By DAN REYNOLDS, senior editor of Risk & Insurance®
One of the first things you perceive as you approach Dave Holmquist's office is the scent of fresh oranges. Once inside his office, the reason is apparent. He keeps a big bowl of oranges, just off the tree from his property in Orange County, on his office meeting table.
Therein lies one of the indicators gleaned in studying Holmquist's personality. He is thoughtful, he knows how to manage his image, and being in his company is pleasurable.
Holmquist, who for four years was the chief risk officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District, is, since his July 2007 promotion, that entity's chief operating officer.
For a risk manager to be promoted to chief operating officer is not unheard of. It is, however, unusual.
"I hear about promotions to different jobs from risk management; I can't think of any to COO. But that doesn't mean that they don't happen," Holmquist said.
Holmquist's presence in a corner office on the 24th floor of the district's South Beaudry Avenue headquarters came about for a variety of reasons, but one of them had to be the disconcerting events that occurred when, in January 2007, the district attempted to launch a new payroll system that was essentially rolling 70 old systems into one.
But the system backfired and thousands of people were either overpaid or underpaid. Holmquist, having earned the superintendent's trust doing a bang-up job of getting a grip on the district's workers' compensation costs, was given the task of assembling a team to fix the payroll problem; a quick fix did not come easily.
"We had a terrible payday in June, June 5. We called it black Tuesday, when 30,000 people were overpaid, 8,000 people were underpaid and it was a disaster. And at this point the unions were filing everything they could, the news was here, the lobby was filled with thousands of people, and they were picketing," Holmquist recalled.
Needless to say, heads began to roll, and the district soon needed a new chief operating officer. Holmquist was again given the nod.
So, is he a trendsetter? Will chief risk officers, given their professional toolkit, start to see more overtures to pursue the office of COO, and perhaps beyond?
Holmquist, for one, isn't sure, although he sees where such an avenue might make sense.
"In my 23 years of risk management, I really have seen our profession progress to the point where it has great credibility, and I think when you understand the cost of risk and you understand how you manage that and you see the impact of doing that, that is a thing that organizations buy into. They want some of that success elsewhere, to spread to other areas," he said.
Wouldn't that be nice?
January 1, 2009
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