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Massive email database is powerful communication tool for Safeway risk manager

Massive email database is powerful communication tool for Safeway risk manager

Among the tools William M. Zachry relies upon in efforts to promote governmental reforms or share important risk management or insurance information is a well-organized data-base that includes the names and contact information of about 15,000 individuals across 65 different distribution lists.

“At the start of the legislative process, when I got into this, it sort of evolved into all these different distribution lists,” said Mr. Zachry, vice president of risk management at Pleasanton, Calif.-based supermarket chain Safeway Inc.

“I will send out things focused at certain people in the industry,” he said. “I have one for small California employers or large California employers. If there's something that might affect how actuaries might look at something that's going on in California, I might include them on one distribution list that might not go to others.”

“You don't want to give Bill your business card,” said Mr. Zachry's boss, David F. Bond, senior vice president of finance and control at Safeway. “He's got a database of 15,000 email addresses, and he shares all kinds of stuff. He's prolific at that.”

Mr. Zachry initially built his database by saving not only the contact information of the various people he met while on business and at conferences, but also the email addresses of anyone copied on the emails he received.

“For years I'd take all the other CCs and bang them into my distribution list,” he said. “Then the first time I sent it out, if somebody wasn't happy being on it ... I'd take them off.”

“It was sort of like the La Brea Tar Pits of distribution lists,” Mr. Zachry said.


Among the instances in which the database has proved useful, Mr. Zachry said, is when he's asked to organize employer support for a political appointee.

“Once in Gov. (Arnold) Schwarzenegger's administration, they wanted employer support for somebody to be confirmed as the administrative director of the Division of Workers' Compensation,” Mr. Zachry said. “Normally they'll have 25 or 30 letters of support. I uncorked my distribution list, and I had 700 letters of support from employers in California. It was a small percentage in terms of a hit rate, but it was enough of them that it made a difference.”

The database is one more tool Mr. Zachry uses to communicate to and about the insurance and risk management industry. “It's been very effective in helping get the message out in the right fashion,” he said.

As effective as it's been, however, there are times Mr. Zachry is still surprised by his database's reach. He recalled crossing a street in London and encountering one of his broker's colleagues crossing the other way with a risk manager client of his own from Texas. As greetings were exchanged, Mr. Zachry introduced himself to the risk manager from Texas, who replied, “I'm on your distribution list!”

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