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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

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

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

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

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

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

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

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

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

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

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

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

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

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

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

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

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

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

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

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

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

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

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

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

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

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

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

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

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