Janet Aschkenasy

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.

Risk Management

The Profession

Being a hero, said Ensign-Bickford Industries' Rick Roberts, depends on the way a person behaves when they succeed or fail at a task.
By: | December 10, 2014 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

It was back with Aetna in 1979. The area I worked in designed forms for use on new computers. It was insurance-related work but not underwriting. This work was the beginning of Aetna’s move to major automation.

R&I: How did you get your start in the business?

12012014_12_profession_230px300px_headshot

Rick Roberts, director, risk management & employee benefits, Ensign-Bickford Industries

I moved around Aetna in various internal consulting positions and then completed the three-course ARM program. I had applied for a risk management position at Aetna in 1987 and was not selected. However, the person they hired to handle risk management left within a year and I reapplied. I guess due to my perseverance, they gave me a chance and I got the position. Best luck I have had in my career.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I guess at the top of the list now is cyber risk. Like many risk specialists I’m trying to figure out its impact to our operations. For us, we think the issue would be if someone was able to get in and close our systems down for a long period of time. Are we prepared for a cyber attack that closes our system down for a two- or three-week period?

R&I: Where do you think the risk management community is providing its most vital function?

Advertisement




I think the risk management community is better at elevating key risk issues in our respective companies and making sure that these risks are being reviewed and are known by senior management.

R&I: What are some of those key issues?

Taking a more holistic look at risk, for one thing. What will the impact be if a couple of non-related events happen at the same time, for instance? Like, if you have a tsunami at one site and a major fire at another site and they are simultaneous events. This helps to address catastrophic or “tail events” that could occur outside of the three standard deviations from the mean. It provides a good review of high CAT, very low-frequency events. These are the “black swan” events that have not been assessed before an event like 9/11.

R6-14p42_Profession.inddR&I: Do you find that colleagues can frequently help you solve coverage issues?

Through RIMS, risk specialists are willing and able to share a lot of experiences. … At one point, my organization was looking into an international travel policy. I was able to go to two chapter contacts, including a former boss of mine. They gave me a wealth of information I used prior to approaching our broker to see what type of program would work best for us.

R&I: What surprises you most about the way the risk management and insurance industries have changed over the last few decades?

For me personally when I first started in the job some 26 years ago, the business was very much insurance-focused. Insurance represented 85 to 90 percent of my job and that was the foundation of everything around risk. Now, it encompasses only 10 to 15 percent. I’m being asked to get into enterprise risk management and contract work, as well as involvement in different aspects of the company, such as supply chain and cyber.

R&I: What are some of the latest happenings at the Spencer Educational Foundation where you are a director?

Advertisement




The Spencer Educational Foundation does a lot of work with students and younger risk professionals trying to attract these younger folks into the risk profession. Spencer also has a great program that I plan to utilize next year where it grants up to $4,000 to bring in interns from local universities to show them how the risk management function works at your company. These students get a great, first-hand experience in the working world and get to make many contacts that can lead to work when they are done with college.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

That’s a good question. My opinion is there should be complete transparency around all compensation received by brokers, then we as the buyer can determine whether it’s appropriate or not. There can be the appearance of a conflict of interest when the broker is being paid by the insurer as well as by the buyer when there is no disclosure.

“That unpredictability [of risk management] makes every day exciting.”    — Rick Roberts, director, risk management & employee benefits, Ensign-Bickford Industries

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

When I was younger I used to jump off a cliff, 65 or 70 feet down, at an old quarry in Southern Connecticut, which when I look at it now seems kind of stupid. But I might try some skydiving!

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

Going back to school to get my MBA as an old guy of 52 at the University of Hartford.

R&I: What is your favorite book?

“Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. He was a keynote at RIMS in L.A. two years ago. It’s a business book about decision-making. It forces you to ask the question “why?” “Why” customers buy versus “what” they buy. It talks about how we approach business situations to keep customers happy and coming back.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Blue Goodness. It’s a health drink made of a bunch of different berries. It’s a really good one!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The folks that appeal to me as heroes are golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman. They’re on full display and the way they behave when they fail or succeed is impeccable, both in sports and all the different businesses they still are running today.

Advertisement




R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

The diversity of the work and the fact that no two days are ever the same. That unpredictability makes every day exciting.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re beginning to understand the risk management function because of the publicity our work has received. Risk management seems to be seen in a very favorable light these days. People kind of get it when you say you’re involved in managing risk now because they understand the importance of loss control and the benefit of preventing injuries.

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
Share this article:

2014 Teddy Award Winner

Quick to Act

Compass Group is lauded for its safety initiatives and for a return-to-work program that incorporates all of its business lines. 
By: | November 3, 2014 • 6 min read
11012014_04_cs_compass700x525

A housekeeper at Memorial Health Systems — part of the food service and support services company Compass Group North America — was hard at work mopping a patient’s room one day. He misstepped, and before anyone could react, he was down on the ground with an injured lower back, shoulder and wrist.

Normally, slip and falls of this kind — consistently one of the leading causes of injury affecting workers of all stripes — can keep an employee out of work for long periods of time.

Not in this case.

Advertisement




As usual, the employee received medical treatment and was given all of the following restrictions: No pushing. No pulling. No lifting more than five pounds, and no prolonged standing.

Fortunately, Compass Group — which boasts over 10,000 different locations across the country, offering corporate food services, facilities management, janitorial services, and more — had implemented an innovative return-to-work (RTW) program in early 2014.

That successful program and related safety initiatives are why the organization is one of the 2014 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award winners.

The RTW initiative offers dozens of modified duties — tasks calling for minimal physical effort so that associates can get back to work in short order.

Ron Ehrhardt, vice president of operational safety, Compass Group

Ron Ehrhardt, vice president of operational safety, Compass Group

“A big part of the effort was to find different types of altered duty able to bring our associates back to work just as soon as possible — just not in their original capacity,” said Ron Ehrhardt, vice president of operational safety with Compass Group.

“They could be a cashier if not a grill cook,” in the food service units on a temporary basis, for instance, he said.

The housekeeper’s case presented a more difficult challenge, Ehrhardt said, since the Environmental Services Unit (EVS) at the worksite already had two employees on modified duty. With productivity strained, the organization was hard-pressed to provide modified duty for yet another worker.

Management was quick to act, however.

It identified a modified work opportunity with the company’s Patient Transport Division, another Compass Group business line, which includes companies such as Crothall Healthcare, Eurest Dining Services, Morrison Healthcare/Senior Living, TouchPoint, and Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events.

By moving the housekeeper and tasking him with administrative work in another unit, the company was able to maintain its productivity as well as return the man to work in an expedited fashion.

During subsequent doctor visits, the employee’s restrictions were expanded, to allow him to lift up to 15 pounds and engage in limited standing.

At the same time, one of the two employees in the EVS unit who’d previously been on modified duty was released to full duty, so management was able to move the housekeeper back to his home location to complete his modified duty roster.

The result: No loss of workdays for the injured worker or anyone else in the EVS unit.

Impressive Results

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say.

“The policy we wrote on return-to-work was implemented in March,” Ehrhardt told Risk and Insurance®. And whereas Compass had been seeing a slight increase in out-of-work days prior to the new policy, the company has seen a 7 percent net improvement in this metric during the past fiscal year.

And unsurprisingly, thanks to a bonus structure which rewards Compass units that do not incur any injury claims in the course of a year, the company’s operating units are largely compensation claims free.

Advertisement




“A full 75 percent of our accounts had zero claims in the last fiscal year, 2014, which is just ending,” said Palmer Brown, chief corporate investment & risk officer with Compass Group NA.

The return-to-work program was initiated through collaboration between the company’s safety leadership team and its TPA, Gallagher Bassett.

As part of the initiative, Compass Group implemented a RTW coordinator program. Based on specific criteria (i.e., severity, injury type and work status), cases are assigned to a RTW coordinator, a registered nurse, or closed.

For less complex cases, a RTW coordinator is given the goal of managing the RTW process and monitoring each medical visit to ensure that an injured worker gets back to full duty. The coordinator’s role is to expedite this process and communicate all pertinent information to the employer and adjuster.

A nurse is assigned to more severe cases. Similar to the RTW coordinator, the nurse works with the adjuster to get the associate back to work.

Safe Storage

Compass Group also recently implemented a “safe storage” plan, designed to eliminate unsafe situations that result in poor ergonomic lifting positions in storage rooms, janitorial closets, supply rooms, and walk-in refrigerators, among other areas.

“No two storage areas are the same, so the safe stacking and storage plan are meant to be used as a guide” to mitigate or eliminate injuries caused by heavy lifting, Ehrhardt said.

“We looked at our loss data and some of our associates were clearly getting injured — not because they were doing anything wrong, but because they were grabbing for items stored at the wrong shelf height,” he said.

For example, the safe storage model for a four-shelf unit is as follows:

• Shelf No. 1 (The top shelf) should have lighter, lesser-used items, lighter than 20 lbs.;

• Shelf No. 2 (second from the top) can be used for heavier items, but should be used mainly for the most frequently used items;

• Shelf No. 3 (second from bottom) is to be used for the heaviest, bulky, and difficult to handle items. The shelf should be outlined in yellow tape or paint; to indicate caution while lifting a heavy item; and

• Shelf No. 4 (the bottom shelf) should store lighter, less frequently used items as well as items with handles, which have not been stored on the middle shelves due to the ease of grasping and position.

In addition, he said, employees were getting injured removing heavy bags out of trash receptacles. Previously, trash bags were as large as 55 gallons, with no airflows to ease the task of pulling trash up and out. Thus, Compass Group decided to go with smaller-size vented receptacles that eliminated suction by roughly 50 percent.

These initiatives were implemented over the course of this year and have received numerous positive comments from account managers for ease of implementation and reduction of injuries.

Mike Recker, executive director with broker Willis Ltd. in Birmingham, England, applauded the new safety practices — particularly Compass’ latest return-to-work initiatives.

“A big part of the effort was to find different types of altered duty able to bring our associates back to work just as soon as possible — just not in their original capacity.” — Ron Ehrhardt, vice president of operational safety, Compass Group

In the seven years that Willis has been Compass Group’s global insurance broker, he said, “the management of risk, and specifically the safety of employees, have ranked high on the agenda at each and every Compass Group PLC board meeting,” he said.

“Under Brown’s leadership, Compass Group NA has achieved a clearer understanding of its risk profile and its injury loss drivers,” Recker added.

“We have [also] seen a closer working relationship with stakeholders including Compass TPA Gallagher Bassett as well as Willis, with a greater focus not just on cost management but how that cost is expended to achieve better results for its associates,” he said.

Advertisement




“The return to work initiatives [Compass recently] implemented are prime examples of the kind of innovation that has been introduced,” said Recker.

“Clearly, having senior inspirational leadership who are out in the field working along associates and the importance of this kind of continued engagement will enable the continued development and deployment of still more fresh innovative ideas,” Recker said.

_______________________________________________________

Read more about all of the 2014 Teddy Award winners:

11012014_02_cs_honda_150x150Building Value with Trust: Honda of South Carolina boosted its involvement with injured worker cases, making a positive first impression on employees and health care providers.

 

11012014_03_cs_harley_150x150The TLC Behind the Roar: A proactive and holistic approach to employees’ well-being has resulted in huge reductions in work-related injury claims for Harley-Davidson.

 

11012014_04_cs_compass150x150Quick to Act: Compass Group is lauded for its safety initiatives and for a return-to-work program that incorporates all of its business lines.

 

 

11012014_05_cs_coldspring_150x150Healing the Healers: Teddy Award winner Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation proved that even small organizations can make a huge difference in their employees’ lives.

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
Share this article:

Risk Management

The Profession

TriMet's Debora Leopold Hutchins blends risk management into her personal life.
By: | November 3, 2014 • 6 min read

R&I:  What was your first job?

My first job during college was working for St. Paul Insurance Co. as a rater, coder trainee in the personal lines department in Portland, Ore.

R&I:  How did you come to work in risk management?

11012014_18_profession_prof_230px300pxI had always wanted to become a risk manager when I was an insurance broker. An opportunity arose … at TriMet to manage its owner-controlled insurance program [OCIP]. Three years later, I took over the responsibility of managing the agency’s property/casualty and workers compensation insurance portfolio. Previously, I’d also worked for Fred S. James and Sedgwick.

R&I: What sorts of challenges have colleagues been able to help you tackle?

I came to my employer with no construction background to manage an OCIP. While I’m still learning the construction acronyms and the various means and methods of construction, I’m feeling more comfortable around major heavy construction projects with billions of dollars of new infrastructure.

Advertisement




R&I:  What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

For me in my role, cyber risk, mainly because we offer so many electronic transit tools for our riders to use. I’m concerned about the “what if” if someone hacks into any of those e-tools and gains access to the riders’ personal identifying information (PII). For instance, right now we are working on a complete electronic e-fare system allowing the rider to use their smart phone, credit card or debit card to purchase daily, weekly or monthly passes.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Even though I see an increase in young risk management professionals, industrywide we could be working to introduce more young professionals into the field of insurance and risk management.

R&I:  What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

I’ve seen a more diverse group of risk managers, including a younger group, which is good for the industry as baby boomers start to look towards retirement. More and more organizations are finally looking at the risk management function as an essential role in their organization.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

R6-14p42_Profession.inddI don’t have as much of an opinion about the companies as I do about the brokers I work with. I can work with any insurance company provided they can insure my organization with broad terms and conditions. However, the relationship I have with my insurance brokers is most important to me and I have a good relationship with both my insurance brokers — Marsh and Alliant Insurance Services.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

I’ll put it this way: I prefer that my broker not receive a contingent commission. Whether they’re paid through a fee arrangement or on commission, I want them to be totally up-front and transparent about the compensation they receive on my account. As a public agency, I need full transparency and disclosure of the fee my broker receives.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I’m by nature a pessimistic person, and I think we have a ways to go with the economy. Since 2008, Oregon in particular is still trying to make a comeback. Jobs are starting to open up, the value of homes is starting to rise, and salaries are slowly rising. Six years later, we’re still trying to play catch up with the rest of the United States.

Advertisement




R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

I have a fear of water, not being able to see what’s in the water and not being able to touch the bottom. And yet I had the courage to participate for eight years on a dragon boat competition team. Being on that team took me to Italy to compete in the World Crew Club World Championship.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I took first place in the National Association of Insurance Women (NAIW) National Oratory Competition in late 1980s. And besides competing in the World Crew Club Championship, I participated in a 675-mile bike ride over six days sponsored by Cycle Oregon in 2000.

I am a student of insurance. It’s fulfilling to me because I am at the forefront of making sure the agency’s risks are managed effectively whether through risk retention, risk transfer, risk avoidance or a combination of all those methods.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have many mentors; most of them came out of the NAIW. There are three that I’ll mention: Careen Adams, Libby Rawls and Doreen Young.

In the 1980s, Libby and Careen hired me from St. Paul Insurance and I worked for them at Cole Clark & Cunningham, a small independent insurance agency now known as Aon Risk Services.

Both Libby and Careen were insurance producers, something that was unheard of for women at the time. Libby encouraged me to get my ARM and CPCU and Careen made it so that I was promoted to a senior account underwriter before she left the company. …

Doreen was a customer service representative for a competitor and she is responsible for helping me gain the confidence and courage to stay in the industry and work my way through some of the same challenges she, Libby and Careen faced.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

I’m not a pleasure reader, but two months ago a colleague insisted that I read “The Glass House” and I loved it.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

Italy. I loved visiting the Coliseum, what it represented brought a lot of emotions for me as a Christian. I could feel the pain the Christians endured being used as a gaming tool during that era. It was amazing.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I absolutely love insurance; I am a student of insurance. It’s fulfilling to me because I am at the forefront of making sure the agency’s risks are managed effectively whether through risk retention, risk transfer, risk avoidance or a combination of all those methods. I enjoy helping people, and when you’re in this field people come to you with a lot of questions, like, “What if we took on this, this and this, what would be the outcome?”

Advertisement




R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They know that I manage risk because I take what I do and I blend it into my personal life.

It drives my daughter crazy when I say, “Check your car before you get inside or make sure you have your house key in your hand when you’re getting home late at night. She’ll say, “There you go, Mom, always managing risk.” My husband will kind of lower his eyebrows and say, “OK, here comes my risk management session for the day.”

Risk is around us every day and when you work in it every day it becomes part of who you are.

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
Share this article: