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2014 Risk All Star: Zachary Gifford

Finding the Balance

With thousands of students traveling and taking the field every semester as part of campus sports clubs, leaders of The California State University system couldn’t afford to sit on the sidelines.

So when Zachary Gifford joined the system’s risk management office in 2008, he quickly found himself on a conference call with campus administrators who had been kicking around ways to mitigate the risks.

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“The learning curve was like a black diamond ski slope,” said Gifford, associate director for systemwide risk management for the CSU system, based in Long Beach, Calif.

Administrators began scrutinizing sports clubs, which are separate from NCAA-sanctioned sports, after two fatal accidents involving students in the early 2000s.

“It was a serious exposure to the university that needed to be addressed, and it’s an example of something that every campus was handling a little differently,” said Cindy Parker, who works closely with Gifford and CSU in her role as vice president of operations for Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc.

Zach Guifford, systemwide risk administrator, the California State Universities

Zach Gifford, associate director, systemwide risk management, The California State University

As Gifford hashed out a uniform approach, he had to balance the needs of 23 campuses ranging in size from fewer than 6,000 students to more than 35,000. Some had well-established sports clubs, while others were just getting started.

Ultimately, Gifford wanted to produce policies and procedures that every program could use, and that would not be seen as directives from above by campuses that treasure their autonomy.

For two years, Gifford and his fellow risk managers in the chancellor’s office worked closely with campus-based risk managers, club administrators and other university personnel to develop a comprehensive guide for club sports. A final document came out in 2010, and reflected Gifford’s collaborative approach.

“He really respected the comments and the input and, especially as a risk manager, was kind of able to see things from both sides if there was a little bit of push back and conflict between how a risk manager might see something, and how a practitioner might see something,” said Pam Su, campus recreation director at San Francisco State University.

She helped lead implementation of the guide.

Some campuses, for example, balked at travel policies they felt were too onerous. The final guide allowed those clubs to essentially acknowledge they are traveling on their own, in non-university vehicles, outside university control.

Two years after the guide came out, the system launched an insurance program for club sports, giving campuses access to more uniform coverage. Clubs are required to have adequate insurance, but don’t have to go through the CSU program.

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All but one or two campuses have opted into the program so far, Gifford said. He expects the coverage to eventually give CSU a better picture of the overall risks and a way to explore possibilities for self-insurance.

A new version of the guide is due out this fall, with revisions reflecting a recent survey of its users.

Overall, the feedback has been positive.

“A lot of the sports club administrators were actually really thankful for having some guidelines in place,” said Su.

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350px_allstarRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.

See the complete list of 2014 Risk All Stars.

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2014 Risk All Star: Jeff Driver

A Driven Visionary

Jeff Driver was an 18-year-old orderly in a hospital emergency room when a child died before his eyes. The child had been misdiagnosed and moved to the wrong floor before his respiratory tract closed up.

The experience launched Driver into health care risk management, where he’s been for a quarter-century, always “chasing the effectiveness” of loss control and patient safety. One could say he’s caught it.

Jeff Driver, chief risk officer, Stanford University Medical Center

Jeff Driver, chief risk officer, Stanford University Medical Center

Driver is no stranger to the risk management limelight — he was president of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management in the past decade — but Risk & Insurance® is placing him back in the light in large part for the creativity of his most recent efforts as chief risk officer at the Stanford University Medical Center.

The highlight is his creation of a new reciprocal risk retention group (RRG) called the Professional Exchange Assurance Co. (PEAC) to help Stanford keep ahead of mandates from the Affordable Care Act.

All health care entities, particularly hospital groups, are feeling the urge to consolidate because of the efficiencies of size and the drive to create Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). In California, Stanford faces the twist that state law prohibits hospitals from directly employing doctors; they must be employed through “physician foundations.”

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Stanford has two such foundations with plans to include 500 community physicians within three years. Driver had to devise a way to bring these doctors into the Stanford risk management and patient safety program, while mitigating liability and brand risk.

The particular RRG structure, now in place for nearly two years, works for a few reasons. Namely, it gives the affiliated physicians “skin in the game” because they technically own the captive and will enjoy profit-sharing if losses are kept low.

It also works because Stanford Medical’s other captive—the 20-year old, segregated cell, Bermuda-based SUMIT—cannot provide insurance to for-profit physician groups because of tax rules. So SUMIT still provides coverage and services to its in-house faculty physicians while PEAC steps in for affiliated doctors.

With both, Driver can ensure risk management consistency across the enterprise and that effectiveness he has pursued his whole career.

“He has created a vehicle to kind of indoctrinate these newly acquired physicians in much more modern risk management practices,” said Gigi Norris, Aon managing director.

“Jeff is very visionary … and he is very mission driven.”

Driver and his risk management team of 25 are spreading Stanford’s best practices beyond the university as well. One benefit of the RRG structure is that Driver created another entity, The Risk Authority, to serve as its necessary attorney-in-fact, as well as a service provider for external health care entities.

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It delivers Stanford risk management products and services — like tools for early resolution and loss, claims and litigation management, patient safety consulting and value-driven enterprise risk management — around the world.

Driver’s success comes in part because of his leadership. He is able to build a team, empower its members, and motivate them toward success with his vision.

Success builds trust with senior management, which leads to larger teams, bigger projects and more success.

And he’s succeeded because he’s willing to try anything to succeed.

“If people really focus in on how they can do things better rather than doing the same thing, that would serve our patients and our communities very well,” he said.

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350px_allstarRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.

See the complete list of 2014 Risk All Stars.

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Sponsored Content by Riskonnect

A Dreaming Team

Chris Thorn of Southwest Airlines got creative with his risk management program. Now, the sky's the limit.
By: | September 15, 2014 • 4 min read
SponsoredContent_Riskonnect

Chris Thorn is known as one of the most creative risk managers in the business. After all, his risk management program hit the cover of Risk & Insurance® in March, 2012.

Now the senior manager, payments and risk, for Southwest Airlines is working with Riskonnect, a technology partner that he thinks can take his program to new heights.

“For us, it’s a platform that gives you so many different tools that if you can dream it, you can build it,” said Thorn.

Claims administration

Thorn ditched his legacy risk management information system in 2012 and started working with Riskonnect, initially using the platform solely for liability claims management.

But the system’s “do-it-yourself” accessibility almost immediately caught the eye of Thorn’s colleagues managing safety risk and workers’ compensation.

“They were seeking a software solution at the time and said, ‘Hey, we want to join the party,” Thorn recalls of his friends in safety and workers’ compensation.

SponsoredContent_Riskonnect“For us, it’s a platform that gives you so many different tools that if you can dream it, you can build it.”

–Chris Thorn, senior manager, payments and risk, Southwest Airlines

What was making Thorn’s colleagues so jealous was the system’s “smart question” process which allows any supervisor in the company to enter a claim, while at the same time freeing those supervisors from being claims adjusters.

The Riskonnect platform asks questions that direct the claim to the appropriate category without the supervisor having to take on the burden of performing that triage.

“They love it because all of the redundant questions are gone,” Thorn said.

The added beauty of the system, Thorn said, is that allows carriers and TPAs to work right alongside the Southwest team in claims files while maintaining rock-solid cyber security.

“This has sped up the process,” Thorn said.

“Any time you can speed up the process, the more success you’re going to have when you make offers to settle claims,” he said.

Policy management

Since that initial splash in claims management, the Riskonnect platform has gone on to become a rock star at Southwest in a number of other areas. And as Thorn suggests, the possibilities of the system are limited only by the user’s imagination.

SponsoredContent_RiskonnectWith a little creativity and help from Riskonnect as needed, a risk manager can add on system capabilities without having to go on bended knee to his own information technology department.

In the area of insurance policy management, for example, the Riskonnect platform as built by Thorn now holds data on all property values and exposures that can in turn be downloaded for use by underwriters.

Every time Southwest buys a new airplane, the enterprise platform sends out a notice to the airlines insurance broker, who in turn notifies the 16 or 17 carriers that are on the hull program.

Again, in that “anything’s possible” vein, the system has the capability of notifying the carriers, directly, a tool Thorn said he’s flirting with.

“It is capable of doing that,” he said.

“We’re testing out this functionality before we turn on it loose directly to the insurance companies.”

Carrier ratings

In alignment with the platform’s muscle in documenting, storing and reporting liability and property exposures, the system monitors and reports on insurance carrier financial strength.

If a rating agency downgrades a Southwest program carrier’s financial strength, for example, the system “pings” Thorn and his colleagues.

“Not only will we know about it, but we will also know all programs, present and past that they participated on, what the open reserves are for those policy years and policies,” Thorn said.

“That gives us even more comfort that we have good, solid financial backing of the insurance policies that are protecting us,” Thorn said.

Accounting interface

Like many of us, Chris Thorn didn’t set out to work in risk management and insurance. Thorn is a Certified Public Accountant, and it’s that background that allows him to take creative advantage of the Riskonnect platform’s malleability in yet another way.

With the help of the Riskonnect customer service team, Thorn added a function to the platform that allows him to calculate the cost of insurance policies on a monthly basis, enter them into a general ledger and send them over to his colleagues in accounting.

SponsoredContent_Riskonnect

“It’s very robust on handling financial information, date information, or anything with that much granularity,” Thorn said.

The sky is the limit

Thorn and Southwest are only two years into their relationship with Riskonnect and there are a number of places Thorn thinks the platform can take him that have yet to be explored, but certainly will be.

“It’s basically a repository of anything that’s risk-related, it continues to grow,” Thorn said.

SponsoredContent_Riskonnect“This has sped up the process. Any time you can speed up the process, the more success you’re going to have when you make offers to settle claims.”
–Chris Thorn, senior manager, payments and risk, Southwest Airlines

Not only have Southwest’s safety and workers’ compensation managers joined Thorn in his work with Riskonnect, business continuity has come knocking as well.

Thorn met in July with members of Southwest Airline’s business continuity team, which has a whole host of concerns, ranging from pandemics to cyber-attacks that it needs help in documenting the exposures and resiliency options for.

That Enterprise Risk Management approach will in the future also involve the system’s capability to provide risk alerts, telling Thorn and his team for example, that a hurricane or fast moving wildfire is threatening one of the company’s facilities.

Supply chain resiliency and managing certificates of insurance for foreign vendors are other areas where Thorn and his team plan to put the Riskonnect platform to good use.

“That’s all stuff that’s being worked on by us,” Thorn said.

“They’ve given us the tools, but we’re trying to develop how we’re going to use it,” he said.

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.


Riskonnect is the provider of a premier, enterprise-class technology platform for the risk management industry.
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