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Looking for a way to bring more "real world" risk management education to his classroom, a university professor accepted a summer internship from FMR Corp.'s Judy Lindenmayer.
What he said he found at FMR, better known as Fidelity Investments, was a risk management department operating on the outer limits of the profession.
Heading into his 10-week summer internship at Fidelity last year, Victor Puleo expected it would give him the hands-on risk management experience in a large corporation that he wanted to share with his students.
"But, I didn't expect to be working within a risk management department or with a risk manager like Judy," said the assistant professor, who now is in his third year with Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
"What surprised me the most was how many different approaches to risk were being embraced by her department," Mr. Puleo said. Traditional insurance "was almost the last thing they wanted to touch when approaching risk," he observed.
"This is the kind of thing college professors should be doing to see what the real world is doing, because we don't live in the real world," Mr. Puleo said.
Ms. Lindenmayer, vp-Fidelity insurance and risk management, long has been a supporter of risk management education. Two initiatives of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. to which she has committed much of her time are the Gateway Program to promote internships for graduating risk management students and the Gamma Iota Sigma risk management fraternity.
"I strongly believe that people in this profession have the responsibility to help students of the profession-to let them see how they can apply their book learning in a real-life situation," Ms. Lindenmayer said.
She said she has wanted the opportunity before to offer internships, but Fidelity is the first company she has worked at that has supported the idea.
In the summer of 1995, a year before Mr. Puleo's internship at Fidelity, Ms. Lindenmayer provided internships to two risk management students from the University of Georgia.
Ms. Lindenmayer and Mr. Puleo crossed paths in the fall of that year at a national meeting of Gamma Iota Sigma in Minneapolis.
Throughout the meeting, Ms. Lindenmayer heard several professors voice concerns about whether they were providing their students a "real world" education.
She suggested that the professors intern at companies, a recommendation that the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business formally endorsed the following spring. Like the professors Ms. Lindenmayer encountered, the AACSB has expressed concerns that academia is not adequately preparing students for what they will encounter in the real business world.
The challenge is to get companies to hire professors as interns more often, Mr. Puleo said.
In an April 1996 letter to AACSB member representatives, AACSB President Scott S. Cowen encouraged schools and faculty to take advantage of such opportunities already offered by companies and governmental agencies.
But, Mr. Puleo did not seek an internship for himself when he met Ms. Lindenmayer at the Gamma Iota Sigma meeting.
"I asked her about hiring one of my students. She said, 'I'd rather have you,' " Mr. Puleo recalled.
Ms. Lindemayer extended a formal invitation to Mr. Puleo in March 1996.
"She was a genuinely nice person," the professor said. In addition, "she is confident in the program she has put together."
Mr. Puleo said he was exposed to all of the initiatives under way in the department and was able to volunteer to work on the projects that interested him most.
The professor said he was most impressed with the lofty $1 billion catastrophe program the department was trying to pull together. Ms. Lindenmayer hopes to have the program in place by next year.
He also marveled at the reinsurance pooling arrangement with six other large companies that Fidelity's risk management department was helping form for the company's Bermuda-based captive. The Green Island Reinsurance Pool, which pools the participating companies' casualty risks, has both generated significant third-party business and reduced loss variability for Fidelity's captive since the pool's inception in January.
"I went up there thinking there'd be a lot of insurance and little risk management," Mr. Puleo said. "I found there was mostly risk management and a little insurance."
The professor also pointed out that Ms. Lindenmayer surrounded herself with brokers with the same mind-set as hers.
Indeed, Mr. Puleo witnessed Ms. Lindenmayer request a different account executive from one of her brokers because the one she had been working with "wasn't cutting edge."
"He was old-fashioned. Insurance was the way to solve things," the professor said of the account executive.
Ms. Lindenmayer said she personally liked the individual but that his approach to risk financing was not in sync with her department's.
Besides giving interns the opportunity to apply what they have learned, Ms. Lindenmayer also insists that their contributions "be of value to Fidelity."
If they only "file and make copies," the internship is a disservice to the company and the students, she said.
Ms. Lindenmayer called the professor's internship "a very successful engagement" that exceeded her expectations. She was especially pleased with his work in developing a system that allows Fidelity to very quickly pull together its business interruption exposures.
Ms. Lindenmayer said her staff now unanimously supports making more internships available but limiting them to graduate students, who should be able to offer more help than undergrads.
As for Mr. Puleo, he recalled that one of Ms. Lindenmayer's brokers asked him at the end of his internship where he would like to intern next.
"It would be nearly impossible to top that internship experience, unless Judy goes somewhere else," the professor said.