Enterprise risk management, corporate governance, performance and risk-taking behaviour of the insurance industry: empirical evidence from Ghana and South Africa

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The growing complexities in the business environment have led to the adoption of enterprise risk management (ERM). ERM is a new approach to managing organisational risks holistically to achieve its goals. Regardless of the diversities in the business environment, ERM has become an essential factor for businesses and is believed to enhance shareholder value. Despite the growing number of studies on ERM, literature suffers some limitations regarding its proxies and inconclusive results between ERM and performance. This study adopts a more comprehensive measurement of ERM, which captures various characteristics (such asrisk governance, operational mechanisms, and quality of risk oversight) within the risk ecosystem. The study uses a panel regression technique on a sample of 33 and 63 insurers from Ghana and South Africa, respectively, covering 2015-2019. This thesis is centred on four thematic papers. Each focuses on a specific subject (s) at the heart of the problems or research questions being investigated. The first paper provides a comprehensive and systematic literature review on the measurement and performance of ERM. Google Scholar was the primary search tool for ERM literature spanning 2001 to 2020, and papers listed in SCImago journal ranking were discussed. The study finds that most studies rely on secondary sources, particularly the Chief Risk Officer’s appointment, as a simple ERM proxy. This is widely adopted in the literature due to the difficulty in assessing ERM information. The study recommends that empirical measurement of ERM rely on both primary and secondary data as they complement each other and allow more insight and factors to be considered for a robust ERM measurement. In terms of performance, the ERM literature reveals mixed findings, but enough evidence supports the assertion that ERM enhances firm profitability and value. The study suggests that scholars consider examining the ERM-performance relationship in emerging economies as most of these studies centred on the US and European economies. The second paper analyses the determinants of ERM adoption in Ghana and South Africa using a panel logistic regression technique. Building on the contingency theory, the study posits that several factors contribute to ERM adoption. The study finds that firm size, ownership, leverage, industrial diversification and the type of audit firm are positively associated with ERM adoption in both countries. Findings from the quantile regression also highlight that the initial levels of size, profitability and leverage reduce ERM adoption, and an extreme increase in these factors promotes iii ERM adoption, which implies a nonlinear direct U-shape relationship. On the contrary, the study sees an inverted U-shape for return on assets and leverage for Ghana. Industrial diversification, Big4 audit companies and ownership show consistent patterns of a significant positive effect on ERM adoption at different quantiles for both samples. The findings support the fact that insurers could improve their risk management system by considering the factors that significantly affect them. The third paper first examines the impact of ERM on insurance performance (underwriting performance and Return on Assets) and second investigates how corporate governance (CG) characteristics such as the board size, board independence, and gender diversity interact with ERM in affecting insurance performance. The major findings are summarised as follows: (1) a positive relationship exists between ERM and insurance performance for both countries; and (2) board size, board independence and gender diversity interact with ERM in affecting underwriting performance and return on assets. This was mostly positive and significant in both samples. The study suggests that insurers interested in ensuring an effective ERM system should leverage these corporate governance factors to appreciate the overall impact of ERM on performance. In the final paper, the study examines the linear and non-linear effects of ERM and CG on risktaking behaviour. The result from the linear regression elicits a significant positive relationship between ERM and risk-taking for both countries, implying that insurers with a strong ERM system are more likely to pursue higher risks. The empirical evidence also suggests that board size and board independence have a significant positive impact on risk-taking for both samples. In contrast, gender diversity shows an inverse relationship with risk-taking. Using the dynamic panel regression by Seo et al. (2019), the study confirms non-linearities between ERM, CG and risktaking. Evidence from the South African sample indicates that ERM significantly increases insurers’ risk-taking beyond the threshold level. Again, the South African sample shows significant threshold levels for board size, gender diversity and board independence at 10.03, 0.274 and 0.547, respectively. The Ghanaian sample also documents significant threshold levels at 7, 0.286, and 0.692. The study recommends that insurers consider the significant threshold levels to determine the optimum level of risk that must be pursued.
A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree Doctor of Philosophy to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, Wits Business School, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022
Enterprise risk management, Corporate governance, Performance, Insurance