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

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.


But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.


Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &


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

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

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