Roger's Soapbox

A Blockchain Revolution?

By: | November 2, 2016 • 2 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Blockchain. You’ve heard the word, think it has something to do with bitcoin, have no idea what it does, vaguely fear it and hope it goes away.

Such was my attitude until I sucked it up and learned everything there is to know. I still don’t get it, but let’s pretend I do. The word is that blockchain will hit the insurance industry with the approximate force as did the internet.

Insurance took forever to adopt the internet, yet now it charges toward blockchain at full tilt. Perhaps I should say no more until I explain what blockchain is. I’ll do my best, but with this build-up, it’s going to sound silly.

Blockchain is an open public ledger in which transactions are permanently logged chronologically. Yeah, that’s it alright. It’s like the system banks use to track the millions of transactions that take place every minute — but that system is only available to banks.

Blockchain, with all its transactions linked to each other, will be available to all interested parties.


How will this help insurers? Take an automobile policy. It will be written on the blockchain, thus set in electronic stone. If the covered vehicle crashes, it will automatically alert the blockchain, which will then automatically pay a suitable claim to the injured party.

PwC says the new technology can save reinsurers $10 billion annually. Customers will be more satisfied, business made more efficient. Ta da: blockchain (plus or minus 5 percent).

Once blockchain accumulates real value, hackers will stop bothering decent people’s credit cards and start stealing from the kids on the blockchain.

There must be more to it. Doctors terminating patients will trigger automatic life and medical pay-outs. If your house disappears in an earthquake, its dying words would be delivered to your building insurance blockchain. If you’re not home, you’ll have the money before you even know you have no home.

I would agree with you that this doesn’t sound like an internet-sized change in our lives, but insurance people are holding conferences and getting all worked up about the blockchain. That kind of behavior, in my experience, signals the imminent doing of something that cannot be gainsaid. We’ll all be blockheads soon.

If I were a worrier, the security of the whole thing would give me pause. On the contrary, part of the reputed allure of the idea is the fact that it cannot be attacked by any traditional hacking method. The blockchain lives on everyone’s computer, not one central place, making hacking too arduous to pursue, we are told.

Poppycock and balderdash, say I. Hackers are too smart to invent ways of breaking systems that haven’t been invented yet. Once blockchain accumulates real value, hackers will stop bothering decent people’s credit cards and start stealing from the kids on the blockchain. That’s a given. Will they succeed? Place your bets.

Progress for its own sake bores me. Public ledgers, permanent records, automatic claims payments: These are all good ideas. Bravo. It’s about time. But blockchain as revolutionary change that will tear asunder the very fabric of society? Eyewash. &

More from Risk & Insurance

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Risk Management

The Profession

As a professor of business, Jack Hampton knows firsthand the positive impact education has on risk managers as they tackle growing risks.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Ellen Thrower, president (retired), The College of Insurance, introduced me to the importance of insurance as a component of risk management. Further, she encouraged me to explore strategic and operational risk as foundation topics shaping the role of the modern risk manager.

Chris Mandel, former president of RIMS and Risk Manager of the Year, introduced me to the emerging area of enterprise risk management. He helped me recognize the need to align hazard, strategic, operational and financial risk into a single framework. He gave me the perspective of ERM in a high-tech environment, using USAA as a model program that later won an excellence award for innovation.

Bob Morrell, founder and former CEO of Riskonnect, showed me how technology could be applied to solving serious risk management and governance problems. He created a platform that made some of my ideas practical and extended them into a highly-successful enterprise that served risk and governance management needs of major corporations.

R&I: How did you come to work in this industry?


From a background in corporate finance and commercial banking, I accepted the position of provost of The College of Insurance. Recognizing my limited prior knowledge in the field, I became a student of insurance and risk management leading to authorship of books on hazard and financial risk. This led to industry consulting, as well as to the development of graduate-level courses and concentrations in MBA programs.

R&I: What was your first job?

The provost position was the first job I had in the industry, after serving as dean of the Seton Hall University School of Business and founding The Princeton Consulting Group. Earlier positions were in business development with Marine Transport Lines, consulting in commercial banking and college professorships.

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

Creating a risk management concentration in the MBA program at Saint Peter’s, co-founding the Russian Risk Management Society (RUSRISK), and writing “Fundamentals of Enterprise Risk Management” and the “AMA Handbook of Financial Risk Management.”

A few years ago, I expanded into risk management in higher education. From 2017 into 2018, Rowman and Littlefield published my four books that address risks facing colleges and universities, professors, students and parents.

Jack Hampton, Professor of Business, St. Peter’s University

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

The Godfather. I see it as a story of managing risk, even as the behavior of its leading characters create risk for others.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Jameson’s Irish whiskey. Mixed with a little ice, it is a serious rival for Johnny Walker Gold scotch and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey.

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

Mount Etna, Taormina, and Agrigento, Sicily. I actually supervised an MBA program in Siracusa and learned about risk from a new perspective.

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


Army Airborne training and jumping out of an airplane. Fortunately, I never had to do it in combat even though I served in Vietnam.

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

George C. Marshall, one of the most decorated military leaders in American history, architect of the economic recovery program for Europe after World War II, and recipient of the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize. For Marshall, it was not just about winning the war. It was also about winning the peace.

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

Sharing lessons with colleagues and students by writing, publishing and teaching. A professor with a knowledge of risk management does not only share lessons. The professor is also a student when MBA candidates talk about the risks they manage every day.

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

Sensitizing for-profit, nonprofit and governmental agencies to the exposures and complexities facing their organizations. Sometimes we focus too much on strategies that sound good but do not withstand closer examination. Risk managers help organizations make better decisions.

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


Developing executive training programs to help risk managers assume C-suite positions in organizations. Insurance may be a good place to start but so is an MBA degree. The Risk and Insurance Management Society recognizes the importance of a wide range of risk knowledge. Colleges and universities need to catch up with RIMS.

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

Cyber risk and its impact on hazard, operational and financial strategies. A terrorist can take down a building. A cyber-criminal can take down much more.

R&I: What does your family think you do?

My family members think I’m a professor. They do not seem to be too interested in my views on risk management.

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