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Past RIMS presidents reflect on their careers in risk management

Past RIMS presidents reflect on their careers in risk management

No single factor determines risk management success, judging from the experiences of a panel of former presidents of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.

Instead, it's a combination of skills and opportunities, the former presidents said during a discussion at RIMS' 2015 conference and exhibition in New Orleans late last month.

They also noted there's also no single path to becoming a risk management professional.

“None of us really planned to go into risk management,” said Christopher J. Mandel, who was RIMS president in 2002-03 and now is senior vice president of strategic solutions at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee.

As Louis J. Drapeau, president of RIMS in 1996-97 and director of risk management at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, put it, his entry into risk management was “by accident as usual” without ever having spent a day working at a brokerage or insurer.

Panelists described careers that included experience at brokerages, insurers and governmental agencies.

Building support throughout an organization is key to risk management success, said Michael L. Liebowitz, RIMS president in 2006-07 and now senior director of insurance and risk management at New York University in New York.

C-suite support

Risk managers need support from the top, said Mr. Liebowitz, who spent much of his career in health care risk management. But risk managers also need support from other levels of the organization to do their jobs. He said he talked to nurses, facility personnel and security people to better understand the exposures he faced in his job.

Mr. Mandel said he never had the ideal mentor boss, so he reached outside for guidance.

Roger L. Andrews, president of RIMS in 2000-2001 and now Orem, Utah-based director of risk management at protective equipment maker E.D. Bullard Co., said there are multiple opportunities to develop mentors and professional sponsors. He cited being active in RIMS as an example.

Mr. Liebowitz said that includes being involved in local RIMS chapters as well. He added that networking opportunities at the RIMS annual meeting are not confined to attending educational sessions, but also happen in the hallways.

When asked how to measure success in risk management, Mr. Andrews said “in one word: relationships.”

John R. Phelps, 2013 RIMS president and director-business risk solutions at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida in Jacksonville, said he measures success by doing something he enjoys that provides value to his employer. He also said being ethical and moral is part of being successful.

“I couldn't work for somebody I thought was cheating,” Mr. Phelps said.

Mr. Mandel made much the same point: The single most significant trait as a leader is the perception of integrity, such as being a person who can be trusted, he said.

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