Manage a comprehensive risk transfer and risk assumption program attempting to show the benefit of moving more or less predictable losses off the balance sheet or the income statement. Meet regularly with the world's largest commercial insurers over many dinners and lunches often in exotic or places like Bermuda, London, Paris or the many other European and Asian locales where these companies domicile. Engage one of the top brokers to arrange and guide the process and relationships so important to good results.
Hire claims experts, insurance experts, safety experts, a risk systems expert or two, perhaps a staff to manage one or more captives for which you are responsible and which generate more reasons why it would be silly to stay in the office when the action is in those exotic locales.
Add a complement of support personnel (in better economic times anyway), who ensure you can produce the analysis and reports that tell of an effective risk program to management and the board. Let that analysis validate how well protected the company is or can be, if only management and the board would invest in the loss-prevention programs that can reduce losses and insurance costs.
Don't get me wrong, this is part of my world and has been for most of my career. It's fun, can be exciting, often rewarding and always interesting, especially reviewing the many reasons claims are brought and the strategies that resolve them.
About nine years ago, however, I figured out two things: that the most significant risks of companies were not insurable, and that my personal risk would rise if I didn't soon recognize and take action to address that reality.
After all, if I stood on the sidelines and neglected to take action one of my peers would take action instead. The solution was to broaden my skill set by taking on a more holistic view of risk and charting a new strategy that addressed this for the new company for which I was not yet working.
Actually, I went to this company precisely because they recognized this need for a holistic view, whereas my previous employer did not. Incidentally, about five years later, that former employer, a Fortune 30 company, finally saw the advantage of a holistic approach to risk.
As I wrap up this column two days before the anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of the correlation between my theme and that fateful day in 2001. I remember how the National Guard used to be just a domestic force until that day.
My son enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard in October of 2001, and though he was told the Guard never deploys outside the United States, that next March he was sent into Gulf War No. 2, exposed to the risk of combat for the next eight years. He was happy to serve but it was not what he signed up for.
Neither was enterprise risk management what most risk managers signed up for when they launched their careers, least of all me. My career has never been more interesting than in the years since 9/11, the day the world changed.
With or without that fateful day, the business world has changed as much or more from other factors that press us into considering in what new and innovative ways we can serve our employers in managing risk, while at the same time managing to mitigate our own personal risks.
CHRIS MANDEL is the enterprise risk manager for a leading financial institution and a former president of the Risk and Insurance Management Society.
October 15, 2009
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