2016 Risk All Star: Michael Brown

Looking at the Upside

Insurance and risk management is an industry where people contemplate worst-case scenarios.

Michael Brown, vice president and property department manager, Golden Bear Insurance Co.

Michael Brown, vice president and property department manager, Golden Bear Insurance Co.

Michael Brown, vice president and property department manager at Golden Bear Insurance Co. in Stockton, Calif., said for too long, he and his firm focused on the downside of risk while neglecting the “upside.”

“Modern risk management theory demands a 360-degree, holistic view of risk — both the upside and the downside,” he said.

He brought that upside theory of risk management to Golden Bear after exploring the concept as part of his ongoing leadership development, enrolling in The Institutes’ Associates in Enterprise Risk Management program in 2011.

Back in the office, he trained managers to incorporate upside risk into everyday leadership decisions, so now, all meetings include consideration of emerging risks from the perspective of each department head.

The organization has a top-down open door policy that encourages all employees to bring attention to possible opportunities.

“We try to encourage people to look for big risks and opportunities. We borrow from the Department of Homeland Security, and tell our employees, ‘If you see something, say something,’ ” Brown said.

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Golden Bear Vice President Ken King said Brown has made a “big difference” and “opened many eyes” by bringing the ERM program to the firm. He said Brown is very good at sparking new ideas among members.

“There were things we already knew but weren’t thinking about. He has really helped us to look at things in a new manner,” King said.

Brown also focused on the industry’s emerging talent gap risk.

“Modern risk management theory demands a 360-degree, holistic view of risk — both the upside and the downside.” — Michael Brown, vice president and property department manager, Golden Bear Insurance Co.

“This paucity of talented, qualified leaders for the future not only poses a threat for our organization, but for the industry as a whole. To combat the potential downside risk of this situation, we developed a robust internship program to groom the next generation of insurance professionals and change perceptions of the industry among young people,” he said.

That program includes hands-on experience within Golden Bear, professional certification opportunities, and externships at prominent organizations within the industry.

Brown also helped create a product line at Golden Bear that helps lower the 15 percent earthquake insurance deductible for high-priced California homes. It has proven to be profitable.

“We had seen requests from many brokers for a way to do earthquake insurance with a lower deductible and I saw an opportunity to create little mini-policies that would bring the deductible down to 5 percent,” Brown said.

What Brown most likes about the insurance industry is that “there’s always something new.”

“At least once a week, I see a type of business or a type of risk that I’ve never even seen or thought about. The variety of risks that cross my desk on any given day is phenomenal.” &

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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

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]