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Risk managers find success in solving problems, helping others

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PHILADELPHIA — Success in risk management comes in many different forms and can extend beyond the scope of traditional risk management responsibilities, a panel of risk managers said Tuesday at the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in Philadelphia.

Overcoming an industry problem, finding the right expert to tackle a new risk, helping an organization reach its business and social objectives and using risk management expertise to solve nontraditional problems can all be viewed as risk management successes, they said during a panel discussion after the presentation of the Risk Manager of the Year and Risk Management Honor Roll awards.

Success comes in many different forms, said Juliana Keaton, who was most recently director of insurance and business risk management for CSX Transportation Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, and was named to the 2017 Risk Management Honor Roll.

Collaboration efforts with competitors and insurance professionals to solve an industry problem can be viewed as a risk management success, she said.

For example, all railroads must transport dangerous toxic materials, which present a catastrophic liability risk, but insurers are unwilling to provide reasonably priced capacity, she said. Three years ago, risk managers for several railroads came together to work with brokers and underwriters to create the Cantilever Excess Pollution Liability, which now provides $650 million in capacity.

“To me, that’s success. That solved a problem that I had, and at the same time, helped others in the industry. It’s incumbent on all of us to try and come up with things like that, and it’s very rewarding,” she said.

Risk management success also includes finding the right people to address a problem, said Ben Evans, executive director in the office of risk management and insurance at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and a member of the 2017 Risk Management Honor Roll.

“Success for me comes down to never being complacent — knowing your goals, understanding your purpose and then working really, really hard to get to that purpose … it’s all about surrounding yourself with people that help you get there,” he said.

For example, when the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, the university had 293 people in Japan. While they all returned safely, “I recognized that I needed someone on my staff who would work on international risk management exclusively. I couldn’t do it alone,” Mr. Evans said.

Success in risk management can also be measured by how risk managers help their organizations meet their wider goals, said Scot Schwarting, director of risk management for Whirlpool Corp. in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

“We have a very robust total cost of risk model. We measure what we do and mark our success by that. But the reality is that somebody went home not hurt … that all of our planes landed, that all of our shipments got where they’re going, and people are safe,” he said.

Success can also be measured by how risk managers bring their skills to help other areas of an organization, said Richard J. Roberts, director of risk management and employee benefits at Ensign-Bickford Industries Inc. in Simsbury, Connecticut, who was also on the panel.

“I’ve been asked to bring those skill sets to employee benefits to derisk our employee benefit program, I’ve been asked to get involved in our 401(k) to provide financial education, because that’s a big risk for employees these days … I’ve been asked to derisk our pension plan and take the risk management process and apply it to projects outside the typical scope of risk management,” he said.