His extensive experience, spanning over two decades, includes key leadership roles, notably Chief Resilience Officer, Chief Data Officer of State Street Corporation, and COO and CIO at State Street Global Markets, where he drove innovation and championed operational excellence.

Additionally, James has been an active board member of The Greater Boston Food Bank, contributing to community resilience efforts and exemplifying his commitment to social responsibility.


Q: Can you share your background and experience in the field of resilience and risk management? What drew you to this field, and what key lessons have you learned in your previous roles?

Upon reflection, resilience and risk management has been a part of all the roles I’ve held throughout my career. From developing trading systems to being a management consultant to running technology and operations to transforming AML to being a chief data officer.

Every role I’ve had all required me to develop an understanding of different risks and threats and as a result understanding of how to best mitigate them.

And yet it was only my last role that had the word ‘resilience’ in the title – Chief Resilience Officer for State Street Corporation.

So now with 35 years of this type of experience what I love about what I’m doing now with Iroko Advisors draws upon all those experiences and brings them together.


Q: What strategic priorities do you believe are critical for enhancing organizations’ resilience in the face of today’s dynamic and uncertain business environment, particularly in terms of technology risk, enterprise, productivity, and operating model?

Firstly, I believe operational resilience specifically is a strategic imperative.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, businesses face a plethora of risks that can impact or be fatal to their franchise. These threats may be familiar or emerging but unless businesses think about them and develop the capabilities to respond and recover – which must include developing the enterprise muscle memory to do so – they and their clients will be impacted and at times irreparably.

So, it starts with tone from the top but should end up as being a part of the culture of the way a business innovates and operates.

More specifically, I believe businesses need to truly understand their end-to-end supply chain with sufficient granularity to enable the examination of the vulnerabilities that components of the supply chain are exposed to today and could be exposed to in the future as the world changes.

But equally, having the discussion about ‘how resilient to we want to be’ needs to happen. This isn’t easy as individuals will have differing perspectives particularly as the threat landscape changes. However, without the discussion and alignment valuable resources will be wasted.


Q: Resilience can mean different things to different organizations. How would you define resilience in the context of modern organizations, particularly in terms of continuity and business, and what metrics or indicators would you use to measure it?

James: Resilience is a word that is used so frequently today and in so many contexts. It’s a word whose origins stem from the Latin verb resilire, meaning to rebound or recoil.

Resilience today can simply be defined as “the capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties”. But while a simple definition, resilience and what it means to an individual firm will be different depending upon the market context and the firm itself.

Cyber resilience, operational resilience, business resilience, technical resilience, organizational resilience and so on are all terms I hear used today – and often without definition.

So defining it is so important.

I’ve spent the last four years focusing on operational resilience – seeking to ensure firms can ‘rebound’ from threat events that components of their their supply chains are exposed should they occur. In terms of measurement – you must start with the definitional point I made earlier.

Perhaps a simply way to approach it is: Define to engage. Engage to measure. Measure to report. And while the measures by which a firm can determine its own operational resilience profile are essential and can be plentiful – too long to articulate here – at the end of the day they need to be articulated simply, in a contextually relevant manner and ultimately explainable on a single page to the board of directors.


Q: In today’s world, digital transformation and technological disruptions can pose significant challenges. What is the role of technology and data analytics to enhance organizations’ resilience and risk management capabilities?

James: Perhaps I’m biased as I’m a bit of a data junkie, but the power of data analytics is immense in this space – and I’d say it’s essential to assess and improve firm resilience however defined.

I’ve personally experienced this by detailing a firm’s operating model and supply chain as data. This effectively described the ecosystem of the firm – or what I sometimes refer to as the ‘firm in a box’. It can reveal unknown failure points. It can be eye opening in terms concentration risks. It can help model the impact of disruption events. It can clarify accountability gaps. I could go on and on.

But what I have found equally beneficial is that it allows employees or partners to understand their role in the supply chain – where they fit in the ‘machine’ so to speak….which is not only individually empowering but also improves firm-wide understanding of how it all fits together. It’s just essential – don’t try to improve resilience without an analytics toolset.


Q: Sustainability and environmental concerns are becoming increasingly important. What is the role of risk and resilience in incorporating sustainability principles into our resilience strategy, and what steps do you see resilience teams taking to become more environmentally resilient?

James: This is an enormous topic of operational resilience – and a topic I intend to write about at some point. But to start with, if I narrow the focus of your question to the environment and specifically climate change, understanding the real threats that this can bring to a firm’s operational resilience is an imperative – not just for the future but for today.

As a simple example – the change in how we work since the pandemic – still a mix of remote work – in one sense mitigates the concentration risk of people in being in a single building but it also introduces risk. Our homes typically don’t have the infrastructure redundancies that an office building has. They’re therefore more exposed to that bad snow storm or wildfire or simple brownout.

So while a firm may have a greater dispersion of people – and less concentration risk – its also exposed to micro environmental risk events. And if those are increasing because of climate change, the question then becomes am I more or less resilient because of the change in workforce behavior– has residual risk increased or decreased.

So going back to your question, as one of the firms steps to take, I refer back to the ‘firm in a box’ point I made earlier. Knowing how a firm operates, what assets support the supply chain is the starting point to then assess changes in the threat landscape – environmental and beyond.


Q: Building a resilient organizational culture is often cited as a key factor in long-term success. What is the secret to influencing and shaping corporate culture to embed resilience thinking and practices throughout the organization?

James: Very simply and as I said earlier it starts with tone from the top. But it can’t end there. Clearly defining who’s accountable each component of the supply chain and what this means to them from a risk perspective is a part of how the tone can be made real and tangible.

To do this, I believe it’s important to walk in the shoes of others.

In other words, speaking to a technology professional and contextualizing technology resilience in business or market terms is different to how contextualizing resilience to the head of operations or client facing personnel.

Their language is often different. Speaking about resilience to the top of the house is essential but doing so without speaking to all layers or an organization is fruitless.

Further, simply adding resilience to the already full agenda that people have on their plates is not particularly helpful. But by illustrating the benefits, or dovetailing solutions with existing change initiatives, or simplifying processes does, over time, start to embed resilience thinking into the culture of a firm.

I must also say that In financial services it helps that global regulators also view operational resilience as an imperative for the stability of the financial markets.



Q: We are currently at an inflection point in history marked by various global challenges and changes. How do you believe this unique juncture has altered the way we should define and approach resilience within organizations, and what key adjustments do you see as necessary to address these shifting dynamics?

James: Climate change, the geopolitical environment, the reality of a pandemic, and even extreme political discourse has unfortunately injected a dose of uncertainty – and if feels that its happening all at once.

Beyond what I’ve already spoken about in this interview, improving the way a firm responds to the unexpected is at the end of the day the most important cultural trait. What I witnessed during the pandemic at my last firm – beyond the caring for one another – was a global workforce of 30,000+ all galvanized around one common purpose – to continue to deliver services to our clients. And during those early days we saw a new challenge being thrown at us across different corners of our planet every day. But everyone responded and each time we responded we got better at responding!

I know other firms experienced the same. So, if there’s one key adjustment that firms need to make or do more of – its practicing their response capabilities over and over again. We should want to ensure that what we all learned from responding to COVID isn’t forgotten – and without continuously practicing responses to a variety of differing shock events – small and large and well beyond pandemics – it will be.

Q: What is the leadership playbook you are writing in real-time?

James: I listened to a college graduation commencement speech the other day and the speaker had an analogy to life. He said something like:

Life is like trying to cross a deep and wide fast flowing river with slippery rocks and boulders strewn about just below the surface. As you start to cross you can use the rocks to find your way – but you can only see those just front of you, not those too far ahead.

But you need to believe that you’ll find a way across – that there will be rocks that will support you. I think this is a good analogy to the leadership playbook that I’m writing.

I’ve have always tried to believe that those rocks will be to there for me, but my confidence that they will be there has continued to increase. And a great deal of that confidence has and will continue to be gained from the people I’ve been ‘crossing the river with’ – both professionally and personally.

It’s the people whom I’ve had the honor of leading that has given me the confidence to lead. By showing empathy with them and genuinely trusting them, they’ve shown trust in me.

And that’s what I’ll continue to do for as long as I can. I hope the river is a wide one!


Q: Why did you decide to join iluminr as a strategic advisor, and what about our organization’s mission and vision resonated with you?

James: Quite simply, I believe in the vision, the mission, the people and their values. I happen to also strongly believe in their philosophy and that the platform has a huge opportunity to help so many firms solve real problems.

I also think I can help! So, when values and philosophy align, when you love the people and the purpose – it wasn’t a difficult decision to make!

I’m incredibly excited to be part of it.