Way back in 1970, two mathematicians, Earl Isaac and Bill Fair, invented a system for scoring credit ratings. It is now ubiquitous, making lending decisions much simpler. Now Aon, the $11.3 billion global insurance broker and risk consulting company, has come up with a proprietary Risk Maturity Index that it says can help its clients analyze, measure and improve their risk management performance.

The basic idea resembles the credit rating score: to quantify a company's risks and the effectiveness of its risk management processes objectively.

"When we've talked with clients, everyone is doing some kind of risk management, and they want to know, 'How am I doing compared to the competition or in terms of S&P coming in [to assess risk management efforts],'" says Theresa Bourdon, group managing director at Aon Global Risk Consulting, who led the project. "But not everyone wants to hire a consultant."

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