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Integrate Data to Harness its Risk Management Power

Risk managers should take the lead in implementing an integrated data system for all parts of their organization.
By: | February 17, 2017 • 5 min read

Risk management isn’t what it used to be.

Risk managers, CFOs and corporate boards no longer have the luxury of focusing on a defined, static set of risks. Global risks proliferate in number, type and complexity, and the risk environment is changing at an ever-faster pace.

In this environment, organizations must preempt if they can, and be able to adapt and react quickly if they can’t. Efficiency and proactivity aren’t just desirable, they’re essential.

“The approach to risk management needs to change. In addition to responding quickly as events unfold, risk managers need to have the tools to see what’s coming, and the voice to get the attention of senior leaders,” said Quin Rodriguez, Vice President, Strategic Marketing, Riskonnect.

Often, businesses already have what they need to speed up their reaction time and whittle out inefficiencies in risk management: data. Data can provide insight into a company’s key vulnerabilities, and clues for effective risk management strategies. The problem is that the data is siloed in separate administrative systems. Sharing data among different teams and corporate functions allows an organization to take a more integrated approach to risk management. Risk managers just need the tools to do it.

“Integrated Risk Management involves converging data from different sources within the business to provide the C-suite with a strategic view of its exposures. It’s opening windows in the silos to create communication channels and enable data-sharing,” Rodriguez said.

When data is presented in an integrated way, it reveals the totality of risk exposure and provides a top-down view of operational risk data including claims and incidents, which may allow executives and senior managers to identify systemic, organization-wide risks that previously went unrecognized due to departmental silos.

To understand the full scope of risk, organizations need data from all business units and risk and compliance functions, as well as from business partners, suppliers and outsourced vendor services.

“It’s hard to see and appreciate the impact of any risk, much less do anything about it, when you’re only looking at them individually and over a short period of time,” Rodriguez said. “Integrated data enables strategic, real-time decision making with the long view in mind.”

A Platform for Data Sharing

Gartner defines Integrated Risk Management as “a set of practices and processes supported by a risk-aware culture and enabling technologies, that improves decision making and performance through an integrated view of how well an organization manages its unique set of risks.”

Quin Rodriguez Vice President, Strategic Marketing

Despite the benefits of streamlining data systems and sharing information across an organization, a 2015 survey conducted by Gartner revealed that nearly 40 percent of its clients were not using software for governance, risk and compliance, or what is now referred to as IRM. Sixty-five percent of clients were not even familiar with the term GRC. And yet, a separate survey of global executives revealed that 65 percent of execs saw investment in risk management as “falling behind.”

Why aren’t more organizations investing in updated risk management practices and taking an integrated approach? Rodriguez said there are shortfalls in both organizational cultures of risk awareness, and in the availability of enabling technologies.

“The technology hasn’t quite been there,” Rodriguez said. “Many vendors have built one-off and niche solutions to meet demands as they arise, resulting in different apps for claims management, safety reporting, internal audit, etc. But there has been no one solution where the data is all accessible at once.”

Riskonnect offers the platform and data services that can unify these separate and siloed solutions. Consolidating claims data, safety reporting, training documents, compliance reports, and other risk management information under one unified hierarchy eases data-sharing without compromising data integrity. It allows risk managers to see the full impact of each risk and understand them in context.

Take the example of a fast food restaurant. A patron comes in for lunch and discovers a bone in his chicken sandwich, which is a safety risk for the customer and a liability risk for the restaurant. The customer complains to the manager, who files an incident report. Then the unhappy customer goes home and shares his experience on social media, denigrating the restaurant for its poorly prepared food. Now that bone is a reputational risk that could affect other restaurant locations as well.

“What we’re seeing is these risk managers are having greater visibility into these risks, and they’re starting to ask us for more information,” Rodriguez said. “They want to be able to see the operational impact of a reputational risk and determine how to mitigate it.”

Rodriguez described another client who was seeing a lot of claims tied to environmental health and safety, but couldn’t determine where the common vulnerability was that was allowing things to slip through the cracks. Part of the problem was that the claims management team and the safety team weren’t communicating.

If there was an injury, the safety team would file a report, but the claims team did not have access to their system and thus could not see the report. They would not know about the incident until the injured employee filed a workers’ compensation claim.

“Safety reporting should be tied to claims, which should be tied to safety auditing,” Rodriguez said. “The injury report should be filed in the same system as claims so that the claims team can identify that report as a potentially insurable risk. When data is integrated, they know what’s coming.”

“Any time you can break down the silos and create common sources of data, normalize them, and ease communication, you achieve an integrated risk management approach that ultimately helps to create efficiency and mitigate losses,” Rodriguez said.

Implementing Integrated Risk Management

Switching to one unified system works best when there is support from all departments. Managers of different business units will need to expand their view outward and look to synchronize their data collecting and reporting with their counterparts throughout the organization.

But there are also needs to be an appetite for integration at the executive and board level, Rodriguez said.

“We have clients that use five, six, seven different solutions of ours and may not have the required appetite to really normalize that data at the C-suite level. There needs to be a desire at that level to really put data to work and develop a purpose for it,” he said. “Otherwise, they’re just going to get another dashboard.”

This is where risk managers can take a leading role and elevate their strategic contribution to their organization.

“Risk managers already collect so much information, but with an integrated risk management approach they can bring better data to their bosses that has a clear purpose,” Rodriguez said. “Harnessing shared data can get risk managers a seat at the table.”

To learn more about integrated risk management solutions, visit https://riskonnect.com/.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Riskonnect. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Riskonnect is the only global provider of Integrated Risk Management technology solutions. Built on the world’s leading cloud platform, Riskonnect finally allows you to break down the silos and unite your entire organization.

R&I Profile

Achieving Balance

XL Catlin’s Denise Balan stays calm and focused when faced with crisis.
By: | January 10, 2018 • 6 min read

In the high-stress scenario of kidnap or ransom, the first image that comes to mind isn’t necessarily a yoga mat — at least, not for most.

But Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin, who practices yoga every day, would swear by it.

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“I looked at these opposing aspects of my life,” she said. “Yoga is about focus, balance, clarity of intent. In a moment of stress, how do you respond? The more clarity and calmness you maintain, the better positioned you are to provide assistance in moments of crisis.

“Nobody wants to be speaking to a frenetic person when either dealing with a dangerous situation or planning for prevention of a situation,” she added.

“There’s a poem by [Rudyard] Kipling on that,” added Balan’s colleague Ben Tucker. “What it boils down to is: If you can remain calm, you can manage through a crisis a lot better.”

Tucker, who works side by side with Balan as head of U.S. terrorism and political violence, XL Catlin, has seen how yoga influences his colleague.

“The way Denise interacts with stakeholders in this process — she is very professional and calm in the approach she takes.”

Yin and Yang

Sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected. In Balan’s life, yoga and K&R have become her yin and yang.

She entered the insurance world after earning a juris doctor degree and practicing law for a few years. The switch came, she said, when Balan realized she wasn’t enjoying her time as a commercial litigator.

Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

In her new role, she was able to use her legal background to manage litigation at AIG, where her transition from law to insurance took place. She started her insurance career in the environmental sector.

In a chance meeting in 2007, Balan met with crisis management underwriters who told her about kidnap and ransom products.

She was hooked.

Because of her background in yoga, Balan liked the crisis management side of the job. Being able to bring the calmness and clearness of intent she practiced during yoga into assisting clients in planning for crisis management piqued her interest.

She then joined XL Catlin in July 2013, where she built the K&R team.

As she became more immersed in her field, Balan began to notice something: The principles she learned in yoga were the same principles ex-military and ex-law enforcement practiced when called to a K&R-related crisis.

She said, “They have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.”

“K&R responders have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Many understand yoga to be, in itself, one type of meditation, but yoga actually encompasses a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices. Each is a discipline. Some forms of yoga focus on movement and breathing, others focus on posture and technique. Some yoga is meant to relax the mind and create a sense of calmness; other yoga types make participants sweat.

After having her second child and working full-time, Balan wanted to find something physical and relaxing for herself; a friend suggested yoga. During her first lesson, Balan said she was enamored with it.

“I felt like I’d done it all my life.”

She dove into the philosophy of yoga, adopting the practice into her daily routine. Every morning, whether Balan is in her Long Island home or on a business trip, she pulls out her yoga mat to practice.

“I always travel with my mat,” she said. “Daily practice is the simplest form of connection to routine to maintain my balance — physically and mentally.”

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She said the strangest place she has ever practiced was in Lisbon. She was on a very narrow balcony with a bird feeder swarming with sparrows overhead.

After years of studying and practicing, Balan is considered a yogi — someone who is highly proficient in yoga. She attends annual retreats with her yoga group, where she is able to rejuvenate, ready to tackle any K&R event when she returns.

In 2016, Balan visited Tuscany, Italy, where she learned the practice of yoga nidra, a very deep form of meditation. It’s described as the “going-to-sleep stage” — a type of yoga that brings participants to a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.

“It awakens a different part of your brain,” Balan commented. “Orally describing it doesn’t quite do it justice. One has to practice Nidra to fully understand the effect it has on your being.”

Keeping a level head during a crisis is key in their line of business, Tucker said. He can attest to the benefit of having a yogi on board.

“I’ve seen her run table-top exercises where there is this group of people in a room and they run an exercise, a simulation of a kidnap incident. Denise is very committed to what we’re doing,” said Tucker.

“She brings that energy. She doesn’t get flustered by much.”

Building a K&R Program

When Balan joined XL Catlin, she was tasked with creating the K&R team.

Balan during a retreat in Sicily, Italy, 2017

She spent time researching and analyzing what clients would want in their K&R coverage. What stuck out most to Balan was the fact that, in these situations, the decision to purchase kidnap and ransom cover is rarely made because of desire for reimbursement of money.

“I asked why people buy this type of coverage. The answer was for the security responders,” she said.

“These are the people who sit with the family. They’re similar to psychologists or priests,” Balan further explained. “Corporations can afford to pay ransom. They buy [K&R] because it gives them access to these trained and dedicated professionals who not only provide negotiation advice, but actually sit with a victim’s family, engaging deep levels of emotional investment.”

“I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Balan described these responders as people having total clarity of purpose, setting their intentions to resolve a crisis — a practice at the very heart of yoga. She knew XL Catlin’s new kidnap program would put stock in their responders.

“I’ve worked closely with the responders to better understand what they can do for our clientele. These are the people who run into danger — warrior hearts married to dedication to our clients’ best interests.”

But K&R is more than fast-paced crisis and quick thinking; Balan also spent a good deal of time writing the K&R form and getting the company’s resources in order. This was a huge task to tackle when creating the program from the ground up.

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“A lot of my day-to-day is speaking with brokers and finding ways to enhance our product,” she said.

After a few months, she was able to hire the company’s first K&R underwriter. From there, the program has grown. It’s left her feeling professionally rewarded.

“People don’t often get that opportunity to build something up from scratch,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience — rewarding and fun.”

“She brings groups of people together,” said Tucker. “She’s created a positive environment.”

Balan’s yogi nature extends beyond the office walls, too. Her pride and joy, she said, are her kids. And while it may seem like two large parts of her life are opposite in nature, Balan’s achieved balance through her passions.

“[Yoga] has given me the ability to see beyond only one aspect of any situation” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” &

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]