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'Energizing' look at the latest risk-related issues


NEW ORLEANS—Risk managers heading to New Orleans for the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.'s 2007 Annual Conference and Exhibition--taking place April 29-May 3--can expect an event that's big in numbers and high on energy, organizers say.

In terms of attendance, the conference is expected to rebound from the fewer than 6,500 who attended RIMS 2006 in Honolulu to more 10,000 this year, counting exhibitors, speakers and media.

A major reason for the boost is "pent-up demand," said Carolyn Snow, chair of the New York-based RIMS' conference programming committee and director of insurance risk management for Louisville, Ky.-based Humana Inc. "Some people weren't able to go to Hawaii, so they are anxious to get back to the conference."

That RIMS conference is being held in New Orleans less than two years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the region has not been a deterrent, either, Ms. Snow said. "Risk managers aren't sissies...they are accustomed to going out and looking at loss events."

"We are really very pleased with the registration. I know that we've exceeded what we did in New Orleans in 2002," said Ms. Snow. "Because it is New Orleans, I think we will get a lot of onsite registrations."

Registration fees are unchanged from last year: Onsite registration is $945 for RIMS members and associate members, and $1,245 for nonmembers; a one-day pass is $435 for RIMS members and $485 for nonmembers.

"We are seeing a very large increase in first-timers coming to the conference," said Michael Liebowitz, RIMS president and director of insurance and risk management for New York University. Although he could not say in exact terms, Mr. Liebowitz said people attending their first RIMS annual meeting is "significantly higher than past conferences." In part, he attributes the jump to the fact that "risk management is being talked about more in the board rooms.... There is a willingness on behalf of those companies to get their risk managers to a conference with one-stop shopping."

New approach

One change this year is having no specific theme for the conference. Originally slated to be "Illuminating the Strength of Risk Management," the theme was dropped in an effort by RIMS to prevent pigeonholing of its annual event.

"Traditionally, the RIMS Annual Conference & Exhibition has had a tag line, which attempted to represent a theme," a RIMS spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "What we're doing going forward is using our new conference logo that we launched this year and using a different look to our promotions with each year," she said. "One theme cannot necessarily describe the conference."

Most of the conference sessions are new, with 90% to 95% of the topics gleaned from program suggestion forms, Ms. Snow estimated.

Brand new sessions range from ones that focus on professional liability risks, such as "Understanding Key E&O, D&O and Fiduciary Liability Insurance Issues" and "D&O: A View From the Top," to ones focused on enterprise risk management, such as "ERM for Not-For-Profit Organizations" and "Implementing ERM: Achieving Sustainable and Value-Added Governance."

For the first time, RIMS 2007 will also host a media-oriented session, "Meet the Insurance Press," featuring editors from four leading risk management publications, including Business Insurance.

The largest session this year, with more than 300 people registered, is titled "Additional Insureds, Indemnitors and Insurers: Who Owes Whom What?"

Other popular sessions, each with more than 200 delegates already signed up, include: "Risk Manager's Tool Kit," "Writing a Formal Risk Management Report," and the "2007 Insurance Market Update," an annual fixture that Ms. Snow noted "is always a popular session."

"A lot of first-timers are signing up for the ERM sessions," Ms. Snow said. "They want to keep up with it and know what's going on."

Ms. Snow emphasized, however, that the conference committee was careful this year to ensure that sessions were not geared only toward newcomers. Among the more advanced sessions in RIMS' "Conceptual" series are: "Global Risks: The View from Davos" and "Broker and Chief Risk Officer: A Debate on the Issues."

"I'm really happy to have those particular sessions, because it shows that the conference is expanding, offering things to the senior risk managers," Ms. Snow said.

Additionally, RIMS is again offering two offsite sessions, this time with a Katrina-related focus: "Restoring Art in the Wake of Katrina" and "Harrah's: Bucking the Odds with Katrina!" on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon, respectively. Both sessions--open only to RIMS members--are currently at capacity.

"Energizing the audience" was the key in selecting this year's conference speakers, said the RIMS president

For Monday's opening session and keynote address, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, will discuss the threat of a global flu outbreak. "This year, the thought was let's get somebody that can talk to us from a preparedness perspective" and provide "some sort of insight to our members that they can take away and use" Mr. Liebowitz said.

Energizing lessons learned

"What will energize an audience is something that they know is out there, but they need an ability to understand it better," he said.

Monday's keynote luncheon speech will be given by David Maurstad, director of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency's mitigation division and federal insurance administrator. Mr. Maurstad will share lessons learned from Katrina and the record 2005 storm season, and give tips to risk managers about how to reduce risks associated with natural disasters.

"At this year's conference, you'll take a walk away from Monday and say that, 'Wow, this is really energizing.' It's not going to be the same ho-hum speech after speech after speech," said Mr. Liebowitz. "You will see energy in that room."

The Tuesday leadership panel luncheon, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., will boast an array of industry luminaries, including the heads of ACE USA, American International Group Inc., Aon Corp., Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., FM Global, Marsh Inc., Willis Group Holdings Ltd. and Zurich Financial Services Group.

Keeping with the sports theme for the last luncheon of the conference--last year's speaker was Anthony Avitable, director of risk management for Major League Baseball--David Holcombe, director of risk management for the International Speedway Corp., will speak Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

"NASCAR is the largest spectator sport in the country," Mr. Liebowitz said. "Obviously there is a very big interest for it (and) it is a very large and diverse exposure."

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