Michelle Kerr

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]


To Shrink the Talent Gap, Elevate the Profession

The best way to attract and retain young talent is to focus on the positives that the workers' comp industry has to offer.
By: | May 12, 2016 • 5 min read
Businesspeople With Digital Tablet Having Meeting In Office

By the end of 2018, it’s estimated that nearly 25 percent of the insurance industry’s current workforce will have retired. Upwards of 40 percent are expected to retire in the next 10 years — taking their collective knowledge and experience with them.


The industry has been aware of its talent shortfall for a long time. Carrier and brokerage executives spoke openly about the issue at the recent RIMS conference in San Diego. The workers’ compensation community is also feeling that pain, and looking for answers.

A group of industry leaders came together on May 10 to explore both obstacles and solutions during the Out Front Ideas webinar “The Changing Face of Insurance: Talent Attraction, Retention & Training,” hosted by Mark Walls, vice president, Communications & Strategic Analysis with Safety National, and Kimberly George, senior vice president of Corporate Development, M&A and Healthcare at Sedgwick.

A ‘Necessary Evil’

Many of the difficulties in attracting talent are the same as those the industry has always faced, said panelists. People still tend to stumble into insurance and workers’ comp — only a rare few take a direct path into the industry.

The problem is a deeply rooted one. Although it isn’t really a talent problem as much as it is an image problem. Children aren’t raised to be aware of insurance professionals at all, let alone aspire to be them someday. And once they do become aware, the impression they get is rarely good.

Angela Schaefer, vice president, Human Resources & Employee Engagement, Safety National

Angela Schaefer, vice president, Human Resources & Employee Engagement, Safety National

“Oftentimes it is viewed as a necessary evil” rather than a societal good, said Angela Schaefer, vice president of Human Resources & Employee Engagement with Safety National.

That image problem is particularly acute in workers’ comp, said David DePaolo, president of WorkCompCentral. The industry has worked hard to cultivate an image of being tough on fraud, widely publicizing victories against fraudsters in order to discourage other would-be criminals.

As necessary as those tactics may be, they don’t win the industry any points in the recruiting department. Neither does the media’s recent obsession with vilifying the workers’ comp profession as a whole.

And while the image problem is not new, is has grown especially pointed since millennials began entering the workforce. A study by the Pew Research Center in 2010 found that millennials place a higher priority on helping people than having a high-paying career, and numerous other researchers have arrived at the same conclusion — young talent is drawn toward occupations where they feel they can make a difference for their communities.

Helping injured workers get back on their feet is a powerful way to make a difference. But that message isn’t getting across.

“Everything that they’re looking for is available through the insurance industry — they just don’t know it,” said Jessie Gaudio, director of MyPath at The Institutes.

“Let’s not be embarrassed about workers’ comp. When people ask you about [your job], be proud of it — tell them what you do.” — David DePaolo, president, WorkCompCentral

That disconnect is  exactly why all members of the workers’ comp community need to make a conscious effort to put out positive messages about the industry, said panelists, not just at a corporate level but at a personal level too.

“Let’s not be embarrassed about workers’ comp,” said DePaolo. “When people ask you about [your job], be proud of it — tell them what you do. … It’s really all about generating a positive message.”

David DePaolo, president, WorkCompCentral

David DePaolo, president, WorkCompCentral

DePaolo said it’s a useful exercise to develop an elevator pitch that will help explain the positives of what workers’ comp means and what it does.

Walls offered the succinct, “We help people.”

“Workers’ comp has been under the cloud of an inferiority complex,” said DePaolo. “It affects the psyche of everyone in the business and that’s not right.”

College campuses present an important opportunity for professionals to elevate the industry’s image. But that doesn’t just mean just sending out recruiters, said Terri Browne, Chief People Officer at Sedgwick. It means looking for opportunities to have a presence on campus, and to “educate students and faculty about what we do.”

Internships are another way that companies can educate students about the industry. And companies shouldn’t be reluctant to offer internship programs just because they don’t plan to hire from them, said Schaefer. The skills that students stand to gain from internship experiences can help build goodwill, and students are likely to share their positive impressions with their fellow students.

Align Priorities

Attracting young talent is one thing. Keeping it is another. At an executive panel discussion at the recent RIMS conference in San Diego, Steven McGill, group president, Aon plc, noted that 60 percent of those coming into the industry are leaving after two years.

Companies need to take a closer look at whether their company cultures are aligned with the priorities of younger employees, panelists said.

Jessie Gaudio, director of MyPath at The Institutes

Jessie Gaudio, director of MyPath at The Institutes

“Salary doesn’t always rank as the first priority,” said Jessie Gaudio, director of MyPath at The Institutes. “Benefits are key, and work culture and work-life balance.”

Job flexibility is also on the top of the list. “It’s one of the key things we’re asked about,” said Browne, noting that more people are dealing with complex personal issues and family situations than ever before.

“With technology today, it’s easier to [accommodate],” she said.

“We need to start at home,” said Schaefer. That means having an inclusive work environment, and a culture where young talent can contribute in a meaningful way, right from the start. Too often, young employees leave a company because they feel underutilized.

Companies should also consider job rotation as a way to expose people to all of the opportunities available to them, said Schaefer, and support them if they express an interest in switching departments.


Young employees also value training opportunities, and that’s something that has declined over time, said DePaolo. Employers would invest in training people only to have them poached by other companies.

But that training provides value on a broader scale if it helps ensure that the young talent remains in the industry.

“Eventually that training is going to come back,” said DePaolo.

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]
Share this article:

Emerging Cyber Risk

Out of Control in the Driver’s Seat

Security researchers provide haunting proof of how vulnerable our high-tech vehicles really are.
By: | April 20, 2016 • 5 min read
car hacking

You’re tooling down the highway when suddenly your car’s A/C turns on to full blast. Then the radio fires up and switches to a Hip-Hop station.

You’re startled when the wipers turn on, wiper fluid obscuring your view of the road for a moment.


You’re frantically trying to turn it all off when your car loses power completely, leaving you stranded on a busy stretch of road with no shoulder, a semi closing in fast from behind you.

That sounds a little a scene from a spy thriller or maybe even the “X-Files,” but it happened to the driver of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee as researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek hacked into and took control of it.

The duo found a way to hack in wirelessly, exploiting a widely used onboard entertainment system to take over a vehicle’s dashboard functions, brakes, steering and transmission.

Miller and Valasek first made headlines in 2013, when they publicized their success hacking into Ford and Toyota models. At that time, they only managed to accomplish the attacks while their PC was plugged into the vehicles’ diagnostic ports.

Only two years later, the duo found a way to hack in wirelessly, exploiting a widely used onboard entertainment system to take over a vehicle’s dashboard functions, brakes, steering and transmission.

They found they could do it from absolutely anywhere, so long as they had an internet connection. Most disturbing of all, they identified a loophole that could be used to attack multiple cars at once — creating a wirelessly controlled automotive botnet encompassing hundreds of thousands of vehicles.

The team published part of the project online and later demonstrated their “progress” at the 2015 Black Hat conference.

Without question, the more technologically sophisticated and connected vehicles become, the more vulnerable they get.

After Miller and Valasek published their results, Fiat Chrysler issued a recall for 1.4 million vehicles affected by the vulnerability exploited by the team. The automotive industry has been on high alert ever since, even while they simultaneously boast about models equipped with more and better technology.

Without question, the more technologically sophisticated and connected vehicles become, the more vulnerable they get. The push toward autonomous vehicles will only increase those vulnerabilities.

“We are a long way from securing the non-autonomous vehicles, let alone the autonomous ones,” said Stefan Savage, a computer science professor at the University of California, San Diego, during an Enigma security conference early this year.

Autonomous isn’t necessarily synonymous with “connected,” however, even for early entrants to the commercial autonomous vehicle space.


Daimler’s Freightliner Inspiration, the world’s first road-ready self-driving truck, “doesn’t rely on ‘connectivity’ or wireless communication to/from the outside world to drive itself,” said Dan Holden, manager of corporate risk and insurance for Daimler Trucks North America.

“Rather, the system is self-contained, meaning it uses production cameras and radars as inputs to determine the vehicle position and keep it centered in its lane.  Therefore the Inspiration truck is as secure from a cyber perspective as production vehicles today.”

More Frightening Than Fiction

Until cyber vulnerabilities can be addressed, it doesn’t take a broad stretch of the imagination to see what the future implications could be for this type of attack. Consider a few scenarios:

  • The vehicle of a courier transporting sensitive documents is disabled in a remote location, where armed thieves are waiting to steal the documents.
  • A high-level executive receives a message alerting him that ransomers have control of his teen daughter’s car — with her in it — and will drive it off of a bridge if he doesn’t pay $10 million in Bitcoin.
  • A ring of thieves finds a way into the systems of a trucking fleet’s rigs through its onboard camera system, enabling it to stop the trucks remotely so teams can hijack the cargo.
  • An extreme hactivist group decides to “brick” every car in Los Angeles, disrupting businesses and lives until its demands are met.
  • An attacker hacking into a commercial truck’s system disables the brakes, sending the truck careening into a school bus in the middle of an intersection.

Keep in mind that even less extreme types of hacking could create vulnerabilities for both individuals and businesses.

Miller and Valasek proved their ability to wirelessly hack a vehicle for surveillance, tracking GPS coordinates, measuring speed, and tracing routes. When a vehicle’s onboard systems are connected to the driver’s smartphone, the smartphone is also at risk for attack, and any data stored in it is fair game, including passwords and credit card information.

Government and Industry Respond

Miller and Valasek’s work is part of what inspired the drafting of an automotive security bill introduced last year. The Security and Privacy In Your Car Act (the SPY Car Act) would require cars sold in the U.S. to meet certain standards of protection against digital attacks and privacy.

The bill’s creators surveyed 20 carmakers and discovered that only seven used independent security testing to check their vehicles’ security, and only two had tools in place to stop a hacker intrusion.

Several Japanese companies are working on automotive cyber security technology.

In March, the FBI, along with the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, published an advisory on the realities of hackable vehicles and making recommendations to increase security.

Several Japanese companies are working on automotive cyber security technology. Panasonic is developing a device that can detect unauthorized network signals and cancel them out. Fujitsu Laboratories and a researcher from Yokohama National University are developing technology that detect an attack, notify the driver, and encrypt signals to allow the vehicle to be stopped safely.

However these technologies are still five years away from commercial availability, as are fully encrypted next-generation automotive networks.


Transportation companies, their clients and every organization with a fleet of its own should be asking questions about the security of the vehicles that are used in the course of their daily operations — and whether they have cover that will respond if their vehicles fall prey to cyber tampering.

“Having insurance coverage in place that would address bodily injury and property damage is something companies should seriously consider as this risk matures,” said William A. Boeck, senior vice president. and insurance and claims counsel for Lockton’s cyber risk practice.

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]
Share this article:

RIMS 2016

Kick-Off With a Bang

Risk management went from talk to action at the RIMS opening festivities.
By: | April 11, 2016 • 2 min read
Topics: RIMS | Risk Managers

The opening reception of RIMS 2016 on 5th Avenue in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter included an unfortunate twist when some attendees were injured toward the end of the festivities.

A fireworks display, lit from a roof near Dick’s Last Resort, went awry, and a few fireworks were misdirected into the crowd.

An errant firework landed in the crowd near Safety National employees. One was treated and released while two others suffered burned clothing. Those in the immediate vicinity were understandably shaken up.

“It’s unfortunate when things like this happen at events and I am sure there will be a lot of review of how things like this can be prevented in the future,” said Mark Walls, VP of communications and strategic analysis at Safety National. “This is a good example of how risk management will respond in terms of making sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Additionally, witnesses say a risk management student suffered burns and stayed the night in a hospital.


RIMS is currently working with the fire marshal, which is investigating the incident.

RIMS could not yet offer official comment. But given the savvy of the professionals involved, there’s little question that the proper contracts and policies are in place to protect people and property and ensure that any damage is addressed swiftly.

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]
Share this article: