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Mary Beth Smykowski
Director, risk management
Mary Beth Smykowski was working in the finance and accounting department for a pharmaceutical company that was being sold — meaning she had to look for a new job — when she saw a newspaper advertisement for a position in the risk management department of manufacturer Masco Corp.
“At the time, I didn’t know anything about risk management,” she said. “I found that I really liked it. It’s always different, and to me it’s strategizing. I almost feel like it’s a chess game. You may not get everything you want the first time. But if you have your end goal in mind, it may take you a couple of renewals to get there, but you will get to where you need to be.”
She was promoted to director of risk management in October 2008 and took over the claims department a few years later.
David Chaika, Masco’s vice president, treasurer and investor relations, said Ms. Smykowski runs the risk management department very well.
“I give her a lot of free rein,” he said. “She continually looks for ways to improve … ways to reduce costs, ways to make things more efficient even when they appear to be operating well, which has translated into a lot more efficiencies in certain functions and reduced costs. The premium reductions are in the millions.”
One of her most “fantastic” achievements occurred when Masco spun off a $1.5 billion installer and insulation products distributor called Topbuild in 2015, requiring it to have its own insurance program, he said.
“It was a challenge to make sure the underwriters understood which risks were going with Topbuild and which were remaining, and also what our risk profiles looked like post-spin so we would both get proper credit and a proper underwriting look,” Ms. Smykowski said.
Ms. Smykowski is a devoted mentor to young employees and helps organize events that raise scholarship funds for risk management students as president of the Detroit chapter of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.
“As risk managers, I think that it is our responsibility to mentor and help advance our next generation of risk management professionals,” she said.
The Business Insurance Women to Watch Award program is evolving as we continue to celebrate the achievements of outstanding female executives in the insurance and risk management sector.