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Assistant Vp-Risk Management
Aviva Canada Inc.
At Canada Development Corp., where Susan R. Meltzer started in 1983, she leveraged her brokerage background from work at a Toronto broker to rise from the secretarial ranks into risk management for the company, which no longer is in business. Her experience there led to risk management positions at Bell Canada and then at Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, both based in Toronto. In her new position at Aviva, Ms. Meltzer is charged with developing and implementing an enterprisewide approach to risk management and assisting in the development of a mitigation plan for the insurer’s identified risks. She served as president of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. in 1999/2000 and is currently chairman of the International Federation of Risk & Insurance Management Assns.
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: "From a risk management standpoint, it was the late Douglas Barlow," also a former RIMS president, who is credited with creating the first global insurance and risk management program and was responsible for developing a widely used cost-of-risk formula. "He was just an incredible man. He’d say: ‘I have this idea rolling around in my head. I’m too old to do anything with it, so I’m giving it to you to figure is out.’ He was just a fantastic mentor."
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "I would tell them not to underestimate the need for a broad-based education or experience and get an MBA either before you start or after. The key there is focus on the broad business education, not just the technical aspects of risk management and insurance. I think it is critical” to understand not only risk but also business and business strategy."
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: The industry is "caught up in processes that don’t make sense." It focuses inordinately on "buying and selling insurance," when its main function "is giving money to someone when they have a loss. So there’s lots of attention to the front end, but when there’s a claim, there’s no relationship. It’s just broken, in my view." The industry needs to "get the hostility out" of the claims process by creating "more certainty of what coverage is going to be."
Business Insurance's report on "Women to Watch" is our attempt to identify some of the women who are leading change in commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.