2014 Risk All Stars

Universal Risk Management

The 2014 Risk All Stars overcame challenges through exceptional problem-solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.
By: | September 15, 2014 • 2 min read

Risk management theory and practice fascinates — and can also appear so complex — because it resides in so many different professional realms and takes such different shapes.

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Some of this year’s Risk All Stars work for widely known companies with billions in assets. Others work for a nonprofit that cobbled its solutions together with government grants.

In some examples, winners of the award were armies of one, who either through specialization or a unique perspective effected sweeping change. But creativity, passion and perseverance, the traits that we base this award on, are found in every winner.

In the person of Dr. Mike Tomecek, of the Oklahoma Spine & Brain Institute, Risk & Insurance® gives an award for the first time to a neurosurgeon; perhaps it won’t be the last.

Dr. Tomecek uses electrodiagnostic functional assessments to determine whether medical hardware removal surgery is really necessary. His specific knowledge of nerve function, coupled with technology, allows him to determine whether the movements that are actually causing pain or immobility are connected to medical hardware or are coming from some other place.

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With his assessments, Dr. Tomecek acts as a patient advocate who is reducing surgeries and recommending site-specific physical therapy, a far less costly and intrusive treatment.

Risk All Stars winners Chris Chathams and Latitia Estrada are working-class heroes. These safety and human resources specialists work for the Timber Products Manufacturers Association.

The association is a trade group for smaller operators in the extremely hazardous timber industry in the Pacific Northwest. Using massive, unforgiving chain saws to bring down big trees, workers in the timber industry get hurt badly when something goes wrong.

The forestry companies that depend on the association as a safety education resource don’t have the resources to offer safety training on their own, even though such training is drastically needed.

Using grants from OSHA, Chathams and Estrada created a safety training program that in a three-year span reduced injuries for some member companies by 75 percent. That’s a lot of workers and their families suffering less trauma.

Richard Pcihoda, the director of risk management for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, moved with speed and effectiveness when Superstorm Sandy struck. One of PREIT’s shopping malls suffered millions in damage when the storm hit.

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But Pcihoda had planned ahead, lining up a reconstruction contractor so he didn’t have to wait in line for help after the fact. Pcihoda’s planning, and his great relationships with his adjusters, resulted in the Hudson Mall reopening a mere 17 days after the storm.

Business interruption was lessened and many jobs saved as a result.

Risk management can be a thankless job. It demands hard work and attention to detail that some people would rather not think about.

But we think about it. The 2014 Risk All Stars awards are our way of saying thanks.

Complete coverage of the 2014 Risk All Stars winners begins here.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Wawa’s Director of Risk Management knows that harnessing data and analytics will be key to surviving the rapid pace of change that heralds new risk exposures.
By: | July 27, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first job was at the age of 15 as a cashier at a bakery. My first professional job was at Amtrak in the finance department. I worked there while I was in college.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

A position opened up in risk management at Wawa and I saw it as an opportunity to broaden my skills and have the ability to work across many departments at Wawa to better learn about the business.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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The advancements in analytics are a success for the industry and offer opportunities for the future. I also find value in the industry focus on emerging and specialty risks. There is more alignment with experts in different industries related to emerging and specialty risks to provide support and services to the insurance industry. As a result, the insurance industry can now look at risk mitigation more holistically and not just related to traditional risk transfer.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Developing the talent to grow with the industry in specialization and analytics, but to also carry on the personal connections and relationship building that is a large part of this industry.

Nancy Wilson, director, quality assurance, risk management and safety, Wawa Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

I have had successes at all of the RIMS events I have attended. It is a great opportunity to spend time with our broker, carriers and other colleagues.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

I think the biggest challenge facing most companies today is related to brand or reputational risk. With the ever-changing landscape of technology, globalization and social media, the risk exposure to an organization’s brand or reputation continues to grow.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

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The changing consumer demands and new entrants into an industry are concerning. This is not necessarily something new but the frequency and speed to which it happens today does seem to be different. I think that is only going to continue. Companies need to be prepared to evolve with the times, and for me that means new risk exposures that we need to be prepared to mitigate.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I try to be optimistic about most things. I think the economy ebbs and flows for many reasons and it is important to always keep an eye out for signs of change.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I am fortunate to have opportunities professionally that make me proud, but I have to answer this one personally. I have two children ages 12 and 9 and I am so proud of the people that they are today. They both are hardworking, fun and kind. Nothing gives me a better feeling than seeing them be successful. I look forward to more of that.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

This is really hard as there are too many favorites. I do prefer books to movies, especially if there is a movie based on a book. I find the movie is never as good. I have multiple books going at once and usually bounce back and forth between fiction and non-fiction.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

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I have eaten at a lot of different restaurants in many major cities but I would have to pick Horn O’ Plenty in Bedford, PA. It is a farm to table restaurant in the middle of the state. The food is always fresh and tastes amazing and they make me feel like I am at home when I am there. My family and I eat there often during our trips out that way.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

I do love a good cup of coffee (working at Wawa helps that). I also enjoy a good glass of wine (red preferably) on occasion.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

Vacations aside, I do get an opportunity to travel for work and visit our food suppliers. The opportunities I have had to visit back to the farm level have been a very interesting learning experience. If it wasn’t for my role, I would have never been able to experience that.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

My husband, kids and I recently did a boot-camp-type obstacle course up in the trees 24 feet in the air. Although I had a harness and helmet on, I really put my fear of heights to the test. At the end of the two hours, I did get the hang of it but am not sure I would do it again.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The first people that come to mind are those who are serving our country and willing to sacrifice their own lives for our freedom.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Every day is different and I have the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different work across the company.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My husband and children have a pretty good sense of what I do, but the rest of my family has no idea. They just know I work for Wawa and sometimes travel.




Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]