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

The insurance director of Novartis Corp. talks about the heroic mission of teachers, swimming with sharks, and the most interesting place she ever visited.
By: | February 19, 2015 • 5 min read

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

I was hired out of college to work as a liability representative for a medical malpractice insurance company. My job was to counsel their doctors — their insureds — about risk management: how to avoid claims, making sure medical records were well documented, etc. It was a great opportunity to learn about the business.

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R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

I think the risk management community is doing a lot right now. We’re doing a great job of communicating the value we can add to our organizations and are gaining recognition from the C-suite for the importance of our work. We’re also getting better at attracting students and young professionals early on by designing educational programs that meet their needs.

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

There are a number of industries that could probably be doing a better job of promoting women, including risk management and insurance. The majority of senior positions are filled by men.

There are opportunities out there. I certainly think at the board level we need to see more women in corporations and in senior positions. The responsibility falls on women just as much as men to promote themselves and their capabilities. With all the talented women I’ve met, this really shouldn’t still be a conversation or an issue.

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

The industry has evolved from straight-up insurance solutions as the primary way to transfer risk to more creative ways to deal with uncertainty.

We have expanded our thinking and responded with a variety of solutions, which in turn has created new jobs and degree programs in universities and a lot of academic research. It is an exciting time to be in this profession.

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

Geopolitical conflict and modern-day terrorism.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

It’s hard to single out just one. I am a big proponent of mentors and coaches and sponsors and continue to look for these role models inside and outside of risk management and within my industry — health care and pharmaceuticals. Plus, I understand that it’s my turn to give back to the next generation of risk professionals. I’m always looking for ways to help out in that regard.

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

I feel very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had. I have clearly taken some risks with my career, taking leaps from the carrier side to risk management to broker and back to risk management. I have learned so much along the way about myself, about people in general and the business world. It’s all a journey.

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I’m really proud of my current position as a risk professional at one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Our mission is caring and curing so I feel pretty good about what we do every day. Being named to the RIMS board of directors last year is also a great honor and accomplishment.

R&I: What were some of the places you worked?

Prior to Novartis, I was a global risk manager with Ingersoll Rand, a vice president at Arthur J Gallagher Risk Management Services and the director of insurance at NYU Medical Center. I think each position was a great building block for the next.

R&I: How many emails do you get in a day?

Probably 75 to 100 a day. Way too many.

R&I: How many do you answer?

That depends … whatever is on fire.

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

Jennifer Santiago, director of insurance, Norvatis Corp.

Jennifer Santiago, director of insurance, Norvatis Corp.

The book I would say is called “Sophie’s World.” I was backpacking in Germany in the early ’90s when a stranger recommended it. There’s a surprise ending which creates kind of a mind shift. That’s all I’m going to say. … I don’t want to ruin it.

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

On that same trip, I went to Prague — I think just a year after they had split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The government was obviously going through some major changes and it was really interesting to see it transpire.

R&I: What was it about Prague that impressed you most?

Prague is a beautiful city. At that time, you could still see and feel the darkness all around but there was so much light coming in from above the city. I stayed with a local family for a few days. We did not speak the same language but we seemed to understand each other.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Not far from my home in Montclair, N.J., there is a restaurant called Fascino. They call it “Italian without borders.” It’s wonderful.

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

I did some scuba diving with sharks in the Bahamas before I was married. It sounds more dangerous than it was. It was all very calculated. They were Caribbean Reef Sharks so really not aggressive or interested in humans. I assessed the risk before agreeing to participate.

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

I would say teachers are our silent heroes. They have an awesome responsibility in our society to educate and inspire our children. We need to appreciate, recognize and reward them accordingly.

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R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

I will never forget my first conference in Dallas in 1999. It was amazing to see so many risk management professionals in one place. I knew, from that experience, that this is something that I really wanted to be a part of.

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

I find my work intellectually stimulating. I like the analytical aspects of it and the opportunity to teach others about risk and insurance.

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

I would say most are puzzled — but my 13 year-old daughter Ella is sure that having a mother who is focused on managing risk will ruin her teenage life!

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

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.
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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
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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.
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