2016 Power Broker

At Large

Clout in the Market

Cara Cortes Vice President Aon, Pittsburgh

Cara Cortes
Vice President
Aon, Pittsburgh

Few things are more important to boards of directors and corporate officers than directors and officers coverage – and that is where Aon’s Cara Cortes excels.

One private equity portfolio company needed D&O coverage at the end of the month. They couldn’t get an extension and an application had yet to be filled out.

Two days before coverage expired, the company asked Chip Gutshall, CEO of Work Comp Strategic Solutions, another of the portfolio companies, for help. He immediately called Cortes, who raced to the rescue.

“She got a 60-day extension for the application,” Gutshall said. “That was awesome. She carries a lot of clout within the market to pull something like that off.”

Cortes has also been extremely helpful in D&O and employment practices liability claims, he said.


“I wouldn’t trade her for anyone,” he said.

A risk manager in the Midwest said that Cortes “does a great job at matching up our exposure, our risk, with the best potential partners.

“We were able to significantly improve the coverage in several respects and to reduce the cost beyond what the [soft] market was.”

Cortes’ assistance with cyber coverage for St. Clair Hospital was what stood out the most for Linda Lattner, corporate compliance officer at the hospital.

Longstanding Expertise

Craig Howser Executive Vice President Alliant, Chicago

Craig Howser
Executive Vice President
Alliant, Chicago

There’s a limited market for professional lawyer liability, and Craig Howser is an expert at searching out the best specialized coverage for his clients.

“He’s at the top of my list as a business partner for our firm,” said Judy Vetkoetter, executive director of Gardere Wynne Sewell.

“He is really on top of our business and the kinds of challenges the legal industry faces. He is very connected and resourceful as far as market options go. I sing his praises.”

Instead of market-driven premium increases at renewal, Howser has been able to point out to underwriters the uniqueness of Gardere’s effective risk management to put together a solution that lowered the firm’s self-insured retention.

He is also a strategic thinker, introducing Gardere to new underwriters even when there wasn’t an immediate need. That approach paid off a few years ago when a previous lead underwriter decided to change its approach to insuring large law firms.

Howser assisted the Gibbons PC law firm when it left a captive program it had been with for 25 years and entered the commercial marketplace.

“We have saved millions and millions of dollars in premiums over the past few years,” said Patrick Dunican, chairman and managing director.

In addition, the firm’s coverage was broadened by a manuscripted policy form that included possible future exposures such as cyber liability or data breaches.

On the Cutting Edge

Randy Nornes Executive Vice President Aon, Chicago

Randy Nornes
Executive Vice President
Aon, Chicago

The risks and exposures of companies in the new sharing economy receive significant media attention and face uncertain regulatory demands.

Although many insurers steer clear of such high-profile risks, Randy Nornes was able to do “extraordinary work” in helping one such company gain the coverage it needed, according to a risk executive at a sharing economy company.

“He was really, really good. He is No. 1,” said the executive. “I can’t give you a lot of detail but he was able to help us develop things in the market from scratch from financial structure to policy writing.

“He connected us with the right resources to create something that the market was not very open to getting involved with,” he said.


“His most important asset was to help insurers get comfortable with the risk,” the executive said.

And Nornes is constantly available. “He is like an ER, working 24/7. It is outstanding customer service.”

Nornes is also a crucial asset in helping clients and insurers better understand the risks associated with the Internet of Things. IoT risks are broader than the privacy, reputational and liability exposures typically included in cyber coverage, as IoT also includes physical risks.

One of the Team

Michael Falvey Executive Vice President Willis Towers Watson, Norfolk, Va.

Michael Falvey
Executive Vice President
Willis Towers Watson, Norfolk, Va.

Weis Markets Inc. lost its risk manager this year, but rather than replacing the position, it relied more heavily on the expertise and knowledge of Michael Falvey.

“He really goes above and beyond the normal insurance broker,” said Chris De Tray, director, safety and risk management, Weis Markets.

In addition to placing insurance and shepherding renewals, Falvey is “the best business partner out there,” helping Weis proactively deal with risk management concerns, including vendor risk transfer and safety reviews.

“He absolutely is an extension of our department and understands what our model is. He does a very, very good job of making sure we are not at risk,” De Tray said.

For the Virginia Port Authority, Falvey helped Chris Harrell, vice president, contracts and risk management, rebuild the insurance program “from the bottom up. When I say the program, I mean 3,000 employees, six marine terminals and every policy you can think of from executive liability coverage to auto to human resources to ships on terminal.

“When we rebuilt it, it consolidated a lot of things,” he said. “It was a big value add.”

Marti Dickman, vice president, risk management, ADS Waste Holdings Inc., said “the quality and level of performance we get from Michael is exceptional.”

Active in acquisitions, ADS has been challenged with the structure and poor claims history of some legacy programs.

Responsive and Knowledgeable

Jeanna Madlener Vice President, Senior Sales Executive Wells Fargo Insurance, Portland, Ore.

Jeanna Madlener
Vice President, Senior Sales Executive
Wells Fargo Insurance, Portland, Ore.

Whether it’s addressing workers’ comp issues or the diverse needs of nonprofit organizations, Jeanna Madlener is creative, responsive and knowledgeable.

“Jeanna is tremendous,” said Vincent Salvi, risk and compliance manager at Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), which provides educational services to associations worldwide.

The insurance requirements from some schools can be “quite unusual,” he said, but Madlener resourcefully helps NWEA work through those challenges.

Two challenges affecting The Dussin Group, whose restaurant portfolio includes the Old Spaghetti Factory, were workers’ compensation and letters of credit, said Dean Griffith, president.

“Our outstanding letters of credit were frustrating to us,” he said, noting that Madlener “worked very hard to get those down.”


She was also instrumental in collaborating with the company’s medical provider to take responsibility for an expensive workers’ comp claim with reserves in excess of $250,000. The loss was decreased to just over $25,000, reducing the impact to Dussin Group’s premium expenses by more than 15 percent over the next three years.

Scrutinizing safety issues is also crucial, Griffith said. The company doesn’t want “rainbows and sunshine” from her store audits, he said. “A safe work environment is not just great on the cost side, but also for our people.”

Navigating Cyber Policies

Kaitlin Upchurch Managing Director Wortham, Houston

Kaitlin Upchurch
Managing Director
Wortham, Houston

Placing cyber policies is a complex undertaking, but for retail and health care organizations, that task is significantly more demanding. Kaitlin Upchurch nails it.

“She is just very, very good,” said Margot Roth-L’Heureux, global director of risk management, Whole Foods Market Inc. “She did a tremendous job.

“As anyone in the insurance world knows, cyber is not easy for anybody in retail,” she said. “You have to count on your broker to structure your program correctly and manage your expectations.

“Cyber has a lot of visibility with your officers and board right now. She brought good candidates to the table and different configurations for not only the best way to use money in our budget but to get us the best coverage,” Roth-L’Heureux said.

James Banfield, director of risk management/associate general counsel at Baylor College of Medicine, echoed those sentiments.

After years of self-insuring, Baylor wanted to explore going to market for cyber coverage. Upchurch took the lead, offering information and helping Baylor complete the “fairly extraordinary” applications.

When Baylor was dismayed about the prospect of completing each insurer’s separate application, Upchurch was able to convince the insurers to use a common document, with Baylor providing additional information if needed.



George Gionis, Account Executive, Aon

George Gionis, Account Executive, Aon

Thomas Sewell, Senior Vice President, Insurance Brokering Executive, Wells Fargo Insurance

Thomas Sewell, Senior Vice President, Insurance Brokering Executive, Wells Fargo Insurance

Patrick Walsh, Regional Executive Vice President, Arthur J. Gallagher

Patrick Walsh, Regional Executive Vice President, Arthur J. Gallagher

Peter Ballas CISR, Senior Broker, Aon

Peter Ballas
CISR, Senior Broker, Aon

Timothy Egan Senior Vice President, NY Global Property, Willis Towers Watson

Timothy Egan
Senior Vice President, Global Property, Willis Towers Watson, NY






More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.


R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.


R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &

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