Universal Risk Management
Risk management theory and practice fascinates — and can also appear so complex — because it resides in so many different professional realms and takes such different shapes.
Some of this year’s Risk All Stars work for widely known companies with billions in assets. Others work for a nonprofit that cobbled its solutions together with government grants.
In some examples, winners of the award were armies of one, who either through specialization or a unique perspective effected sweeping change. But creativity, passion and perseverance, the traits that we base this award on, are found in every winner.
In the person of Dr. Mike Tomecek, of the Oklahoma Spine & Brain Institute, Risk & Insurance® gives an award for the first time to a neurosurgeon; perhaps it won’t be the last.
Dr. Tomecek uses electrodiagnostic functional assessments to determine whether medical hardware removal surgery is really necessary. His specific knowledge of nerve function, coupled with technology, allows him to determine whether the movements that are actually causing pain or immobility are connected to medical hardware or are coming from some other place.
With his assessments, Dr. Tomecek acts as a patient advocate who is reducing surgeries and recommending site-specific physical therapy, a far less costly and intrusive treatment.
Risk All Stars winners Chris Chathams and Latitia Estrada are working-class heroes. These safety and human resources specialists work for the Timber Products Manufacturers Association.
The association is a trade group for smaller operators in the extremely hazardous timber industry in the Pacific Northwest. Using massive, unforgiving chain saws to bring down big trees, workers in the timber industry get hurt badly when something goes wrong.
The forestry companies that depend on the association as a safety education resource don’t have the resources to offer safety training on their own, even though such training is drastically needed.
Using grants from OSHA, Chathams and Estrada created a safety training program that in a three-year span reduced injuries for some member companies by 75 percent. That’s a lot of workers and their families suffering less trauma.
Richard Pcihoda, the director of risk management for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, moved with speed and effectiveness when Superstorm Sandy struck. One of PREIT’s shopping malls suffered millions in damage when the storm hit.
But Pcihoda had planned ahead, lining up a reconstruction contractor so he didn’t have to wait in line for help after the fact. Pcihoda’s planning, and his great relationships with his adjusters, resulted in the Hudson Mall reopening a mere 17 days after the storm.
Business interruption was lessened and many jobs saved as a result.
Risk management can be a thankless job. It demands hard work and attention to detail that some people would rather not think about.
But we think about it. The 2014 Risk All Stars awards are our way of saying thanks.
Complete coverage of the 2014 Risk All Stars winners begins here.
Leading From the Front
Making your fellow employees safer and creating more risk resiliency in your organization requires much more than simply doing your job.
It means doing the hard work to find a unique and practical solution, and then having the backbone and drive to implement that solution despite whatever obstacles you might face. In effect, doing the right thing over the easy thing.
These eight Responsibility Leaders do that and more. Through their drive and passion, they are the ones creating solutions that benefit not only their organizations but their employees and their communities.
Leslie Lamb works for Cisco Systems, with 75,000 employees and more than $100 billion in assets. You could count the members of her risk management team on one hand.
But Lamb’s Global Risk & Resilience Management team is bold and acts strategically. They dig deeper into the business, to take the time to meet with department heads in the effort to better understand their risks.
Lamb and her team created that most precious of dynamics. They created a dialogue among company leaders that is risk-focused. The award-winning Lamb reports that after a five-year effort, that dialogue is not only ongoing, it is expanding.
Sprague Operating Resource’s David Hershey displayed courage and dedication in standing up for his fellow risk managers. When insurance carriers decided in one fell swoop to stop notifying designated third parties that policies naming them as insureds were cancelled, he stood up to take a leading role.
In demanding that such notification be restored contractually, Hershey was insisting that insurance be what it says it is: a backstop that enables the smooth and productive flow of commerce.
“Commerce is not in business to justify the insurance industry, insurers, agents and brokers,” Hershey said, in one of the most relevant statements that may have ever appeared in this publication.
His status as a Responsibility Leader® stems from the essence of the definition of the award. He made a difference for an entire industry by leading when no one else stepped forward.
Hershey also furthers the profession of risk management by being a frequent speaker and author on risk management topics. He talks to college students about careers in risk management and teaches insurance at the Insurance Library of Boston.
Hershey and the rest of the 2014 Risk All Stars Responsibility Leaders® are not only doing what needs to be done, they are helping others to do it as well.
Here are the 2014 Risk All Stars Responsibility Leaders.
Champion for Change
Workers’ Compensation Manager Patty Hostine created dramatic gains for Cooper Standard Automotive by championing a fundamental change in the way both management and employees perceived the company’s approach to injury treatment and recovery.
That kind of transformation is never an easy sell. But Hostine’s ability to clearly communicate the benefits of the change to people at every level of the organization is the hallmark of a Responsibility Leader®.
“When she came on board we had all kinds of new management — nobody was on board with our thought process,” said Gerry King, who hired Hostine to manage workers’ compensation at Cooper Standard.
“So it was taking them and making them see the business side of workers’ compensation that a lot of people don’t look at,” King said.
Hostine is also committed the members of her team, and to making sure that everyone involved has the tools and knowledge they need to excel.
“Her ethics are above reproach,” said Mick Altherr, coordinator of health, safety and environment, and workers’ compensation at Cooper Standard Automotive, “and that drives her theme of being fair, firm and friendly. … She’s an amazing talent with her drive for knowledge. She shares her thought process to educate the people who work with her.”
Filling a Need for Safety
Saws and heavy lumber make the timber and wood products industry inherently dangerous. But many small companies lack resources to provide adequate safety training to employees.
Enter Latitia Estrada and Chris Chathams of Timber Products Manufacturers Association (TPM). The duo leveraged their nonprofit status to win government grants to create and provide training to member organizations at no cost.
The training programs, consisting of webinars, worksheets, and videos, bring awareness to the highest-risk areas of the industry, all the way from logging in the forest to working a sawmill on the factory floor.
Over the past two years, more than 80 employers and 2,200 employees in seven different states have received training.
The pair estimates they’ve saved participating companies more than $134,000 in training costs alone, not including costs saved by lowering injury rates.
One company was able to slash their injury rates by 50 percent.
Chathams and Estrada have also widened TPM’s involvement within the safety industry.
They’ve worked with different chapters of the American Society of Safety Engineers, the Northern Idaho Safety Fest and the Montana Safety Fest.
Looking to the future, they’ve also helped TPM create a safety scholarship and internship program.
Making a Difference
David Hershey is a prolific speaker and writer on risk management topics. The list of industry awards he has won and industry leadership positions he occupies runs longer than most restaurant menus.
He serves as a board member, president, vice president, and committee member — both now and in the past — for the New Hampshire chapter of the CPCU, the Massachusetts and Delaware Valley chapters of RIMS, the Philadelphia Area Risk Managers Association, the Governor’s Council on Insurance Fraud, and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
He has also volunteered his creativity and passion about risk management by serving on the External Affairs Committee and Standards & Practices Committee of the national RIMS organization.
Sharing his knowledge with others, Hershey taught classes for the Insurance Society of Philadelphia and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New Hampshire.
In challenging insurance carriers to restore their obligation to inform named insureds when a policy is cancelled — and establishing a process to make sure his company was protected — Hershey made a difference to countless others in the risk management community, not just himself or his company.
“Notification is one of the core concepts of risk management,” he rightly noted.
Taking on a Mighty Challenge
You sign on to share the burden of managing risk for a high-profile $15 billion company. Months down the road, you’re bidding “Happy Retirement” to half of your team and wondering how you’re going to manage it all alone. That scenario could send a chill down the spine of any seasoned risk professional.
But Dan Holden took on the challenge, and he thrived —identifying multiple savings opportunities in the insurance and risk management programs of Daimler Trucks North America.
Holden made a critical assessment of his responsibilities. He carved out the pieces that needed his attention most, and sought alternative means to get the rest accomplished, like relying more heavily on the company’s TPA and on the company’s existing online portal.
He also skillfully leveraged his resources, tapping into the expertise of his brokers, other vendors, and former colleagues to gather the tools he needed to succeed.
Taking on the work of two men, Holden persevered by looking at the big picture and restructuring his priorities.
That freed him up get creative in making adjustments to DTNA’s insurance program, negotiating better policy terms by highlighting the impact of the economic downturn. The determination to rise above every challenge is what makes Holden a Responsibility Leader®.
Worth Her Weight in Gold
The company Leslie Lamb works for has more than 75,000 employees and $100 billion in assets.
Imagine the amount of work involved to break down department silos and gain a better understanding of risk on a department by department basis.
It can’t have been easy to go to company leadership and say that you want to conduct risk meetings with each department, to get a better understanding of not only each department’s risk but how risk straddles the entire company.
But that’s what Leslie Lamb and her risk management team of three did.
Senior leaders who didn’t before are now talking to one another about risk as a result of Lamb’s drive to unify all stakeholders.
The result is a sharing of information about exposures, risk scenarios and how best to mitigate them.
Because of Lamb’s leadership, Cisco can take to its underwriters a story that is far more educated and nuanced. Underwriters like that; they like it very much.
As a Responsibility Leader® and winner of a Risk All Stars Award, Leslie gets a plaque and mention in this magazine. But to the company that employs her, she is worth her weight in gold.
Running to the Fight
Maybe it’s his history in emergency management and current service as a volunteer firefighter that gives Richard Pcihoda the reflexes to run to the fight, because that is what he did as Superstorm Sandy threatened in October of 2012.
Pcihoda, the director of risk management for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, based in Philadelphia, wasn’t the only risk manager whose job got a lot tougher when Sandy hit, but it looks like he outperformed many of his contemporaries.
Not only did Pcihoda conduct the necessary planning and preparation to reduce his own company’s business interruption, he went out of his way to counsel his company’s Jersey City (N.J.) Hudson Mall tenants on coverage and recovery methods after the mall suffered millions in damage.
Pcihoda looked at the whole picture and acted on it. The day after the storm struck, Pcihoda jumped in his truck and drove to Jersey City, getting there before formal travel bans were in place to jump start the recovery process.
He had his contractors in place ahead of the storm to get a jump on reconstruction. He had the adjuster relationships to pull it together seamlessly.
Pcihoda is a Risk All Star because he possesses passion, creativity and perseverance. He’s a Responsibility Leader® because through his actions, he shows others how it’s done.
Creating His Own Solution
When the 16 institutions comprising Wisconsin Technical Colleges faced persistent problems obtaining insurance coverage suited to their unique needs, Steven Stoeger-Moore didn’t just find the solution — he created it.
Stoeger-Moore helped to establish Districts Mutual Insurance (DMI) in 2004 to represent the colleges and provide better insurance and risk management services.
Under his self-implemented “Rule of 16,” he ensures that if any school has a problem, all 16 colleges benefit from DMI’s solution. That dedication led to the development of comprehensive risk management programs — provided to each school at no cost — for electrical and fire safety inspections, emergency response planning, legal consultations, and employee health and safety consultations, among many others.
And when those programs were tested, Stoeger-Moore sprang into action. In the past 10 years, the Wisconsin Technical College System has weathered both a tornado and a major fire. Both times, he was at the scene within 24 hours of the event, providing claims and insurance guidance as well as comfort for shaken colleagues.
Stoeger-Moore has also worked to bolster the industry’s future by encouraging young people to consider a career in risk management. Through DMI, he creates opportunities for young people to learn about the colleges’ unique challenges and the programs created to meet them.
3 + 3: Theory of Risk
Anthony Valsamakis doesn’t just practice risk management, he wrote a book about it. And he doesn’t just consult with quants, he is one.
“Risk management has been in my blood for so long that I have to stop myself, otherwise I could go into a two-hour monologue,” said Valsamakis, whose career in the discipline goes back almost 35 years, to his first job with the Standard General Insurance Company.
In 1990, the London-based chairman of the Eikos Group received a doctorate in Business Economics. In 1992, “The Theory & Principles of Risk Management” was published, with Valsamakis the principal author, and is now in its 4th edition.
Valsamakis worked first with a carrier, then as a commodities broker, before taking up an academic post. The company he started in 1999, the Eikos Group, has a risk consulting arm, with clients in most industrial sectors, including the food, mining, forestry, industrial paper and packaging and banking industries. The group also includes a transportation risk brokerage and a Bermuda-based carrier.
“I think the idea of having a secure data base that everyone can access and can update at any moment is by far the best innovation that I can see happening in the information game.”
– Anthony Valsamakis, Chairman, Risk Financing Strategy, Eikos Group
For as long as he can remember, Valsamakis sought ways to get better information on the risks he underwrites, brokers or consults on.
“Over many years we’ve tried hard to increase the quality and timeliness of the information that enables us to do just that,” Valsamakis said.
Finally, it looks like Valsamakis has found a risk management information systems platform that enables him to do just that.
For the past year and a half, Valsamakis has been using a system developed by Riskonnect.
“What’s useful for me is that the platform basically resides within the client’s systems,” he said.
The information he needs to prioritize, depends on which client he is working with.
“By definition, depending on where I am working and what I am doing, risk management priorities are very different,” Valsamakis said.
The Riskonnect platform provides the necessary flexibility.
A mine, for example, could be in a location in Africa or South America with a high degree of political risk. A key risk for a furniture maker might be around trade secrets, the possibility that a disgruntled employee would leak a pricing catalogue to competitors. For a packaging manufacturer, their material supply chain is of the utmost importance, and so on.
For each client, Valsamakis can use Riskonnect platform and work with the client to compile the information that is most relevant to that client and its industry and enter that into a secure system.
“All of these are template facts that you can easily put into the Riskonnect system,” Valsamakis said.
The Riskonnect platform is housed within the client’s information technology system, and it is transparent enough, to give Valsamakis and his client access to the same sets of data.
“I think the idea of having a secure data base that everyone can access and can update at any moment is by far the best innovation that I can see happening in the information game,” he said.
Whose System Is It?
Valsamakis has been around long enough to know a few things about data and risk transfer. He’s seen a number of risk information management systems put out by brokers, for example, that he thinks are set up more for the broker’s business model than for the sharing of information.
Generally speaking, information about an insured’s risks come from the broker and the insured. The Riskonnect system works, according to Valsamakis, because it is designed to be adapted to the client, not the broker.
“I have seen efforts by brokers, for example, over the years to produce a type of risk information platform that becomes theirs,” Valsamakis said.
“It’s been a perennial problem in the industry, where depending on which broker you end up with, you’ll end up with system A, B or C,” he said.
The Underwriter Needs to Know
Using Riskonnect, Valsamakis encourages clients to be as transparent as possible, in order to give the most complete information to underwriters.
“For me the question is, ‘What is the volatility around the asset and can there be an impact on the balance sheet of our clients?’” he said.
“We need to describe this exposure in various contexts so that the underwriters know what they are covering,” he said.
It’s basic human psychology. If an underwriter doesn’t feel they are getting enough information about a particular risk, they will take a negative view of that risk.
The more accurate the information Valsamakis has about a client’s exposures, the better the pricing he gets from underwriters.
“If you were an underwriter putting your capital and risk and I gave you little information, you would actually be less inclined to look at the risk in favorable terms. There will be a natural inclination to downgrade it,” he said.
Where Valsamakis sees enormous value is in the Riskonnect system ability to tag which can be revisited at a later stage.
“It’s amazing how clients forget, in the passage of time, that there are profiles that have changed for better or worse.”
A Long-Term Investment
The Eikos Group invested significantly in the Riskonnect product and are taking it to a number of clients. The transparency of the system and the advantage it gives the Eikos Group and its clients with underwriters is in itself a business advantage over the competition.
“We made a decision as a small company, relatively speaking, to invest a lot of money in Riskonnect and be very proactive about it,” Valsamakis said.
“When I talk to executives I say we invested in it because it’s going to save our clients money. Better information will lead to a lower cost of risk,” he said.
“If I’m talking to someone at a high level, that’s fairly easily understood.”
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Riskonnect. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.