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Past RIMS presidents offer views on risks, market changes

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PHILADELPHIA—Don't leave senior management in the dark about a hardening insurance market.

That was one of several pieces of advice offered during a panel discussion featuring five former presidents of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. last week in Philadelphia.

“You need to prepare management for what is coming,” said Lou Drapeau, 1996-97 RIMS president and director of risk management for the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Risk managers need to get face time with senior managers to prepare them for the hardening market, said Lance Ewing, 2003-04 RIMS president and Cordova, Tenn.-based regional industry practice leader-hospitality and leisure for American International Group Inc.'s Chartis Inc. unit. Mr. Ewing also advised his listeners to “know your data,” because underwriters need that information.

Panelists also highlighted the risks arising from social media.

Michael Liebowitz, 2005-06 RIMS president and director-insurance and risk management at New York University, said risk managers need to look at their organizations' tolerance for social media. Do they, for example, block certain websites? He said brand control is the biggest issue arising from this exposure.

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“My biggest exposure is my brand,” he said. Various factors ranging from a cyber attack to a research project that “goes the wrong way” can affect NYU's brand and reputation, he said. Rebuilding a brand is difficult and expensive, Mr. Liebowitz said.

Mr. Drapeau cited the aftermath of the University of Kentucky's recent victory in the men's national collegiate basketball championship game as an example of an event that can hurt an institution's reputation. Some students celebrated the win by setting fires.

“After five minutes, you would have thought that the entire city of Lexington was on fire” because of televised images, said Mr. Drapeau. In reality, the fires were confined to three small areas, he said.

Janice Ochenkowski, 2007-08 RIMS president and managing director at Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., said Jones Lang LaSalle has embraced social media such as tweeting and blogging. “We need to use it positively, but that doesn't mean we can ignore the risk,” she said.

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Looking ahead, the panel considered exposures risk managers will face. Mr. Ewing said he believes reputational risk will continue to grow, while Mr. Liebowitz cited intellectual property. Ms. Ochenkowski said risk managers will have to deal with climate change issues.

Mr. Ewing also cited the potential impact of the new Federal Insurance Office on risk management. He noted that the FIO is intended to be a non-regulatory body, but, given that regulation drives Washington, he wonders how long the new office will remain that way.

The former presidents also focused on the challenges facing the organization itself. Christopher Mandel, 2002-03 RIMS president and now president and managing consultant of Boerne, Texas-based Excellence in Risk Management L.L.C. cited two challenges in particular for RIMS: being timely and supporting a “viable, vibrant chapter structure.” Mr. Ewing said that one of the challenges is determining how to get more members to give the organization their input.