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Q&A: Rick Roberts, Ensign-Bickford Industries Inc.

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Rick Roberts is the director of risk management and employee benefits at Ensign-Bickford Industries Inc. in Simsbury, Connecticut. He was appointed the 2015 president of the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc. He recently spoke with Business Insurance Associate Editor Bill Kenealy about his leadership plans for RIMS and key risk management challenges. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: As you start your one-year term as president of RIMS, what goals have you set for your tenure?

A: What we are looking to do as we go forward is to build off of the past couple years. We have adopted a more strategic focus for the board at RIMS. A primary goal is to strengthen RIMS' networks, specifically our international network as we have become more global. We have added a few new international chapters in the last few years and forged great relationships with a number of risk management groups around the world. The professional development programs that we have developed are being asked for in South America, Australia and the Far East.

Another focus is helping rising risk professionals. We have had a strong focus on students over the years with the Spencer Educational Foundation, but we now want to extend this to anybody that is new to the risk management profession, such as people coming over from insurance companies or the brokerage industry.

A third focus is to take a look at our internal networks and improve the efficiency of RIMS as an organization. We want to make sure our committees are aligned with our mission and vision. We'll have a meeting in January with all the committee chairs and vice chairs to align everything for 2015 and beyond. We want to be more nimble as an organization and be able to pounce on opportunities that come our way.

Q: In your estimation, what were the defining risk management challenges of 2014?

A: The No. 1 issue was cyber security. Just looking internally at my own organization, our information technology director has logs of all the people trying to penetrate our security walls, and the number of hits is just incredible.

Another big challenge for risk managers was how to get more involved in the strategic processes of their companies. How do you get your risk management programs in front of the key decision makers and enhance their information so they can make better decisions for the company?

Q: What emerging risk management challenges do you see for 2015?

A: Obviously, a key concern is how we deal with terrorism. TRIA is something that has to be done.

Another big challenge is that as companies keep growing globally how do we as risk managers stay aware of all the different risks they face as we move into new countries.

Another legislative concern is reinsurance tax. This is something that could have a negative effect on capacity, pricing and the availability of coverage.

Q: Ensign-Bickford is a diversified company. What challenges does that present for you as a risk manager?

A: We have four such unique businesses, so it is a challenge when you are putting together a corporate insurance program. Also, we keep evolving and will often drop or add a business. An insurer that is great for our aerospace or defense businesses may not want to have anything to do with a chemical business or vice versa.

Q: Given your background in risk management, what advice would you give a young risk manager?

A: Risk managers are great at working together. We can meet and discuss risk in a way that doesn't reveal secrets or impair anything that happens within our companies. As a RIMS member, you can always find people to interact with if facing a certain challenge so you don't always have to reinvent the wheel.

Also, I'd say that your education does not stop when you leave college and have your degree in hand. You'll be getting a new education every six months with all the changes that are occurring and what you will need to know to stay on top of things.