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Grace Crickette sells colleagues on ERM at Risk Summits


Some of her colleagues say Grace Crickette, chief risk officer for the University of California, Office of the President, is to enterprise risk management what Brownie Wise was to Tupperware.

Ms. Wise, Tupperware's first female CEO, developed the direct marketing strategy for which Tupperware is best known.

“You get people together, have a lot of workshops to teach people goals and how to implement strategies in the coming year, and you use a lot of fun and themes,” said Ms. Crickette. “That's what we do with our Risk Summits. But we're not selling Tupperware, we're selling ERM.”

The annual meetings typically begin with the screening of a two-minute clip from a popular film whose title or subject matter are integral to the theme Ms. Crickette has chosen for the year.

She said she learned the technique from a mentor, Bradley S. Jacobs, the former president and chairman of United Rentals Inc., where Ms. Crickette worked prior to joining the university in 2004.

“He believed that we are very visual learners. Media is something we're very comfortable with,” Ms. Crickette said.

For example, one year Ms. Crickette used a clip from the 1960s television series “Mission: Impossible” to convey the message that ERM is “Mission: Possible.” After the clip was shown, she and her team walked out on stage wearing black suits, dark sunglasses and carrying black briefcases.

Last year, the stage was set with a wall of cornstalks from which her team emerged, all wearing baseball uniforms. The message? “We've built our field of dreams, and now we need players from throughout the university to play in the league that will implement ERM,” Ms. Crickette said.

The themes are always closely guarded secrets until the day of the event, so Ms. Crickette declined to divulge the theme of this year's Risk Summit, scheduled for June 6-8.

“The world is so dynamic and always changing. I always want the theme to fit with what's happening at the university at the time so that it resonates,” she said.

For example, in the year the state slashed the university's budget, she used a “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme, urging those in attendance to hunt for buried treasure to find money and resources needed to support the university's ERM programs.

The summits are attended by numerous university personnel including campus risk managers and individuals from student affairs and human resources, as well as those from outside organizations seeking to learn from the University of California's ERM experience, such as Singapore Health Services, which has hired Ms. Crickette as a consultant.

Besides the annual risk summits, whose attendance grew from 125 in 2005 to nearly 500 in 2011, Ms. Crickette also uses webinars and in-person site visits, and is developing a social media strategy to reinforce her personal interpretation of ERM, that “everyone's a risk manager.”

“It's getting people to recognize they have to own their own risk and become risk managers,” she said. “That's why we use the slogan "Everyone's a risk manager.' That's what it takes if it's going to be sustainable.”

Two hundred people from inside and outside the university, representing the public and private sectors, are on the exclusive invitation list for the university's monthly ERM toolbox webinars, according to Emily M. Breed, risk services analyst in charge of webinar production.

The university also provides educational programming assistance on numerous risk management topics to the Golden Gate Chapter of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc., including a webinar series led by Erike Young, director of environmental health and safety, to prepare for the associate in risk management certification exams conducted by the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters.

Ms. Crickette also hosts monthly “all hands” meetings, bringing together all of the vendors that support the university's ERM program including its insurance brokers, third-party claims administrators and technology partners.

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