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.
“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.
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.” &