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View from the Top: Robert Cartwright Jr., RIMS

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Legacy and diversity are going to be major themes during Robert Cartwright Jr.’s yearlong presidency of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. The Exton, Pennsylvania-based safety and health manager of Bridgestone Retail Operations L.L.C. discussed his 2018 goals, as well as legislative and risk management priorities such as the National Flood Insurance Program and cyber threats, with Business Insurance Deputy Editor Gloria Gonzalez. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: What led you to the RIMS presidency, and what made you decide you wanted to take on the role?

A: Risk management is my passion, learning more about what things are going to affect an organization. You try to find ways to identify risks before they happen, try to assess the uncertainty. Especially now in the 21st century, risk professionals are looking for information that’s critical to them, that shows their value-add to their organization. My goal was not to become president. My goal was to get experience and knowledge, (but) when you volunteer for something, you volunteer because you have a passion for it. It’s definitely a privilege and an honor to serve as the president for 2018.

Q: What would you say are the key lessons you’ve learned as you’ve made this transition up through the ranks?

A: I would say that you really have to step outside of your own comfort zone. A lot of times we are pigeonholed by industry. My industry is more safety and compliance, environmental. (But) you need to have risk managers in finance. You have risk managers in (information technology). You need to have risk managers in (human resources) and safety. What I’ve learned is that there’s a lot more to risk management than just insurance. It’s really isolating and identifying any problems that you have with an organization, and then becoming the person that helps solve that problem.

Q: I’m curious how you’ve seen RIMS evolve in your time with the organization, and also how your involvement with RIMS has evolved.

A: Sometimes we think that this is just a national organization, and it’s not. It’s a global organization. And the reason why it’s a global organization is because risk managers are affected by issues that are happening worldwide. There are a lot of threats that most risk managers don’t know about — and if they do, where are the resources to find out information on how to resolve that and take it back to their company? (RIMS’s) focus is on trying to make sure that each risk manager has what they need to bring their value-add to their company, and also the resources to resolve issues and the network.

The thing that I have the most passion for is from the legislative standpoint. I chair the political action committee. That’s something that I take a lot of pride in, in being able to say that RIMS now has the ability to have a seat at the table when it comes to meeting with lawmakers and affecting legislation. And as you know, we were very successful with the (Terrorism Risk and Insurance Act), and right now we’re focusing on the National Flood Insurance Program. This past October, we had a very successful fundraiser with a couple of senators that I was able to partake in.

Q: Is the NFIP the top priority from a legislative perspective? And what are the implications if reform or a long-term extension doesn’t happen?

A: NFIP right now is at the top of the list only because the expiration dates keep getting pushed back. And the extension is OK, but there are all kinds of ramifications if there is no bill in place. For the simple fact that there is no coverage for flood-prone areas, businesses don’t have the opportunity to set the standard for what it is they need to do, and the insurance carriers are unsure about where they will set their rates, and the floodplain mapping is uncertain. Come up with something that’s going to be beneficial, because if we don’t it’s going to be disastrous for all stakeholders.

Q: What are the other priorities for you and RIMS?

A: The next one up would be cyber. The cyber issue is very onerous, and as it exists right now there are 48 different ways of interpreting a singular law. The person who’s the risk manager for a company that ends up having a breach, they’re going to have to be the ones to try to resolve that issue. We need to get ahead of that and to say let’s have a single legislative format of how we’re going to handle a cyber issue — and then we can start talking about how we’re going to do insurance and how we’ll put other legislation in place.

Q: Aside from cyber, what do you see as the biggest risk for risk managers these days, and how has that evolved?

A: It’s a small world after all, as they say at Disney, and with globalization and the regulation that comes with that, there are all kinds of risks. You’ve got the political risk, you’ve got terrorism, you’ve got mass violence. Workplace ethics — that’s a big issue right now in the news. Who would have foreseen that we were going to have such a massive repercussion of workplace ethics? Those are just some of the emerging risks, and we’re constantly scoping the landscape and trying to identify what the next emerging risk is.

Q: On the flip side of that, what are the biggest opportunities for risk managers?

A: From my perspective, I would say diversity. A lot of risk managers, as we look around the landscape right now, we have a tendency to look a specific way. The inclusiveness of other groups is going to be key for us to move forward. Organizations have adopted that same philosophy, and they’ve realized that diversity, whether it’s gender or culture, adds a different perspective and allows the organization to be much more flexible, much more nimble.

My theme for 2018 is going to be legacy, looking at our legacy, and saying where are we coming from and where are we going? And so, my challenge to risk managers is what imprint are you going to make in the world of risk management? And it’s not for making a name for yourself. It’s how do we identify things collectively as a risk management community and figure out what the best thing is, and move forward that way.