Risk Insider: Jean Nkamdon

Lessons From The Trenches: Lesson #2

By: | July 7, 2017 • 3 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 find three constant lessons that keep popping up for me and every time I ignored one of them I paid for it. In my last post, I addressed Lesson #1: Know the Odds.

Now the second lesson: Never take too much risk for very little reward

It is well understood that risk is intrinsic to any business undertaking, but the true quandary of threading the risks vs. reward equation comes down to understanding how much risk can an organization realistically afford to bear in the accomplishment of its objectives. To this point, it is often said that according to Warren Buffet, the first rule of investment is capital protection and the second asks to refer to rule number one. In risk management parlance, the Buffet rule would equate to the risk management mission to first and foremost protect their organization’s value.

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Organizations are confronted in every aspect of their businesses with the decision as to what amount of risk they could reasonably retain, transfer or avoid altogether. Because risk professionals are in the business of protecting their organization’s value, they would be better served when evaluating risks and potential risk treatment options to heed the oracle of Omaha advice.

As an illustration, organizations of all sizes are now confronted with the decision of whether to buy cyber coverage or not. In considering whether cyber coverage is an option, risk managers would have to understand the amount and nature of data held by their organization (Personal Identifiable Information, Personal Card industry information, Private Health Information).

My own observation in this area is that renewal discussions seem most often centered around premium or benchmark with peers. While these are valid data point in the analysis, in themselves they are not the magic bullet…

With a good understanding of their organization’s data, risk professional can enlist their brokers and or carriers to understand the kind of solutions available in the market for the type of information at risk. Savvy brokers would know and understand what solutions the markets can provide. This is where it would be a good idea for those in charge of risk with the help of brokers and or carriers to compare the solutions available and see whether there could be a solution tailored to their specific risk.

My own observation in this area is that renewal discussions seem most often centered around premium or benchmark with peers. While these are valid data point in the analysis, in themselves they are not the magic bullet. If risk transfer is ultimately considered merely on the basis on these without considerations to actual risks facing the organization, then the organization might end up buying too much or too little coverage which in either case are ultimately detrimental to the organization.

The worse scenario would be to find out after a loss that there is not sufficient coverage or that the existing policy has little to no coverage for the type of claim at hand. The key takeaway is that those in charge of risk are to help their organizations take calculated risks rather than assuming risks by default.

I’ll cover lesson #3 in a future Risk Insider article — stay tuned.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

This senior risk manager values his role in helping Varian Medical Systems support research and technologies in the fight against cancer.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

When I was 15 years old I had a summer job working for the city of Plentywood, mowing grass in the parks and ballfields, emptying garbage cans, hauling waste to the dump, painting crosswalk lines.  A great job for a teenager but I thought getting a college degree and working in an air-conditioned office would be a good plan long term.

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

I was enrolled in the University of Montana as a general business student, and I wanted to declare a more specialized major during my sophomore year. I was working for my dad at his insurance agency over the summer, and taking new agent training coursework on property/casualty risks in my spare time, so I had an appreciation for insurance. My dad suggested I research risk management for a career, and I transferred sight unseen to the University of Georgia to enroll in their risk management program. I did an internship as a senior with the risk management department at Sulzer Medica, and they offered me a full time job.

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

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We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks. If we initiate a collaborative exercise with the risk owners — people who may have unique knowledge about that particular risk — and include a cross section of people from other corporate functions, you can do an effective job of taking the risk apart to analyze it, figure out a way to manage that exposure, and then reap the upside benefits while reducing the downside exposure. That can be done with new products and new service offerings, when there isn’t coverage available for a risk. It’s asking, is there anything we can do to reduce the risk without transferring it?

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

Cyber liability. There’s so much at stake and the bad guys are getting more resourceful every day. At Varian, our first approach is to try to make our systems and products more resilient, so we’re trying to direct resources to preventing it from happening in the first place. It’s a huge reputation risk if one of our products or systems were compromised, so we want to avoid that at all costs.

We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks.

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

I’ve worked with a number of great ones over the years. We’ve enjoyed a great property insurance relationship with Zurich. Their loss control services are very valuable to us. On the umbrella liability side, it’s been great partnering with companies like Swiss Re and Berkley Life Sciences because they’ve put in the time and effort to understand our unique risk exposures.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

One hundred percent through a broker. I view our broker as an extension of our risk management team. We benefit from each team member’s respective area of expertise and experience.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. The brokers were kind of villainized by Spitzer. I think it’s fair for brokers and insurers to make a reasonable profit, and if a portion of their profit came from contingent commissions, I’m fine with that. But I do appreciate the transparency and disclosure that came out as a result of the fiasco.

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

David Collins, Senior Manager, Risk Management, Varian Medical Systems Inc.

While we might be doing fine here in the U.S. from an economic perspective, the Middle East is a mess, and we’re living with nuclear threat from North Korea. But hope springs eternal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping saner minds prevail and our leaders throughout the world work together to make things better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My Dad got me started down the insurance and risk path. I’ve also been fortunate to work for or with a number of University of Georgia alumni who’ve been mentors for me. I’ve worked side by side with Karen Epermanis, Michael Rousseau, and Elisha Finney. And I’ve worked with Daniel Dean in his capacity as a broker.

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

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Raising my kids. I have a 15-year-old and 12-year-old, and they’re making mom and dad proud of the people they’re turning into.

On a professional level, a recent one would be the creation and implementation of our global travel risk program, which was a combined effort between security, travel and risk functions.

We have a huge team of service personnel around the world, traveling to customer sites to do maintenance and repair. We needed a way to track, monitor and communicate with them. We may need to make security arrangements or vet their lodging in some circumstances.

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

My 12-year-old son thought my job responsibilities could be summed up as a “professional worrier.” And that’s not too far off.

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

Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. Proper administration of the risk function puts the company in a better position to financially support research that improves products and capabilities, helps to educate health care providers and support cancer care in general. It means more lives saved from a terrible disease. I’m proud to contribute toward that.

When you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully treated with one of our products, it’s a powerful reward.




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