2016 Risk All Star: Kristy Harris

Flipping Coverage on Its Head

For almost 50 years, Southwest Airlines cemented a reputation for innovation and cost control. The company’s risk management department is no exception to the rule.

Kristy Harris, risk manager, Southwest Airlines

Kristy Harris, risk manager, Southwest Airlines

Under the leadership of risk manager Kristy Harris, Southwest developed answers to coverage challenges that helped to enhance protection while keeping tariffs in check.

A typical case is a solution created to provide Side A coverage at rates that recognize the strength of the company’s balance sheet by literally turning upside down the structure of the D&O program, when some differences in conditions apply.

Southwest’s D.I.C. Flipp solution is, at first sight, a simple one. As with usual ABC-tower D&O structures, Side A coverages sit atop Southwest’s program. However, if one of the special circumstances that can trigger the coverage applies, the Side A block drops to the bottom of the pyramid, and its primary insurer becomes the leader of the whole D&O program.

The solution looks simple, but its implementation required months of negotiation, as lawyers and brokers discussed the fine print with dozens of underwriters. Key to implementing the new arrangement was to bring on board the lead D&O insurer, which had to agree to another insurer’s wording when the flip occurs.

This mission was accomplished with a little help from the baseball gods.

Harris met her broker and the D&O leader at Stan’s Sports Bar, the legendary sports bar right across the street from the Yankees’ stadium in New York. With the game delayed two hours because of rain, Harris and ExecutivePeril’s Peter R. Taffae took the opportunity to do their own pitch to the insurer. It proved to be a home run.

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“We were able to get this additional amount of coverage without having to pay more premium for it,” Harris said.

But the D.I.C. Flipp also reflects Southwest’s development of long-term, trust-based relationships with underwriters and brokers, a strategy that may not produce the biggest cost savings during a soft market, but helps to produce sustained enhancements to the insurance program.

“We are not necessarily focused on getting the lowest price. We are more interested in getting the best product.” — Kristy Harris, risk manager, Southwest Airlines

“We are not necessarily focused on getting the lowest price,” she said. “We are more interested in getting the best product.”

Southwest aims to develop creative solutions during soft cycles.

“We sit down with each carrier separately and … talk about risks and areas where we feel that we need new or improved coverages,” she said. “It is a matter of engaging underwriters in the search of solutions. In a soft market, they are looking for premium dollars. They want to be profitable, and for that they need innovation.

“I never imagined that I would end up in risk management,” she said. “But what I’ve learned is that risk management is … about knowing the company as a whole, so that it is possible to analyze a risk and control it all the way down to the management of claims.”

Relationships are an area Harris excels at as well, said Taffae.

“Kristy is extremely bright and very humble,” he said. “She is detail-oriented, but does not micromanage. And she is fun. You want to work with her.” &

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AllStars2016v1oRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2016 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

After 20 years in the business, Navy Pier’s Director of Risk Management values her relationships in the industry more than ever.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Working at Dominick’s Finer Foods bagging groceries. Shortly after I was hired, I was promoted to [cashier] and then to a management position. It taught me great responsibility and it helped me develop the leadership skills I still carry today.

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

While working for Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel, one of my responsibilities was to oversee the administration of claims. This led to a business relationship with the director of risk management of the organization who actually owned the property. Ultimately, a position became available in her department and the rest is history.

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

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The risk management community is doing a phenomenal job in professional development and creating great opportunities for risk managers to network. The development of relationships in this industry is vitally important and by providing opportunities for risk managers to come together and speak about their experiences and challenges is what enables many of us to be able to do our jobs even more effectively.

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

Attracting, educating and retaining young talent. There is this preconceived notion that the insurance industry and risk management are boring and there could be nothing further from the truth.

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

In my 20 years in the industry, the biggest change in risk management and the insurance industry are the various types of risk we look to insure against. Many risks that exist today were not even on our radar 20 years ago.

Gina Kirchner, director of risk management, Navy Pier Inc.

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

FM Global. They have been our property carrier for a great number of years and in my opinion are the best in the business.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

I am optimistic that policies will be put in place with the new administration that will be good for the economy and business.

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

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The commercial risks that are of most concern to me are cyber risks, business interruption, and any form of a health epidemic on a global scale. We are dealing with new exposures and new risks that we are truly not ready for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My mother has played a significant role in shaping my ideals and values. She truly instilled a very strong work ethic in me. However, there are many men and women in business who have mentored me and have had a significant impact on me and my career as well.

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

I am most proud of making the decision a couple of years ago to return to school and obtain my [MBA]. It took a lot of prayer, dedication and determination to accomplish this while still working a full time job, being involved in my church, studying abroad and maintaining a household.

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

“Heaven Is For Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. I loved the book and the movie.

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

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A French restaurant in Paris, France named Les Noces de Jeannette Restaurant à Paris. It was the most amazing food and brings back such great memories.

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

Israel. My husband and I just returned a few days ago and spent time in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and Jordan. It was an absolutely amazing experience. We did everything from riding camels to taking boat rides on the Sea of Galilee to attending concerts sitting on the Temple steps. The trip was absolutely life changing.

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

Many, many years ago … I went parasailing in the Caribbean. I had a great experience and didn’t think about the risk at the time because I was young, single and free. Looking back, I don’t know that I would make the same decision today.

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

I would have to say the relationships and partnerships I have developed with insurance carriers, brokers and other professionals in the industry. To have wonderful working relationships with such a vast array of talented individuals who are so knowledgeable and to have some of those relationships develop into true friendships is very rewarding.

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

My friends and family have a general idea that my position involves claims and insurance. However, I don’t think they fully understand the magnitude of my responsibilities and the direct impact it has on my organization, which experiences more than 9 million visitors a year.




Katie Siegel is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]