Cyber Risk

Academy Advises Brokers on Cyber Risk

The Travelers Cyber Academy offers free training for brokers that work with small and mid-sized clients, where risk is on the rise.
By: | October 7, 2016 • 4 min read

Travelers has launched a project to help agents and brokers to provide more thorough cyber advice for small and medium enterprises, where the risk of attack is on the rise.

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The Travelers Cyber Academy offers free training for brokers and agents, while opening the possibility for buyers to participate as well, under invitation from their insurance partners.

The project is composed of eight webinars where both in-house experts and cyber security aces from outside the insurance industry strive to explain, in an accessible way, the pitfalls of the cyber world and how SMEs should deal with them.

“Customers are asking questions, and many agents have some degree of understanding and expertise, but they would like to have some more,” said Tim Francis, enterprise cyber lead at Travelers.

Tens of thousands of invitations were sent for the first lesson in September, and the response by the targeted public has been more enthusiastic than to previous educational initiatives, the company said.

Drawing from data by Symantec, Travelers points out that small companies account for 43 percent of all cyber attacks against business, and for 22 percent of attacks against mid-sized enterprises.

Cyber risks rank in the top five risks feared by American SMEs, according to a survey by Zurich Insurance Group.

Tim Francis, enterprise cyber lead, Travelers

Tim Francis, enterprise cyber lead, Travelers

Francis said that, although the understanding of cyber risks by large brokers and corporations has progressed considerably in recent years, expertise about the subject among smaller brokers and their clients remains a work in progress.

“As the cyber industry has grown, many of the agents that service clients with cyber coverages are sometimes a little behind in terms of understanding exposures and translating them to their customers,” he said.

Contacts with agents and customers alike revealed that the appetite for knowledge in this particular area is increasing. However, the educational material currently available often falls short of the needs of this particular public.

Francis mentions the example of ransomware, the subject of the second webinar offered by the Travelers Cyber Academy. It’s an emerging threat where hackers paralyze a business by locking its IT systems until a ransom is paid, but while the wealth of literature on the subject thrills the IT community, it more often than not sounds like Greek to everyone else.

“There is no shortage of whitepapers on the topic of ransomware. But they are either very technical or so high level that they do not deliver much information for customers,” Francis said.

“We feel that we can help to provide deeper understanding about such a topic, without the need for being a cyber security expert in order to understand what is talked about.”

The series of webinars runs from September to May, and Travelers expects to offer it again in subsequent years, first in the U.S. alone, but maybe in other countries as well in the future. If a participant misses a section, it can be watched later as the webinars will be kept available online for registered users.

Agents will also be able to introduce the training sessions to customers with particular interests in the area.

“All businesses are today in the line of fire.” — Vinny Troia, certified ethical hacker

The initiative was launched with a session on the so-called dark web, an obscure side of the internet where hackers and criminals enjoy high levels of anonymity to pursue their bad deeds. With succinct explanations and infographics, the session tackles complex materials such as the workings of TOR, the browser developed by the U.S. military that is used to keep dark web activities out of the reach of the authorities.

Vinny Troia, a certified ethical hacker, described ransomware in the video as “a business to ruin your business.”

He provides tips such as how to train employees to avoid spear phishing attacks.

“All businesses are today in the line of fire,” Troia said in the video.

In forthcoming webinars, other invited speakers will elaborate on subjects like the forensics of cyber risks, the legal cyber environment, data breaches and so on.

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“We are also adding our own expert input, not only from our underwriting team, but also from a member of the teams that support and service claims and underwriting,” Francis said. Travelers’ cyber team includes professionals with different backgrounds such as law enforcement, FBI forensic investigations and cyber security.

He pointed out that a challenge for the project will be to keep up with developments in a field where the risk is evolving at a thunderous pace.

“We can modify the curriculum to accommodate events or issues that we have not anticipated,” Francis said.  “In the world of cyber security, things change so fast that a presentation made today could become obsolete very soon, or a new issue could be on top of everybody’s minds a month from now.”

Rodrigo Amaral is a freelance writer specializing in Latin American and European risk management and insurance markets. He can be reached at [email protected]

Risk Management

The Profession

Maila Aganon is the personification of the American dream. The vice president of treasury and risk for Caesars Entertainment Corp. immigrated from the Philippines and worked her way to the top.
By: | October 12, 2017 • 4 min read


R&I: What was your first job?

I actually had three first jobs at the same time at the age of 16. I worked as a cashier in a fast-food restaurant, a bank teller and a debt collector for an immigration law firm.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have a few. The first one would be the first risk manager I reported to. He taught me the technical part of the job, risk financing, captives and insurance. I am also privileged to be mentored by Lori Goltermann (CEO of U.S. Retail for Aon Risk Solutions).  From her I learned to be resilient and optimize life/work balance. Then of course I also have a circle of ladies at work who I lean in to!

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

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I was once a bank teller and had a client who was an insurance agent. He would come in every day to make deposits. One day, he offered me a job. He said, “How would you like to have your own desk, your own phone and your own computer?” And I said, “When do I start?” I worked for this personal lines insurance company for six years.

R&I: Did you take to it immediately?

Yes, I did sales, claims and insurance accounting. I left for a couple years and that is when AAA came calling, which was my first introduction to risk management. I didn’t know there was such a thing as commercial insurance. They called me and the pitch was “how would you like to run a captive insurance company?”

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

It is not so much the job but I say that I am the true product of the American Dream. I came to the U.S. when I was 16. I worked three jobs because I didn’t want to go to high school (She’d already graduated high school in the Philippines.) I spoke very little English, and due to hard work, grit and a great smile I’m now here working with all of you!

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

In movies, it is a toss-up between Gone with the Wind and Big Daddy.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

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I like anything sweet. If you liquify a dessert that’s my perfect drink.

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

This is easy because I just got back from Barcelona on a side trip. I visited the Montserrat Monastery, which is a thousand-year old monastery. It was raining and foggy. I hiked for three hours and I didn’t see a single soul. It was a very peaceful place.

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

This is going back to working at a fast food chain when I was young. I worked in a very undesirable location in San Francisco. At 16 I used to negotiate with gang members so they wouldn’t rob me during my shift. I had to give them chicken so they wouldn’t rob me.

Maila Aganon, VP, Treasury and Risk, Caesars Entertainment Corp.

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

I can’t say me. They have to be my kids Kyle and Hailey. They can make me laugh and cry within a half-minute of each other. Kyle is 10, a perfect Mama’s boy. Hailey is seven going on 18.

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

I think the most fulfilling part is how you build relationships with people and then after a while they become your friends.

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

Risk managers do a great job of networking. They are number one. Which is not a surprise because the pillar of our work is building a relationship with underwriters, clients and brokers.

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

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I am experiencing that right now; talent.  We need to a better job in attracting and retaining talent. Nobody knows about what we do. You tell someone ‘I’m as risk manager’ and they give you a blank look. What does that mean?

We’re great marketers and we should use this skill set in attracting talent. We should engage our universities, our communities, even our yoga groups and talk to them about the exciting world of risk. It is an exciting career because there is nothing like it.

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

It would have to be the increasing cyber risk and the interdependency of systems.

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

I took my seven year old daughter once to an insurance event that had live music, dancing and drinks. She thinks that whenever I go to an insurance meeting, I’m heading to a party.




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