SAIS Alum Discusses Work in Risk Analysis

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Photo Courtesy: Fatima Nanavati
Photo Courtesy: Fatima Nanavati

BOLOGNA, Italy — SAIS Europe welcomed alumnus John Raines back to Bologna earlier this month for a series of talks and career panel discussions. Raines was an ideal guest speaker, having worked up an impressive track record in the arena of international relations and risk analysis. Before coming to SAIS, Raines worked with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as a Presidential Intern, and later entered the risk analysis field after graduating from SAIS. By working with IHS Inc., previously Exclusive Analysis, in their Country Risk portfolio, Raines has gained insight into a particular niche of consulting that is of much interest to many SAIS students.

IHS is a company that provides critical insight in the global information market. The company provides clients with research-based solutions in the form of consulting, market research, current events analysis, and software to help improve decision-making for short-term and long-term projects. The company covers a variety of sectors, including automotive, agriculture, banking, energy, insurance, media, government, and more. Raines is the Deputy Head of Country Risk at IHS and spoke to SAIS about his work and the field.

Raines described his work as taking data and turning it into critical information that would be useful for his clients in their business objectives. First, the company collects data from their remote contributors around the world as well as various third-party sources to create useful interfaces, interactive search tools, and online databases to perform critical analysis. He then uses all of the available data, research, and information to make analytical predictions about a client’s future projects. The Country Risk portfolio is broken into two main categories: violent and non-violent risk. The violent risk sector would focus on subjects such as terrorism, civil unrest, and military, whereas the political risk sector focuses more on government instability, state failure, legal risk, and expropriation. His consulting advice has ranged from evacuating a factory in Nigeria with high risk of violent attack to predicting the success of the recent Iran nuclear deal. For many students, especially those taking Risk Analysis and Conflict Management courses at SAIS, this is an ideal field of work for the future.

As students asked about the field, one striking question wondered about the situation of “making mistakes” when analyzing data and consulting clients. Raines confidently proclaimed, “Everyone is wrong!” Raines assured students that humans are  inevitably going to be wrong when making decisions at times. It is not uncommon to be wrong in the field of consulting, but the best course of action is to learn from these mistakes. Raines stated that there are many ways to learn how to perform better in the future and that it is important to know “how and why” you made an error. For this reason, IHS has a great deal of consulting oversight as well as various mechanisms for analysts to judge their faulty decisions and make improvements for the future.

For hopeful analysts, Raines made a previously daunting career seem more approachable. He explained that most of his analysts are responsible for conducting adequate research in order to write regular reports (300-1000 words) delineating pertinent risk centered information. Analysts in his department may be responsible for covering one specific region or five various countries, all dependent on experience and expertise. The company also employs many remote analysts who reside in various areas that do not feature an IHS office. Raines provided valuable information and contacts about future internships to hopeful students during the career panel. After shedding much light on the topic, he fervently encouraged students to look more into this unique area of work. Raines expressed his hope of seeing many SAIS alumni in the future.

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