Column: Workers' Comp

Opinion | Why Do We Ignore Diversity When It Produces Great Claims Results?

By: | June 1, 2018 • 2 min read
Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

My favorite family photo shows Mexican men in worn hats, barefoot children, resolute-looking women in long, plain dresses, and a goat, all standing under a thatched-roof covering.


Shot in the early 1900s on a ranch near San Antonio, I’ve always imagined it could have served as a realistic setting for the 1960 film “The Magnificent Seven,” with Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Yul Brynner and four other white men riding in to save a village from the stereotypical Mexican bandits.

Perhaps because of those roots, the “diversity and inclusion” themes unexpectedly encountered in San Antonio during the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in April grabbed my attention.

The conference sponsored a “Diversity and Inclusion Meet-up,” coincidentally held when Starbucks first faced backlash from two black men arrested for trespassing in one of its Philadelphia stores.

It was noticeable, though, that while RIMS’ diversity meet-up occurred on a Sunday inside San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, working-class Latino families crowded adjacent park facilities.

The meet-up, whose speakers included Robert Cartwright Jr., RIMS’ first African-American president, drew a largely student crowd. They discussed how businesses gain competitive advantages, expand their talent pool, and improve marketing opportunities by retaining employees from diverse populations.

Participants mentioned the assumptions commonly made when we encounter others different from ourselves.

Employee awareness about those types of assumptions might have prevented Starbucks’ brand damage following the arrest of the two black men legitimately sitting in the Philadelphia store waiting for a business meeting.

Many corporations, including some in workers’ compensation, have already started down the diversity path.

Liberty Mutual, for instance, maintains an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, recognized for its initiatives, including assuring employees that despite the nation’s current political climate, the insurer continues to welcome all viewpoints.

It was noticeable, though, that while RIMS’ diversity meet-up occurred on a Sunday inside San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, working-class Latino families crowded adjacent park facilities.


Many more Latinos strolled along San Antonio’s nearby River Walk and packed local restaurants, enjoying Sunday family time. The 2010 U.S. Census shows Hispanics or Latinos made up 63 percent of San Antonio’s population. Their numbers have probably grown considerably since.

Their ethnic concentration contrasted sharply with the mostly white and older demographic makeup of RIMS attendees inside the convention center.

So, it caught my attention when a source volunteered during a RIMS interview that a Travelers’ initiative to hire Hispanic adjusters and nurse case managers mirroring the populations the insurer serves produced an 80 percent year-over-year, overall improvement in workers’ compensation claims outcomes.

The impressive results show that claimants are less likely to welcome attorney representation when someone understanding their language and cultural sensitivities services their claim.

A longer-term result of such efforts may be the eventual diversification of the population attending RIMS conferences.

Me, I enjoyed thinking how mind-blowing it would be for my ancestors in that old photo if they could have envisioned one of their offspring well dressed and holding meetings inside San Antonio’s modern-day convention center. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Black Swans

Black Swans: Yes, It Can Happen Here

In this year's Black Swan coverage, we focus on two events: An Atlantic mega-tsunami which would wipe out the East Coast and a killer global pandemic.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 2 min read

One of the most difficult phrases to digest without becoming frustrated or judgmental is the oft-repeated, “I never thought that could happen here.”


Most painfully, we hear it time and time again in the aftermath of the mass school shootings that terrorize this country. Shocked parents and neighbors, viewing the carnage, voice that they can’t believe this happened in their neighborhood.

Not to be mean, but why couldn’t it happen in your neighborhood?

So it is with Black Swans, a phrase describing unforeseen events, made famous by the former trader and acerbic critic of academia Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

We at Risk & Insurance® define these events in insurance terms by saying that they are highly infrequent, yet could cause massive damages. This year, for our annual Black Swan issue, we present two very different scenarios, both of which would leave mass devastation in their wake.

A Mega-Tsunami Is Coming; Can the East Coast Even Prepare?, written by staff writer Autumn Heisler, profiles an Atlantic mega-tsunami, which would wipe out lives and commerce along the East Coast.

On the topic of whether the volcanic island of La Palma, the most northwestern of the Canary Islands, could erupt, split and trigger an Atlantic mega-tsunami, scientists are divided.

Researchers Steven Ward, a geophysicist at UC Santa Cruz, and Simon Day of University College London, say such a thing could happen. Other scientists say Day and Ward are dead wrong; it’s an impossibility.

One of the counter-arguments is backed up by the statement that there has never been an Atlantic mega-tsunami. It’s never happened before and thus, could never happen here. See exhibit “A” above, re: mass school shootings.

Viral Fear: How a Global Pandemic Kills an Economy, written by associate editor Katie Dwyer, depicts a killer global pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century.

Tens of millions of people died during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

Why it could happen again includes the fact that it’s happened before. The science on influenzas, which are constantly mutating, also supports just how dangerous a threat they pose to millions of people beyond the reach of antibiotics.

Should a mutating avian flu, for example, spread widely, we could see a 10 percent drop in GDP, mostly from non-physical business interruption.

As always here, the purpose is to do exactly what insurance modelers and underwriters do; no matter how massive the event, we create scenarios, quantify possible losses and discuss risk mitigation strategies. &

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