2017 Risk All Star: Wallace Jones

Persistence Pays Off

Ashley Furniture was a $4 billion company when Wallace Jones came on board as director of global benefits and insurance in 2013. But its casualty insurance program was fragmented; there was no over-arching risk management strategy to unify it.

Wallace Jones, director, Global Benefits & Insurance, Ashley Furniture Industries

There was a lack of data around loss control and the performance of the various insurance programs.

“When I arrived, the data on our workers’ compensation program varied depending on who you asked,” Jones said. “We wanted to correct that and make sure everyone got the same data, and more frequent data.”

That data is now updated and shared once a week, while broader loss reviews take place monthly.

“Wallace understands how pieces of the puzzle fit together. He uses and understands analytics and can also explain them to his management team, which I don’t think most risk managers can do,” said Brianne Tounsley, account executive, Aon Risk Solutions.

Jones also observed an imbalance between risk retention and risk transfer.

“… As a $4 billion company, you have to consider where you can retain more of your risk,” Jones said. “I made it my mission  … to educate our senior leaders on the benefits and pitfalls of paying a lot of premium to transfer a lot of risk, versus taking on more of that risk and reducing premiums.”

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Improving the availability of data around program performance, increasing deductibles where appropriate, and strengthening loss control were all initiatives accomplished step-by-step. It took time to get the C-suite and finance team on board.

“I started communicating with senior management and our CEO to give them a better understanding of risk tolerance. I made sure we got the data needed to show the difference between the choices of insurance programs we had.”

Jones ultimately combined separate primary, excess and punitive damages coverage into one umbrella/excess program. He also identified the cost shifting occurring between workers’ comp and group health. In four years, the programs have transitioned to a $1 million retention for workers’ comp, general liability, and auto.

“I made it my mission … to educate our senior leaders on the benefits and pitfalls of paying a lot of premium to transfer a lot of risk, versus taking on more of that risk and reducing premiums.” — Wallace Jones, director, Global Benefits & Insurance, Ashley Furniture Industries

While exposures have increased by 27 percent to as much as 119 percent in some lines, the company’s total cost of risk has only increased by 6 percent. When compounded with exposure changes, it achieved overall pure premium reductions of 79 percent over the past three years.

“Wallace quickly moved from student to teacher in affecting some significant changes in how we look at risk and the related costs associated with premiums versus potential loss,” said Troy Muller, Vice President, Finance, Ashley Furniture Industries.

Retaining more risk necessitates a strong loss control program. Jones worked to improve the return-to-work program and give workers’ comp staff the resources to execute the program and service claims, hiring four new team members in that area.

“He’s always thinking of the long-term win, not just short-term success,” Tounsley said. &

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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.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

As a professor of business, Jack Hampton knows firsthand the positive impact education has on risk managers as they tackle growing risks.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Ellen Thrower, president (retired), The College of Insurance, introduced me to the importance of insurance as a component of risk management. Further, she encouraged me to explore strategic and operational risk as foundation topics shaping the role of the modern risk manager.

Chris Mandel, former president of RIMS and Risk Manager of the Year, introduced me to the emerging area of enterprise risk management. He helped me recognize the need to align hazard, strategic, operational and financial risk into a single framework. He gave me the perspective of ERM in a high-tech environment, using USAA as a model program that later won an excellence award for innovation.

Bob Morrell, founder and former CEO of Riskonnect, showed me how technology could be applied to solving serious risk management and governance problems. He created a platform that made some of my ideas practical and extended them into a highly-successful enterprise that served risk and governance management needs of major corporations.

R&I: How did you come to work in this industry?

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From a background in corporate finance and commercial banking, I accepted the position of provost of The College of Insurance. Recognizing my limited prior knowledge in the field, I became a student of insurance and risk management leading to authorship of books on hazard and financial risk. This led to industry consulting, as well as to the development of graduate-level courses and concentrations in MBA programs.

R&I: What was your first job?

The provost position was the first job I had in the industry, after serving as dean of the Seton Hall University School of Business and founding The Princeton Consulting Group. Earlier positions were in business development with Marine Transport Lines, consulting in commercial banking and college professorships.

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

Creating a risk management concentration in the MBA program at Saint Peter’s, co-founding the Russian Risk Management Society (RUSRISK), and writing “Fundamentals of Enterprise Risk Management” and the “AMA Handbook of Financial Risk Management.”

A few years ago, I expanded into risk management in higher education. From 2017 into 2018, Rowman and Littlefield published my four books that address risks facing colleges and universities, professors, students and parents.

Jack Hampton, Professor of Business, St. Peter’s University

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

The Godfather. I see it as a story of managing risk, even as the behavior of its leading characters create risk for others.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Jameson’s Irish whiskey. Mixed with a little ice, it is a serious rival for Johnny Walker Gold scotch and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey.

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

Mount Etna, Taormina, and Agrigento, Sicily. I actually supervised an MBA program in Siracusa and learned about risk from a new perspective.

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

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Army Airborne training and jumping out of an airplane. Fortunately, I never had to do it in combat even though I served in Vietnam.

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

George C. Marshall, one of the most decorated military leaders in American history, architect of the economic recovery program for Europe after World War II, and recipient of the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize. For Marshall, it was not just about winning the war. It was also about winning the peace.

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

Sharing lessons with colleagues and students by writing, publishing and teaching. A professor with a knowledge of risk management does not only share lessons. The professor is also a student when MBA candidates talk about the risks they manage every day.

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

Sensitizing for-profit, nonprofit and governmental agencies to the exposures and complexities facing their organizations. Sometimes we focus too much on strategies that sound good but do not withstand closer examination. Risk managers help organizations make better decisions.

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

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Developing executive training programs to help risk managers assume C-suite positions in organizations. Insurance may be a good place to start but so is an MBA degree. The Risk and Insurance Management Society recognizes the importance of a wide range of risk knowledge. Colleges and universities need to catch up with RIMS.

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

Cyber risk and its impact on hazard, operational and financial strategies. A terrorist can take down a building. A cyber-criminal can take down much more.

R&I: What does your family think you do?

My family members think I’m a professor. They do not seem to be too interested in my views on risk management.




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