Meet PJM’s First Chief Risk Officer

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Nigeria Poole Bloczynski has practiced risk management across a range of industries for over two decades, and she knows this: PJM and other energy companies are good at planning for and handling operational risks every day.

But as PJM’s first chief risk officer, she wants to make sure that PJM confronts risk on a much broader spectrum.

“The business units understand their risks; they’re managing risks every day,” said Bloczynski, who started July 29. “The role of CRO is always evolving, but at a high level, a CRO is an independent adviser to the Board and an unbiased partner to the business units to ensure that we are thinking proactively about embedded risks.”

That role includes constantly challenging the status quo, she said – “Are there things that we haven’t done that we should be doing? Are there things that we haven’t thought about? Will a short-term fix result in a broader issue in the long term?”

While it is impossible to eliminate risk entirely, as CRO she will be embedding a risk-aware culture within the organization.

With a member organization like PJM, views on risk can vary greatly among the various stakeholders. The degree of tolerance for risk among PJM’s members is at the core of our discussions as PJM and its stakeholders seek to reform PJM’s Financial Transmission Rights Market credit policies following the major default of a member in 2018. The establishment of the CRO position was one of a number of recommendations that came out of that event.

“One of my many first tasks is to refine the credit policy and ensure that the appropriate parties to certain transactions are screened and collateralized,” she said. Indeed, at the July 25 Markets & Reliability Committee meeting, Interim President and CEO Susan J. Riley told members that undertaking changes to the credit policy issue was “urgent.”

Bloczynski has worked for more than 20 years in commodity and credit risk management in both the financial and energy markets. Most recently, she was director of commodity and corporate risk management for Washington, D.C.-based WGL Holdings, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AltaGas Ltd., whose businesses include a gas utility and non-regulated energy affiliates providing energy offerings, including natural gas, electricity, renewable energy, and carbon reduction across a number of states, including states within the PJM region. She serves on the board of directors of the Committee of Chief Risk Officers, the national nonprofit organization that advances best practices in the risk management field. Bloczynski holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Morgan State University and a Master of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University.

As she goes forward at PJM, Bloczynski advocates using “prospective hindsight” before executing a strategy – imagining that the strategic initiative has failed miserably and thinking about what happened to cause the plan to fail, before it ever has a chance to. This technique helps identify specific risk events for the scenario. It also includes, “ensuring that the right people are in the room when decisions are made that impact other areas in the organization that haven’t been thought about,” she said.

“What we need to think about proactively is how to identify emerging risks,” she said. “It’s challenging assumptions, surveilling the market; it is all-encompassing.”