Risk Insider: Greg Bangs

Five Strategies to Catch a Thief

By: | December 12, 2017 • 3 min read
Gregory W. Bangs is chief underwriting officer of global crime at XL Catlin. Over the last 30 years, he’s been underwriting insurance and developing new products in the U.S., U.K., Hong Kong and France. He can be reached at [email protected]

According to Statistic Brain, employee theft costs U.S. businesses about $50 billion a year, with approximately 7 percent of annual revenues lost to theft and fraud. Those are eye-opening stats to say the least.

Businesses of all sizes can be victims of embezzlement, although small businesses tend to run a higher risk. No one has to click far in the realm of online news sources to find examples:

  • A former Alabama stockbroker was recently accused of embezzling more than $200,000 from a regional bank.
  • An employee embezzled over $186,000 from a hospital’s nonprofit foundation.
  • A bookkeeper stole $272,000 from a California-based farming operation and to cover it up filed fraudulent tax returns and failed to file required employment tax returns, which all resulted in a $1.5 million tax lien on the operation.
  • The founder and chief financial officer of a Charlotte, North Carolina-based construction firm was accused of embezzling $100,000 withheld for state taxes since the firm was founded in 2010.
  • A former Bank of America executive and her husband were indicted for allegedly funneling $2.7 million illegally from the company in a five-year scheme involving various Boston- and Atlanta-area nonprofits.

The most cost-effective way to deal with fraud is to prevent it. Sharpening corporate controls and process, as well as enlisting employees’ watchful eyes, are key prevention measures. And having the right insurance doesn’t hurt either. To be proactive, here are five steps to consider:

1 – Establish Checks and Balances. Thirty percent of embezzlement activity happens because the right internal controls aren’t in place. Risk proof your operational procedures, accounting related activities, access to sensitive company information, and limit role responsibilities so different employees handle different aspects of a functional area.

2 – Institute cyber controls. Establish a computer/mobile device policy and malware software protection; set up individual logins; secure intellectual property; institute check and payment safeguards for your company, customers and donors; and make sure you have administration rights to all accounts.

3 – Know and invest in your employees, old and new. Prescreen and conduct reference and credit checks, particularly on those handling money. Since 28 percent of those who commit insider fraud are considered a trusted employee, note red flags in individuals’ work or lifestyles. Educate employees, vendors and donors about company ethics and code of conduct, penalties for violations, and policies and procedures for reporting concerns.

4 – Monitor activities. Since the buck stops with you, set the right tone. Be sure your business or your nonprofit’s board and executive level employees have oversight over all transactions. Have bank, credit statements and cancelled checks mailed directly to your home, where you can review and reconcile them regularly.

5 – Cover your assets. Be sure you have crime insurance coverage. Know what it provides for and requires of you should the unthinkable happen. And review it regularly to keep pace with your entity’s needs.

Suspect embezzlement activity? Consult counsel and an investigations/forensic accounting firm. Develop a strategy to safeguard your brand and manage relationships with your staff, stakeholders, and the media if yours is a high profile business or an organization that relies on investor, donor and volunteer support.

Then take the necessary action to convict. Protecting a business against commercial crimes requires showing that you mean business. Not acting can be detrimental, sending a signal that employees who dip into an organization’s bank account may just walk away with a slap on the wrist.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Emerging Multipliers

It’s not that these risks are new; it’s that they’re coming at you at a volume and rate you never imagined before.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 3 min read

Underwriters have plenty to worry about, but there is one word that perhaps rattles them more than any other word. That word is aggregation.

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Aggregation, in the transferred or covered risk usage, represents the multiplying potential of a risk. For examples, we can look back to the asbestos claims that did so much damage to Lloyds’ of London names and syndicates in the mid-1990s.

More recently, underwriters expressed fears about the aggregation of risk from lawsuits by football players at various levels of the sport. Players, from Pee Wee on up to the NFL, claim to have suffered irreversible brain damage from hits to the head.

That risk scenario has yet to fully play out — it will be decades in doing so — but it is already producing claims in the billions.

This year’s edition of our national-award winning coverage of the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks focuses on risks that have always existed. The emergent — and more dangerous — piece to the puzzle is that these risks are now super-charged with risk multipliers.

Take reputational risk, for example. Businesses and individuals that were sharply managed have always protected their reputations fiercely. In days past, a lapse in ethics or morals could be extremely damaging to one’s reputation, but it might take days, weeks, even years of work by newspaper reporters, idle gossips or political enemies to dig it out and make it public.

Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

These days, the speed at which Internet connectedness and social media can spread information makes reputational risk an existential threat. Information that can stop a glittering career dead in its tracks can be shared by millions with a casual, thoughtless tap or swipe on their smartphones.

Aggregation of uninsured risk is another area of focus of our Most Dangerous Emerging Risks (MDER) coverage.

The beauty of the insurance model is that the business expands to cover personal and commercial risks as the world expands. The more cars on the planet, the more car insurance to sell.

The more people, the more life insurance. Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

As Risk & Insurance® associate editor Michelle Kerr and her sources point out, growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, threaten to push the insurance coverage gap to critical levels.

This aggregation of uninsured value got a recent proof in CAT-filled 2017. The global tally for natural disaster losses in 2017 was $330 billion; 60 percent of it was uninsured.

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This uninsured gap threatens to place unsustainable pressure on public resources and hamstring society’s ability to respond to natural disasters, which show no sign of slowing down or tempering.

A related threat, the combination of a failing infrastructure and increasing storm severity, marks our third MDER. This MDER looks at the largely uninsurable risk of business interruption that results not from damage to your property or your suppliers’ property, but to publicly maintained infrastructure that provides ingress and egress to your property. It’s a danger coming into shape more and more frequently.

As always, our goal in writing about these threats is not to engage in fear mongering. It’s to initiate and expand a dialogue that can hopefully result in better planning and mitigation, saving the lives and limbs of businesses here and around the world.

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Critical Coverage Gap

Growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, are pushing the insurance protection gap to a critical level.

Climate Change as a Business Interruption Multiplier

Crumbling roads and bridges isolate companies and trigger business interruption losses.

 

Reputation’s Existential Threat

Social media — the very tool used to connect people in an instant — can threaten a business’s reputation just as quickly.

 

AI as a Risk Multiplier

AI has potential, but it comes with risks. Mitigating these risks helps insurers and insureds alike, enabling advances in almost every field.

 

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