Manage Expectations, Manage Reputation
The art of managing reputation risk really comes down to shaping the expectations of shareholders, customers, vendors, creditors and investors.
“Not an easy thing to do,” said Nir Kossovsky, chief executive officer, Steel City Re, speaking at the annual RIMS conference in San Diego on April 12.
“Managing expectations involves behavioral economics – shaping what people expect from you and then meeting those expectations.”
He said expectations typically revolve around six key areas: safety, ethics, quality, security, sustainability and innovation. Failing to meet any of those expectations creates vulnerability for a company, opening up an opportunity for shareholders or special interest activists to come after the board of directors as the culpable party.
Increasingly, directors and officers are the true casualties of reputation damage.
Dissatisfied customers or partners know that “the court of public opinion is much more effective than the court of law,” Kossovsky said, so they will bring allegations against the board and force a public response.
“Managing expectations involves behavioral economics – shaping what people expect from you and then meeting those expectations.” – Nir Kossovsky, chief executive officer, Steel City Re
The best way to mitigate reputation risk, then, is to proactively communicate the board’s awareness of a company’s exposures, and acknowledge its duties to deliver on expectations related to the six key areas.
“Communication is critical,” said Todd Marumoto, director of risk management, Mattel, Inc. “There needs to be some sense of a plan for how the board will respond to a reputation event.”
Without a quick response, the silence is filled by the white noise of unsubstantiated opinion, Kossovsky said. That weakens the board’s credibility.
“Facts are available without much of a down payment. Allegations brought against the board don’t necessarily have to be true and can’t always be validated.”
Conflicting expectations make reputation risk management even harder.
Customers expect, for example, near impossible standards of quality and customer service, while shareholders expect strong profit and growth, and creditors expect swift payment.
While many believe that marketing and press coverage can be the tool for the messaging needed to mold expectations through public perception, the most effective way to mitigate reputation risk is through enterprise risk management that strives for excellence, the speakers said.
In other words, expectations should be set by a company’s performance.
Kossovsky offered the example of BP, which claimed to be “beyond petroleum.”
Despite impressive initiatives to use cleaner energy, BP was still, in fact, heavily reliant on petroleum. The Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 sparked so much anger because people expected BP to be above such environmentally dangerous accidents.
ExxonMobil, on the other hand, acknowledged to its shareholders that a spill was always a real threat, but demonstrated the steps it was taking to minimize the risk. Shareholders thus had more realistic expectations of the company and are harder to disappoint.
Presenting to the C-Suite
Risk managers can bring the importance of reputation risk to the C-suites’ attention by demonstrating its financial impact.
“Expenses could come from having to replace a vendor, from a government penalty, litigation and class action lawsuits, or having to implement a new management process,” Marumoto said.
Overall, costs associated with remediating a reputational event can be two to seven times higher than costs related to the operational failure that caused the reputation damage in the first place.
“With reputation risk, it’s not always about right or wrong, but about getting the right outcome to satisfy shareholders and customers.” — Todd Marumoto, director of risk management, Mattel, Inc.
“It affects every line item of the P&L,” Kossovsky said.
The impact on D&O effectiveness will also certainly grab senior management’s attention.
“A typical board member makes about $250,000 per year to sit on the board for a term usually of about three years, and he’s usually sitting on three different boards,” Kossovsky said.
“He’s looking at a personal loss of over $2 million” if a reputational hit leads to him being asked to step down from those boards.
According to Marumoto, risk managers can influence outcomes of a reputational event by working internally with investor relations and marketing to ensure the company is sending a consistent message, and to develop a coordinated response plan.
“Ultimately, you have to be responsible for all things that pass in front of you,” he said. “Partner with vendors you trust, be transparent in your efforts to mitigate risks, and develop relationships with government agencies.
“With reputation risk, it’s not always about right or wrong, but about getting the right outcome to satisfy shareholders and customers.”
Captives See Growth for Terrorism Risk
An advance look at the “2016 Marsh Captive Benchmark Review” revealed a substantial growth in the number of captives targeted to terrorism coverage.
In the last three years, nearly 40 captives by Marsh clients were created to cover risks excluded from conventional terrorism policies and/or to provide access to reinsurance to cover the potential gap under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, said Ellen Charnley, San Francisco-based managing director, captive solutions, during a RIMS luncheon session on April 12.
“That’s a big growth area,” she said.
In addition, more than 20 other captives were formed to address international terrorism risks, she said.
Typically excluded perils include nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological risks, as well as cyber terrorism, and the captives provide access to the government backstop.
Other non-traditional coverages that are seeing captive growth are medical stop loss, cyber, international employee benefits, political risk, supply chain and crime, she said.
“We see a continued growth in non-traditional coverages,” Charnley said.
Chris Lay, London-based president, Marsh captive solutions, said the brokerage is seeing “a lot of activity tailoring captive programs to address cyber risks.”
In addition to evolving cyber risks and terrorism, other top risks being addressed by captives were catastrophic earth/weather events, economic downturn and political unrest, Lay said.
The top industry sectors that form captives remain financial institutions; health care; auto/manufacturing; retail/wholesale; and communications, media and technology.
However, Charnley noted, if premium dollars were used to rank the industries, communications, media and technology companies would probably rank second, below financial institutions.
Top-ranked unique or emerging industries forming captives were construction; energy; real estate; education; and sports, entertainment and events, she said.
For construction, the increased number is probably the result of improved economic conditions, she said.
For education, it’s more likely the reason is to seek access to reinsurance programs, said Art Koritzinsky, managing director, captive solutions, in New York.
He said Marsh expects to see continued growth in the number of 831(b) small captives, which have increased by 35 percent.
“That’s where a lot of the growth [in the captive market] is,” Koritzinsky said.
In December, the IRS rules regulating 831(b) captives increased the limit on direct premium from $1.2 million to $2.2 million and removed the ability of such captives to be used for estate planning, among other changes.
As for predictions, Marsh anticipates increased growth of captives for international employee benefits; terrorism, small captives; non-traditional risk; and in emerging markets such as Latin America and Asia Pacific.
They also anticipate companies beginning to use cash surpluses in captives for sophisticated investment strategies.
Marsh manages about 1,250 captives worldwide, with about $42 billion in premium. About 1,000 captive owners participated in the benchmark survey. Final results will be released in May.
Electronic Waste Risks Piling Up
The latest electronic devices today may be obsolete by tomorrow. Outdated electronics pose a rapidly growing problem for risk managers. Telecommunications equipment, computers, printers, copiers, mobile devices and other electronics often contain toxic metals such as mercury and lead. Improper disposal of this electronic waste not only harms the environment, it can lead to heavy fines and reputation-damaging publicity.
Federal and state regulators are increasingly concerned about e-waste. Settlements in improper disposal cases have reached into the millions of dollars. Fines aren’t the only risk. Sensitive data inadvertently left on discarded equipment can lead to data breaches.
To avoid potentially serious claims and legal action, risk managers need to understand the risks of e-waste and to develop a strategy for recycling and disposal that complies with local, state and federal regulations.
The Risks Are Rising
E-waste has been piling up at a rate that’s two to three times faster than any other waste stream, according to U.S Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Any product that contains electronic circuitry can eventually become e-waste, and the range of products with embedded electronics grows every day. Because of the toxic materials involved, special care must be taken in disposing of unwanted equipment. Broken devices can leach hazardous materials into the ground and water, creating health risks on the site and neighboring properties.
Despite the environmental dangers, much of our outdated electronics still end up in landfills. Only about 40 percent of consumer electronics were recycled in 2013, according to the EPA. Yet for every million cellphones that are recycled, the EPA estimates that about 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.
While consumers may bring unwanted electronics to local collection sites, corporations must comply with stringent guidelines. The waste must be disposed of properly using vendors with the requisite expertise, certifications and permits. The risk doesn’t end when e-waste is turned over to a disposal vendor. Liabilities for contamination can extend back from the disposal site to the company that discarded the equipment.
Reuse and Recycle
To cut down on e-waste, more companies are seeking to adapt older equipment for reuse. New products feature designs that make it easier to recycle materials and to remove heavy metals for reuse. These strategies conserve valuable resources, reduce the amount of waste and lessen the amount of new equipment that must be purchased.
Effective risk management should focus on minimizing waste, reusing and recycling electronics, managing disposal and complying with regulations at all levels.
For equipment that cannot be reused, companies should work with a disposal vendor that can make sure that their data is protected and that all the applicable environmental regulations are met. Vendors should present evidence of the required permits and certifications. Companies seeking disposal vendors may want to look for two voluntary certifications: the Responsible Recycling (R2) Standard, and the e-Stewards certification.
The U.S. EPA also provides guidance and technical support for firms seeking to implement best practices for e-waste. Under EPA rules for the disposal of items such as batteries, mercury-containing equipment and lamps, e-waste waste typically falls under the category of “universal waste.”
About half the states have enacted their own e-waste laws, and companies that do business in multiple states may have to comply with varying regulations that cover a wider list of materials. Some materials may require handling as hazardous waste according to federal, state and local requirements. U.S. businesses may also be subject to international treaties.
Developing E-Waste Strategies
Companies of all sizes and in all industries should implement e-waste strategies. Effective risk management should focus on minimizing waste, reusing and recycling electronics, managing disposal and complying with regulations at all levels. That’s a complex task that requires understanding which laws and treaties apply to a particular type of waste, keeping proper records and meeting permitting requirements. As part of their insurance program, companies may want to work with an insurer that offers auditing, training and other risk management services tailored for e-waste.
Insurance is an essential part of e-waste risk management. Premises pollution liability policies can provide coverage for environmental risks on a particular site, including remediation when necessary, as well as for exposures arising from transportation of e-waste and disposal at third-party sites. Companies may want to consider policies that provide coverage for their entire business operations, whether on their own premises or at third-party locations. Firms involved in e-waste management may want to consider contractor’s pollution liability coverage for environmental risks at project sites owned by other entities.
The growing challenges of managing e-waste are not only financial but also reputational. Companies that operate in a sustainable manner lower the risks of pollution and associated liabilities, avoid negative publicity stemming from missteps, while building reputations as responsible environmental stewards. Effective electronic waste management strategies help to protect the environment and the company.
This article is an annotated version of the new Chubb advisory, “Electronic Waste: Managing the Environmental and Regulatory Challenges.” To learn more about how to manage and prioritize e-waste risks, download the full advisory on the Chubb website.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Chubb. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.