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Risk Scenario

Blind Faith

An auto manufacturer thinks their tech supplier escaped typhoon damage. Closer inspection reveals quite the opposite.
By: | September 15, 2014 • 9 min read
Risk Scenarios are created by Risk & Insurance editors along with leading industry partners. The hypothetical, yet realistic stories, showcase emerging risks that can result in significant losses if not properly addressed.

Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.

Part One: Cocky Sons of Guns

With a steady, fluid motion, Ray Fines stretched his six-foot-two-inch frame to its limit and smacked the tennis ball toward his opponent Robert Gailey on Gailey’s ad-court side.

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Fines served with a lot of top-spin, so the shorter Gailey had to hop a little on his return, but he reached out and backhanded the ball masterfully down Fine’s forehand side for a winner.

Someone whistled appreciatively from the grassy court-side banks of the hard-surface courts at San Diego’s Corona del Playa Country Club: Neither Fines nor Gailey looked over.

For one, they were both well-paid executives with the highly successful niche luxury automobile manufacturer Charing Motors, based in San Diego. The company’s 2014 revenue was $850 million.

It was fair to say success had gotten to their heads a little bit and they tended to be socially unapproachable.

Scenario Partner

Scenario Partner

They were also two of the club’s top players and were used to people watching them play.

“Game and set,” Gailey said as Fines trotted over to pick up the ball.

“One more?” Fines asked, looking over to Gailey and hoping for a chance at revenge.

“Nah, we need to get set up for the barbeque tonight,” Gailey said. “I’d better get back to the house or I’m going to be the one getting grilled.”

After showering, Gailey and Fines stopped in the clubhouse for some sparkling water and freshly squeezed orange juice, fortified with raw vegan supplements. They were quietly hydrating when Gailey, flipping through the news feeds on his mobile phone, stopped.

“Hmmm,” he murmured.

“What?” said Fines, Charing Motors’ risk manager.

“Looks like there’s a sizable tropical storm heading for mainland China. Could turn into a typhoon,” said Gailey, the company’s procurement director.

“We don’t have any suppliers there,” Fines said.

“No, we don’t,” Gailey agreed.

“But some poor son of a gun does. Looks like it’s headed right at the Pearl River Delta. Lots and lots of tech suppliers there,” he said.

“First we miss Tohoku, now we luck out on this. We must be doing something right,” Fines said.

Charing Motors, back in its infancy, had escaped the supply chain damage that many auto manufacturers suffered when an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan and its economy in 2011.

“Evidently so,” Gailey said, looking up from his mobile phone and flashing a suntanned, winning smile at Fines.

Part Two: A Stunning Revelation

Three weeks later, Gailey and Fines were in a conference room, hunched over a speaker phone.

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“Good morning,” Gailey said as the other caller beeped on.

“Good afternoon,” said the caller in Taipei, acknowledging the 15-hour time difference between Taipei and San Diego.

After some brief and awkward preliminaries, Gailey got to the point.

“We’re concerned about these delivery delays we’re seeing, Dr. Wu,” Gailey said. “We’re looking at a three-week backlog as things stand, and I’m not confident the delays won’t get even longer,” Gailey said.


There is a long pause.

“Are you with me, Dr. Wu?” Gailey said.

“Yes. I’m with you,” said Dr. Wu.

Dr. Wu, who earned his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is the chief executive officer of Paramount Technologies, which assembles the collision avoidance and cruise control components for Charing Motors.

“We … it’s hard to explain but we are conducting an investigation into our suppliers. We have some suppliers in the Pearl River Delta in China and we are uncertain as to their status,” Dr. Wu said.

Fines punched the mute button.

“Pearl River? I didn’t think we had any exposure there,” Fines said.

Gailey unmuted the phone.

“Pearl River, you say? That area was heavily damaged by Typhoon Lei, was it not?”

“Yes sir, substantial damage. We have multiple suppliers there we fear have been heavily damaged,” Dr. Wu said.

“Well how long until you? …” Fines began but was cut off by Dr. Wu’s response.

“We cannot offer a timeline on when our investigation will be finished,” Dr. Wu said.

Robert Gailey and Ray Fines just look at each other. In the space of one conversation, their confidence level in the short- to mid-term success of their company plummeted.

Part Three: The Flood in Bao ‘an

Wearing rubber boots, Vince Yee sloshed across his factory floor at the semi-conductor manufacturer Yee Industries in Bao ‘an, causing a pair of two-foot-long grass carp that typhoon flood waters stranded in his shop to swim for cover.

Scenario_BlindFaith

Yee grimaced at the sight of the river fish in his once-pristine manufacturing facility. He climbed up on a flight of concrete steps. Gaining that perch gave him enough elevation to sit down and light a cigarette.

Yee exhaled cigarette smoke and looked out over the water-covered factory floor. Here and there, employees moved about in vain attempts to hoist expensive machinery up on blocks in an effort to lessen the water damage.

It’s Yee that supplies the semi-conductors to Dr. Wu’s Paramount Technologies, without which Wu will not be able to assemble the collision-avoidance technology for Charing Motors’ luxury sedans.

Yee takes another long drag on his cigarette and his cell phone vibrates as he sees a water snake working its way under a water-soaked piece of equipment that cost him $750,000.

“Hello?” Yee says in a dour tone of voice.

“Yes, this is Vince Yee. Yes, Dr. Wu.”

Yee looks out over the factory floor as Dr. Wu talks. From his expression, Yee would rather throw his phone in the flood water then listen to what Dr. Wu is asking him.

“No. No. I have no flood insurance,” Yee said.

“You can’t even get flood insurance down here. I’m 30 centimeters above sea level, Dr. Wu. You know that.”

Yee grimaces in frustration and anger as Dr. Wu asks him another question.

“Your guess is as good as mine, Dr. Wu. It will be a bloody miracle if I ever get back into business at this rate. But I’ll let you know. Good bye.”

Yee turns off the cell, runs his free hand over his face and hair in frustration and then flips his cigarette butt into the flood waters.

Part Four: Searching in Vain

Lee Ackles, Charing Motors CFO, leans back in his office chair and looks away from Robert Gailey and Ray Fines toward the San Diego Harbor.

“I’m just trying to get my head around this and I don’t think I can,” Ackles says to Gailey and Fines, when he brings his gaze back from the water.

“From what you’re telling me, our collision-avoidance system supplier really doesn’t know at this point where it can get the semi-conductors it needs to finish our product,” Ackles said.

“That’s correct,” Gailey said bravely.

“We’ve determined that a lot of their suppliers are single-source. Many of them were in the Pearl River Delta which was so heavily damaged by the typhoon in May.”

“Five months ago,” Ackles said, looking at Gailey and Fines like they had no brains.

“Correct.” It was Fines that managed to speak this time.

“And what have you found out in the past five months?” Ackles asked.

“There’s a lot of variation in product specs, even the names of the products in some of these Asian countries,” Gailey said.

“The semiconductors we’re looking for are really hard to find in Taiwan, Thailand or even mainland China right now,” Gailey said.

“We hope to have this thing nailed down in another month but as it stands, we can’t complete production on the CM-5 or the CM-7 until we do,” Gailey said.

“The CM-5 and the CM-7,” Ackles said. At this point he clicked his mouse and looked at some data on his screen.

“We’re looking at a real punch in the gut unless we can get it done much sooner guys,” Ackles said.

“Paramount Technologies, that’s the company in Taipei?” Ackles asked. He clicked and looked at his computer screen again.

“Wow, $4 million in billings to us last year. Get on a plane, go see Dr. Wu and company and get us a quicker answer. Both of you. Go tomorrow.”

Part Five: A Visit to the Delta

Robert Gailey and Ray Fines are passengers in a 1969 Piper Cherokee 6/260 that is winging its way along the Pearl River toward the Bao ‘an location of Yee Industries. The Piper is equipped with twin pontoons and makes a perfect river landing.

Jackie Chen, the Piper Cherokee pilot, turns and smiles toothily at Gailey and Fines from behind yellow-tinted sunglasses after his plane drifts up to the dock outside of Yee Industries and is secured by a Yee Industries employee.

“Just like I said, gentleman, smooth as silk,” Chen said, mimicking the smooth descent and landing of the plane with his hand.

Gailey and Fines both try forced smiles but just clamber out instead.

Walking up the path to the Yee Industries factory, Fines scanned the property and saw little sign of activity.

“Doesn’t look like they are even close to operational,” Fines said.

“Who knows,” Gailey said as they reached the factory door.

Entering the factory through an open side door, Gailey and Fines encounter a factory floor that is now dry, but shows no indication of being able to achieve full production anytime soon.

In one corner, six employees are sitting around a table hand-fashioning some semiconductor parts.

“Can I help you gentlemen?” said Vince Yee, as he approached the Americans.

“We’re looking for Vince Yee,” Gailey said.

“I’m Vince Yee,” said the factory owner.

“I’m Robert Gailey and this is Ray Fines. We’re with Charing Motors out of San Diego in the U.S.”

Yee stared at Gailey and Fines blankly.

“You’ve heard of Charing Motors?” Fines said.

“No. Never heard of it,” Yee said.

Gailey and Fines pause as this latest piece of information resonates.

“We make cars,” Gailey said.

“You want to buy this factory? You could make cars here in China,” Yee said.

“That’s not what we had in mind,” Fines said.

The conversation with Yee yielded one piece of productive information. After looking at the specs of the semiconductors Charing Motors needs to assemble its collision-avoidance system, Yee gave Fines and Gailey the name of a Pearl River manufacturer still at full production.

This manufacturer, though, is upstream in Panyu.

“Can you take us to Panyu?’” Gailey asked Jackie Chen as he and Fines get back to the Piper Cherokee.

“Can I take you to Panyu? I was born in Panyu,” Jackie Chen said with a chuckle.

“Just get in and fasten your seatbelts.”

As the Piper Cherokee takes off, Ray Fines and Robert Gailey avoid eye contact, neither of them knowing how soon they’ll be able to get the part they need to keep crucial manufacturing processes going.

It will be a full year until Charing Motors can resume full production. The privately held company recorded a 40-percent revenue drop for fiscal year 2015.

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Risk & Insurance® partnered with FM Global to produce this scenario. Below are FM Global’s recommendations on how to prevent the losses presented in the scenario. This perspective is not an editorial opinion of Risk & Insurance®.

1. Demand more from first and second-tier suppliers: It’s not enough to trust that your first and second-tier suppliers have an adequate knowledge of their suppliers’ property-CAT exposures and resilience. Insureds, working through their brokers and carriers, should create contractual certainty with their suppliers that their supply chain will be resilient in the event of a natural catastrophe or some other supply chain interruption.

2. Identify at-risk locations: Locations such as the Pearl River Delta of China is a prime spot for property losses, business interruption and supply chain problems due to the extremely high concentration of technology, automotive and telecommunications parts suppliers in natural hazard-exposed locations. As vulnerable as it is, however, the Pearl River Delta is just one example of a super-exposed location that could result in substantial business interruption should a windstorm, earthquake, flood or some other event transpire.

3. Involve the claims executives: In mapping out business interruption, property and supply chain risk and risk transfer options, make sure to involve the claims executives from your carrier in the discussion. Involving only the broker and the carrier at renewal time could result in an incomplete understanding of your company’s claims recovery chances in the event there is a loss.

4. Pinpoint single-source suppliers: One of the most vulnerable parts of your supply chain is that occupied by single-source suppliers. The use of single-source suppliers in some cases might be unavoidable, but identifying those parts of your supply chain that are single source and addressing them with specific risk management strategies is a good idea.

5. Everyone gets hit: Never assume that just because you haven’t suffered a substantial property, business interruption or supply chain loss that you won’t. An increasing complexity of global supply chains and economic forces that dictate business establishment in natural hazard-exposed areas almost guarantees, that sooner or later, your company will face a peril of one kind or another.




Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

The risk manager for Boyd Gaming Corp. says curiosity keeps him engaged, and continual education will be the key to managing emerging risks.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was trained as an accountant, worked in public accounting and became a CPA. Being comfortable with numbers is helpful in my current role, and obviously, the language of business is financial statements, so it helps.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Working in finance in the corporate environment included the review of budgets and the analysis of business expenses. I quickly found the area of benefits and insurance — and how “accepting risk” impacted those expenses — to be fascinating. I asked a lot of questions. Be careful what you ask for — I soon found myself responsible for those insurance areas and haven’t looked back!

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

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I have found the risk management community to be a close-knit group, whether that’s industry professionals, risk managers with other companies or support organizations like RIMS and other regional groups. The expertise of the carriers and specialty vendors to develop new products and programs, along with the appropriate education, will continue to be of key importance to companies going forward.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

As I’m sure many in the insurance field would agree, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 changed our world and our industry. It was a particularly intense time and certainly a baptism by fire for people like me who were relatively new to the industry. This event clearly accelerated the switch to the acceptance of more risk, which impacted mitigation strategies and programs.

Bob Berglund, vice president, benefits and insurance, Boyd Gaming Corp.

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

The fast-paced threat that cyber security represents today. Our company, like so many companies, is reliant upon computers, software and IT expertise in our everyday existence. This new risk has forged an even stronger relationship between risk management and our IT department as we work together to address this growing threat.

Additionally, the shooting event in Las Vegas in 2017 will have an enduring impact on firms that host large gatherings and arena-style events all over the world, and our company is no exception.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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With the various types of insurance programs we employ, I have been fortunate to work with most of the large national and international carriers — all of whom employ talented people with a vast array of resources.

R&I:  How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

We use brokers for many of our professional coverages, such as property, casualty, D&O and cyber. We are self-insured under our health plans, with close to 25,000 members. We tend to manage those programs internally and utilize direct relationships with carriers and specialty vendors to tailor a plan that works best for team members.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have been fortunate to have worked alongside some smart and insightful people during my career. A key piece of advice, said in many different ways, has served me well. Simply stated: “Seek to understand before being understood.”

What this has meant to me is try everything you can to learn about something, new or old. After you have gained this knowledge, you can begin to access and maybe suggest changes or adjustments. Being curious has always been a personal enjoyment for me in business, and I have found people are more than willing to lend a hand, offer information and advice — you just need to ask. Building those alliances and foundations of knowledge on a subject matter makes tackling the future more exciting and fruitful.

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

Our benefit health plan is much more than handing out an insurance card at the beginning of the year. We encourage our team members and their families to learn about their personal health, get engaged in a variety of health and wellness programs and try to live life in the healthiest possible way. The result of that is literally hundreds of testimonials from our members every year on how they have lost weight, changed their lifestyle and gotten off medications. It is extremely rewarding and is a testament to [our] close-knit corporate culture.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

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Some will remember the volcano eruption in Iceland in spring of 2010. I was just finishing a week of meetings in London with Lloyd’s syndicates related to our property insurance placement when the airspace in England and most of northern Europe was shut down — no airplanes in or out! Flights were ultimately canceled for the following five days. Therefore, with a few other stranded visitors like myself, we experimented and tried out new restaurants every day until we could leave. It was a very interesting time!

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

I am originally from Canada, and I played ice hockey from the time I was four years old up until quite recently. Too many surgeries sadly forced my recent retirement.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

That’s a funny one … I am a CPA working in the casino industry, doing insurance and risk management, so neighbors and acquaintances think I either do tax returns or they think I’m a blackjack dealer at the casino!




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