Enter The Matrix ...
Having spent two seasons discussing ways to improve the professional quality of insurance brokers and insurance carriers, it was only fair that members of Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc. turn their attention to a project on improving the professional quality of their own industry niche.
The result is a new tool that RIMS will unveil at its annual meeting in San Diego April 27 to May 1. The tool, a professional growth model that will eventually go online and become interactive, is known among the RIMS community as the Risk Management Professional Growth Model, or simply "The Matrix."
The model, more than six months in the making, has been reviewed by RIMS directors in addition to committee leaders, according to Carolyn Snow, a RIMS director and Humana Inc.'s director of insurance risk management.
According to Snow, the growth model is structured to provide resources and guidance at every stage of a risk manager's development, whether that risk management professional be struggling at entry level, coasting in middle management or dominating as a chief risk officer or some other executive level manager.
Janice Ochenkowski, RIMS president and Jones Lang LaSalle managing director, called the model an "evolutionary document."
"A skill set can be added to the matrix and the growth model can evolve," Ochenkowski says. "That's one of the great features. It's not something created at a point in time to be historic."
The nation's largest brokers and carriers also contributed to the model's development, RIMS executives say. And the growth model's not just for risk managers.
CFO's or other executives with responsibility for risk at large corporations who want to improve their risk management acumen can use the model to see what kinds of resources they can apply to improve their effectiveness: whether that be funding for professional certification courses, for reading materials or even for more university training at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Snow cautions that while the matrix can augment university training, it's specifically aimed at professionals in the field. "I think the driving force is looking more to current risk managers and how to advance their careers and how to grow," she says.
What the growth matrix looks like exactly we can't tell you. RIMS wants to unveil the model at its annual conference which is expected to draw more than 10,000 attendees to the San Diego Convention Center.
But like an industry car show representative pitching that new sports car that you may have had your eye on for 2009 but haven't yet had a chance to drive, we can tell you some of what the model can do.
"It addresses, in matrix form, the abilities/knowledge, skills, tools and distinguishing features of/for risk management professionals," says Snow. "It can be used by the risk management professional as a blueprint for development, by an organization to develop position descriptions either for their internal staff or when hiring a new person and it can be used by management as one tool in evaluations."
Lest the mention of the growth model as a tool in performance reviews make people a little testy, keep in mind that the growth model is designed with the idea that not all risk management positions are created equal. It's designed to look at the function in a flexible light and recognizes that it can vary from industry to industry.
Snow, for example, knows that fellow RIMS director Janet Barnes, the risk manager and security administrator of the Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1, has a much different job than she does.
Barnes, who manages risk for one or the largest public utilities in the nation, on the shores of Puget Sound in Washington state, doesn't have the directors' and officers' exposure that Snow does, for example. "I work for a for-profit company," says Snow. "Some risk managers have a responsibility for benefits, I don't."
What all risk managers will probably have in common is the function of change management. That's a function that Snow says any risk manager from any field will be able to find information on in the growth model.
Citing her own experience Snow recalled how Humana grew from the ownership of one nursing home in the 1960's, to a large hospital operator and finally an HMO with revenues of $25.3 billion in 2007 and a workforce of 25,000 people. "Our thinking about risk management had to change along with the organization," she says.
The model will also list other features that a good risk manager should have, according to RIMS board member Rick Roberts, and the RIMS liaison with the committee that developed the model.
Those include good communication skills. To be a good risk manager, say Snow and Roberts, you have to be able to do your best work "in front of the desk," as opposed to behind it.
That means having the curiosity, the personality and the communication ability to get out and about in your company and find out what things are like in the various traunches of the organization.
The hope is to eventually post the model online so that it will become interactive and so that risk managers will use it to create job descriptions and performance reviews.
RIMS and other industry leaders also expect that the model will be a dynamic document, given that it is meant to serve an industry that is constantly changing, according to Roberts.
"Once it is online then those changes are going to be seamless, they won't even know that a change had occurred. It's going to be very fluid," says Roberts, the corporate risk manager for Simsbury, Conn.-based diversified manufacturer Ensign-Bickford Industries Inc.
Barnes, who serves on RIMS' professional development advisory council, says the model builds on the core competency model that is already posted on RIMS' Web site. That model lists dozens of professional features under three main categories, conceptual skills, technical skills and core competency skills.
But the new professional growth model builds on the current core competency model by taking the best elements from a variety of industry models that have been reviewed by the quality advisory committee, says Barnes.
"I think what I would like to say about this model is that it takes that core competency model and goes many, many steps beyond as to what a risk manager ought to be looking at to acquire the competency skills and technical and conceptual skills," Barnes says.
Although some risk managers count the purchasing of insurance as one of their functions, the professional growth model is not meant to be a primer on insurance companies or insurance markets.
Rather, it's meant to give risk managers at varying stages in their careers the information they're going to need, or point them in the direction of the information that they've going to need to do their jobs more effectively and advance their risk management careers.
For example, once the model is online and becomes interactive, risk managers will be able to click on a topic and see a list of books that they can read to help them gain a particular core competency. Another function that is sure to attract a lot of interest from risk managers is the one that will help them determine their salary range.
But what the model becomes, according to the RIMS directors, is really going to depend on what RIMS members bring to the model: How active they are in improving it, and how aggressive they are in using it to improve themselves and achieve higher job levels within their industry.
The more creative and imaginative RIMS members are at using the matrix, the more risk managers everywhere are likely to benefit from the model's flexibility. "How far we can go with this thing we don't really know," Roberts also says. Just how far, RIMS leaders are about to find out.
DAN REYNOLDS is senior editor of Risk & Insurance®.
April 15, 2008
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