Annie Searle

Searle (second from right, second row) was honored in 2011 at ceremonies in Las Vegas for the new Hall of Fame for Women in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. © 2011 inWEM

Annie Searle, Principal of ASA, helps companies build world-class risk programs. An internationally known expert in operational risk management, with extensive experience in the financial, IT and business sectors, Searle thrives on complex challenges.

From 1999 to 2009, Searle focused on international financial-infrastructure resiliency, including pandemic readiness, cyber-threats, technology and biological restoration. With ASA she expands her reach to other critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, public health, emergency management and telecommunications. In ASA's first year Searle led international research and the creation of risk roadmaps for a diverse range of companies.

A strong researcher and writer, Searle publishes and speaks in a variety of national and international forums. She is the author of Advice From A Risk Detective (Tautegory Press, 2011) and editor of Reflections on Risk (Tautegory Press, 2012), a compilation of 22 research notes first published by the ASA Institute for Risk and Innovation. A second edition of Advice From A Risk Detective, with updated and expanded content,was published in 2013. Reflections on Risk II, containing 26 more research notes, was published in 2014; and Reflections on Risk III will be published by the end of 2015. A full list of Searle's publications and other articles in which she is quoted can be found on this website.

Searle is a faculty member in the University of Washington's School of Information, where she has designed two operational risk courses for graduate students, and where she also teaches a graduate course on ethics, policy and law in information management. She is currently redesigning an enterprise risk management course for undergraduates; and customizing a foundational course on information management for mid-career students.

Searle's prior experience includes owning and operating an award-winning technology business and extensive work in public relations and information management.

Neutral approach

Searle approaches issues as a neutral third eye, expecting all layers of an organization to help her team get to the bottom of how things work, what is missing and how to create and communicate solutions that are correct and clear.

"Ask questions, and then ask follow-up questions," she says, adding that persistence and careful listening pays off.

"You want to make sure people have the information that can actually guide their actions in times of crisis. Putting a plan together is not just creating a document that sits in a filing cabinet. It needs to be specific and practical, and integrated into practice: 'OK, here's what we need to do: Assess the situation quickly, with a checklist of essential steps such as send out a mass notification, assemble the virtual team to asess the situation, ...' and so on."

Searle thrives on what she calls "complex personalities and gnarly problems."

Her responsibilities included business continuity and technology risk management at Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu), where she was a Senior Vice President and Divisional Executive for Enterprise Risk Services. She also oversaw regulatory and audit assurance for the Technology Group, and was chair of WaMu's Crisis Management Team.

Searle translates ideas into action. Her penchant for getting in, getting out and moving on with a good system in place is ideal for today's economy.

Fresh perspective

The 15 years Searle spent running Delphi, her own computer hardware and advanced technical-services company, taught her to look at each customer's challenges from a fresh perspective – and to push the envelope on technology optimization. The delivery of thoughtful customer service earned both the company and Searle awards and media attention.

She took that entrepreneurial approach to Washington Mutual, where in her first years she built a strong technology architecture program, including a business-intelligence and emerging-technologies function, and an architecture research lab. She went on to lead programs in technology innovation, crisis management, continuity of operations, information security, risk management, root-cause analysis and change management.

All of that fed her passion to study potential problems, and added to her broad range of tools. "I like being a detective," she says.

She finds research associates who provide strengths in areas where she feels she has less knowledge and then expects them to challenge her as she would challenge them.

"I surround myself with people who really know their subject," she says. "I can work in multiple fields with the same results because I have extremely strong subject-matter experts on my team."