Risk Insider: Jean Nkamdon

Lessons From The Trenches: Lesson #1

By: | June 21, 2017 • 2 min read
Jean Nkamdon is the Risk Management and Compliance Manager at The Washington Post & Companies, which publishes the Washington Post. Nkamdon, a CPA, CFE and a RIMS-CRMP, has both domestic and international cross industries audit, attest, and risk consulting advisory experience. He can be reached at [email protected]

In my years in risk management I couldn’t help but identify three constant lessons that keep popping up for me — and every time I ignored one of them I paid for it.

The first lesson? Know the odds.

In everything know the odds, the Gods say!!!  In my years traveling as a consultant I often spent a lot of time at the airport. Every time I saw a plane land or take off I couldn’t help but wonder how everything had to go just right in order to make that happen.

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Nowadays frequent travelers probably never give so much of a thought to this technological wonder. Passengers, more often than not, are mostly concerned about pretzels, blankets and ever-shrinking legroom.

But I have noticed that pilots, on the other hand, never take any flight for granted. Their caution might seem counterintuitive, because statistically flying has proven to be a rather safe means of transport — safer certainly than train or automobile travel.

Even so, every passenger with an ounce of natural curiosity has listened intently as their flight crew performs its a rigorous pre-flight/post flight checklists. I’ve also observed pilots performing a visual inspection of their aircraft, regardless of the type of airplane or the airport size.

I’d venture to say that the record of safety of air travel hinges upon this meticulous approach to making sure that all the “t’s” are crossed and all the “i’s” are dotted. Plane crashes may be rather rare with the sophistication of technology today. But maybe that’s because pilots and the rest of the crew understand that even one crash is one too many.

For risk practitioners, it would be beneficial to spend the time truly understanding the risks facing their organizations, whether these risks are internal or external. This might mean engaging with management to understand the strategic objectives of the organization. It might mean engaging internal constituents to understand what keeps them up at night.

Plane crashes may be rather rare with the sophistication of technology today. But maybe that’s because pilots and the rest of the crew understand that even one crash is one too many.

Ultimately, it will mean working with external parties such as brokers and insurers to help them see your organizations’ risks from through a shared lens. Only when they have the full picture of the risks facing your organization can risk transfer — if there is a case for it — be tailored to provide the kind of coverage that the organization truly needs.

While understanding the odds does not in itself eliminate risks, it is crucial to the crafting of the appropriate response to any risk that would be onerous for the organization to bear.

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This approach, for instance, would help those in charge of risk weigh the facts of their organization’s risk profile on one hand, against its risk appetite in the accomplishment of strategic objectives.

The upside to understanding the odds is that it helps those in charge of risk management in fully grasping the real exposures facing the organization, in understanding from the markets the coverage available or that could be available, and in developing an effective risk transfer partnership and ultimately establishing credibility with the markets.

I’ll cover lesson #2 and #3 in future Risk Insider articles — stay tuned.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Risk All Stars

Immeasurable Value

The 2017 Risk All Stars strengthened their organizations by taking ownership of improved risk management processes and not quitting until they were in place.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 3 min read

Being the only person to hold a particular opinion or point of view within an organization cannot be easy. Do the following sound like familiar stories? Can you picture yourself or one of your risk management colleagues as the hero or heroine? Or better yet, as a Risk & Insurance® Risk All Star?

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One risk manager took a job with a company that was being spun off, and the risk management program, which was built for a much larger company, was not a good fit for the spun-off company.
Rather than sink into inertia, this risk manager took the bull by the horns and began an aggressive company intranet campaign to instill better safety and other risk management practices throughout the organization.

The risk manager, 2017 Risk All Star Michelle Bennett of Cable One, also changed some long-standing brokerage relationships that weren’t a good fit for the risk management and insurance program. In her first year on the job she produced premium savings and in her second year is in the process of introducing ERM company-wide.

Or perhaps this one rings a bell. The news is trickling out that a company is poised to dramatically expand, increasing the workforce three- or four-fold. Having this knowledge with certainty would be a great benefit to a risk manager, who could begin girding safety, workers’ comp and related programs accordingly. But things sometimes don’t work that way, do they? Sometimes the risk manager is one of the last people to know.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance.

In the case of 2017 Risk All Star winner Steve Richards of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the news of an expansion spurred him to action. He completely overhauled the company’s workers’ compensation program and streamlined its claim management system. The results, even with a much higher headcount, were reduced legal costs, better return-to-work experiences for injured workers and a host of other improvements and savings.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance. Sometimes it took years for a particular risk solution, as promoted by a risk manager, to find acceptance.

In other cases a risk manager got so excited about a solution, they never even considered getting turned down. They just kept pushing until they carried the day.

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Butler University’s Zach Finn became obsessive about what he felt was a lackluster effort on the part of the insurance industry to bring in new talent. The former risk manager for the J.M. Smucker Co. settled on the creation of a student-run captive to give his risk management students the experience they would need to get hired right out of college.

The result was a better risk management program for the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and immediate traction in the job market for Finn’s students.

A few of our Risk All Stars told us that the results they are achieving were decades in the making. Only by year-in, year-out dedication to gaining transparency about her co-op’s risks and learning more and more about her various insurance carriers, did Growmark Inc.’s Faith Cring create a stalwart risk management and insurance program that is the envy of the agricultural sector. Now she’s been with some of her insurance carriers more than 20 years — some more than 30 years.

Having the right idea and not having a home for it can be a lonely, frustrating experience. Having the creativity, the passion and perhaps, most importantly, the perseverance to see it through and get great results makes you a Risk All Star. &

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

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

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