2016 Risk All Star: Susan Hiteshew

A Winning Strategy

As a fast-growing company, Under Armour Inc. naturally has to keep on top of any number of potential exposures that could pop up — and Susan Hiteshew helps her firm do just that with her New Business Venture Global Insurance & Risk Management playbook.

Susan Hiteshew, senior manager, global insurance and risk financing, Under Armour Inc.

Susan Hiteshew, senior manager, global insurance and risk financing, Under Armour Inc.

“In a young company that grows as quickly as we do, you can’t wait for things to happen — you have to be proactive,” said Hiteshew, who came on board in 2011 as the company’s first traditional risk manager.

Founded in 1996 as a fitness apparel retailer, Under Armour has logged 20 percent-plus quarterly revenue growth for years, as it extends its global reach and product base to include more fitness technology solutions.

In 2014, the company made its first acquisition, the fitness-tracking application MapMyFitness. As the firm began to integrate the new purchase, Hiteshew shrewdly realized that the organization needed a playbook to learn how her team could integrate and add value.

“When we built the playbook, we tried to think about our internal stakeholders — what is important to them — and how the work we do can help them get to the goal line faster and smarter,” she said. “But one of the biggest challenges of risk management is getting a seat at the table at the right time, and so instead of risk management chasing down information, we found a way to facilitate the flow of information to us.”

The playbook details exactly how Hiteshew’s team could add value to any new project, and how the team should be looped into any project at the onset, so that risk management could help to “reduce the likelihood of surprises in their businesses operations.”

“In a young company that grows as quickly as we do, you can’t wait for things to happen — you have to be proactive.” — Susan Hiteshew, senior manager, global insurance and risk financing, Under Armour Inc.

In drafting the playbook, Hiteshew’s team conducted extensive research, pulling themes from certain underwriting applications, timelines that are important to the organization, and key strategic areas of focus.

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The team then asked its broker team at Aon, led by Charlie Skinner in Baltimore, to review and add input to the playbook before the materials began to be distributed internally in 2015. Since then, the playbook continues to be upgraded as the company grows.

The playbook has been particularly helpful in dealing with challenges created by fast growth, including coordinating communication between multiple facilities, Hiteshew said.

“We’re now decentralized between Baltimore, our European headquarters in Amsterdam, our team in Shanghai and Guangzhou, and our Latin American headquarters in Panama,” she said. “This document has helped us concisely communicate our involvement.”

Jonathan Schwartz, the firm’s vice president of global risk management, said Hiteshew excels at strategic thinking and communications.

“At Under Armour, change is constant, and playing catch-up with the business is a losing proposition,” Schwartz said. “Susan has kept insurance and risk management proactive and strategic by effectively keeping pace with UA’s growth and change.” &

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AllStars2016v1oRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2016 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

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Risk Management

The Profession

Pinnacle Entertainment’s VP of enterprise risk management says he’s inspired by Disney’s approach to risk management.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Bus boy at a fine dining restaurant.

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

I sent a résumé to Harrah’s Entertainment on a whim. It took over 30 hours of interviewing to get that job, but it was well worth it.

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

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The Chinese citizen (never positively identified) who stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. That kind of courage is undeniable, and that image is unforgettable. I hope we can all be that passionate about something at least once in our lives.

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

Cyber risk, but more narrowly, cyber-extortion. I think state sponsored bad actors are getting more and more sophisticated, and the risk is that they find a way to control entire systems.

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

Training and breaking horses. When I was in high school, I worked on a lot of farms. I did everything from building fences to putting up hay. It was during this time that I found I had a knack for horses. They would tolerate me getting real close, so it was natural I started working more and more with them.

Eventually, I was putting a saddle on a few and before I knew it I was in that saddle riding a horse that had never been ridden before.

I admit I had some nervous moments, but I was never thrown off. It taught me that developing genuine trust early is very important and is needed by all involved. Nothing of any real value happens without it.

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

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Setting very aggressive goals and then meeting and exceeding those goals with a team. Sharing team victories is the ultimate reward.

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

Disney World. The sheer size of the place is awe inspiring. And everything works like a finely tuned clock.

There is a reason that hospitality companies send their people there to be trained on guest service. Disney World does it better than anyone else.

As a hospitality executive, I always learn something new whenever I am there.

James Cunningham, vice president, enterprise risk management, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

The risks that Disney World faces are very similar to mine — on a much larger scale. They are complex and across the board. From liability for the millions of people they host as their guests each year, to the physical location of the park, to their vendor partnerships; their approach to risk management has been and continues to be innovative and a model that I learn from and I think there are lessons there for everybody.

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

We are doing a much better job of getting involved in a meaningful way in our daily operations and demonstrating genuine value to our organizations.

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

Educating and promoting the career with young people.

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

Being able to tell the Pinnacle story. It’s a great one and it wasn’t being told. I believe that the insurance markets now understand who we are and what we stand for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

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John Matthews, who is now retired, formerly with Aon and Caesar’s Palace. John is an exceptional leader who demonstrated the value of putting a top-shelf team together and then letting them do their best work. I model my management style after him.

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

I read mostly biographies and autobiographies. I like to read how successful people became successful by overcoming their own obstacles. Jay Leno, Jack Welch, Bill Harrah, etc. I also enjoyed the book and movie “Money Ball.”

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Ice water when it’s hot, coffee when it’s cold, and an adult beverage when it’s called for.

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

In my family, I’m the “Safety Geek.”

R&I:  What’s your favorite restaurant?

Vegas is a world-class restaurant town. No matter what you are hungry for, you can find it here. I have a few favorites that are my “go-to’s,” depending on the mood and who I am with.

If you’re in town, you should try to have at least one meal off the strip. For that, I would suggest you get reservations (you’ll need them) at Herbs and Rye. It’s a great little restaurant that is always lively. The food is tremendous, and the service is always on point. They make hand-crafted cocktails that are amazing.

My favorite Mexican restaurant is Lindo Michoacan. There are three in town, and I prefer the one in Henderson as it has the best view of the valley. For seafood, you can never go wrong with Joe’s in Caesar’s Palace.




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