Internal Audit

Key Risk Indicators (KRIs): An Essential Tool for Effective Risk Management

Key Risk Indicators

Risk management is an essential component of every business or organization that aims to discover, assess, and mitigate potential threats. In today’s fast-paced and dynamic business landscape, having a robust risk management framework that allows organizations to proactively manage risks before they become crises is critical. Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) are critical components of any risk management plan. KRIs are specialized metrics or data points that are used to measure risk in a particular area of business operations. They serve as early warning indicators, indicating potential issues before they become severe threats. In other words, KRIs help businesses keep ahead of potential problems by employing a proactive risk management strategy.

Risk and its various forms:

The chance of an undesirable outcome or loss is referred to as risk. It can be caused by a variety of issues, including financial, operational, strategic, legal, and reputational ones. Credit risk, market risk, liquidity risk, operational risk, and regulatory risk are examples of common types of risks.


KRIs are leading indicators that help organizations recognize potential threats before they become major issues. These indicators are used to measure and assess the level of risk exposure in a particular region of the company. KRIs provide insights into the risk management process and help businesses take timely and effective risk-mitigation action. KPIs, on the other hand, are used to compare the performance of a company or a specific business unit to preset targets or standards. KRIs and KPIs are distinguished by the fact that KRIs are intended to control risks, whilst KPIs are used to manage performance.

Examples of KRIs

KRIs includes:

  1. Number of failed transactions
  2. The frequency of security incidents
  3. The level of customer complaints
  4. The percentage of delayed payments
  5. The number of non-compliant activities.
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These KRIs help businesses identify possible risks and implement the necessary procedures to control them. A high rate of late payments, for example, may indicate a credit risk[1], which can be mitigated by tightening credit rules or imposing stricter payment terms. Similarly, a high number of security incidents may indicate a potential cyber risk, which may be mitigated by improving security measures and providing cybersecurity best practices training to employees.


  1. Leading KRIs vs Lagging KRIs

Leading KRIs are predictive indicators that provide early warning signs of potential risks. They are used to identify and assess potential risks before they occur. Examples of leading KRIs include market trends, customer satisfaction, employee turnover, and regulatory changes. By monitoring leading KRIs, organizations can take proactive measures to mitigate risks before they turn into major problems.

Lagging KRIs, on the other hand, are reactive indicators that measure the impact of risks that have already occurred. Examples of lagging KRIs include financial losses, customer complaints, legal claims, and employee accidents. These indicators provide a retrospective view of risks and can be used to identify areas for improvement and to develop strategies to prevent similar risks from occurring in the future.

2. Qualitative KRIs vs Quantitative KRIs

Qualitative KRIs are subjective because they are based on expert judgment, experience, and intuition. They are more descriptive than numerical in nature. When there is no historical data or the risk is difficult to quantify, qualitative KRIs are useful. Qualitative KRIs include the organization’s reputation, the effectiveness of the risk management process, and the quality of the internal control system.

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Quantitative KRIs, on the other hand, are based on numerical data and provide a measurable value. They are objective and can be used to track changes in risk over time. Quantitative KRIs are useful when historical data is available and the risk can be quantified. Quantitative KRIs include financial ratios such as the debt-to-equity ratio or the current ratio, as well as operational metrics such as the frequency of customer complaints or the time it takes to complete an order.

Implementing KRIs

Implementing KRIs (Key Risk Indicators) involves several steps, as follows:

  1. Developing a risk management framework: Risk management requires a well-defined framework. This framework should comprise a collection of rules, processes, and guidelines for identifying, assessing, managing, and monitoring risks.
  2. Identifying and prioritizing relevant risks: The next step is to identify and prioritize the relevant risks that may affect the organization’s goals. This is possible through a risk assessment process that assesses the likelihood and potential impact of each risk.
  3. Defining appropriate KRIs for each risk: After identifying the risks, the next step is to define acceptable KRIs for each risk. KRIs are indicators that provide early warning signs of potential threats, enabling firms to take proactive risk-mitigation measures. KRIs must be relevant, measurable, and time-bound.
  4. Data collection and analysis: After defining the KRIs, data collection and analysis are required to evaluate the performance of each KRI. This data can be obtained from a variety of sources, such as internal systems, third-party suppliers, and external data sources.
  5. KRI outcome communication to stakeholders: The results of KRI analysis should be communicated to important stakeholders such as senior management, the board of directors, and other internal teams. In order for stakeholders to take appropriate action, this communication must be timely, accurate, and relevant.
  6. Continuous monitoring and updating of KRIs: The final stage is to regularly monitor and update the KRIs. This requires regularly assessing the performance of each KRI, recognizing changes in the risk environment, and updating the KRIs as needed to guarantee they are accurate.
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Benefits of using KRIS

  1. Proactive Risk Management: KRIs can help businesses identify risks at early stage, allowing them to take proactive measures to mitigate risks before they develop into threats. By doing this, organizations can prevent costly and disruptive incidents that could have been avoided.
  2. Better Performance Monitoring: KRIs can help businesses track important performance trends and indicators in real time. This can assist businesses in identifying areas for improvement and in making informed decisions about their strategy and resource allocation.
  3. Improved Risk Assessment: KRIs can help businesses determine the level of risk caused by various components of their operations. This can help businesses allocate resources and prioritize risk management efforts.
  4. More Effective Communication: KRIs can help organizations communicate risk-related information more effectively with stakeholders such as senior management, board members, regulators, and investors. This may help to build the credibility of the organization’s risk management procedures.
  5. Enhanced Business Resilience: KRIs can help organizations create resilience by identifying possible risks and taking action to mitigate them. This can help organizations respond to changing market conditions while also limiting any disruptions to their operations and reputation.


Thus, Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) are important components of risk management. They let businesses to detect potential risks at an early stage, make data-driven decisions, and increase stakeholder communication and collaboration. KRIs can be either leading or lagging, qualitative or quantitative, and offer a variety of advantages such as greater regulatory compliance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. By employing KRIs, organizations can gain a better understanding of their risk picture and mitigate potential threats.

Read our Article:How to mitigate risks in Business?

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