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.”


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. &


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

Pinnacle Entertainment’s VP of enterprise risk management says he’s inspired by Disney’s approach to risk management.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Bus boy at a fine dining restaurant.

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

I sent a résumé to Harrah’s Entertainment on a whim. It took over 30 hours of interviewing to get that job, but it was well worth it.

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


The Chinese citizen (never positively identified) who stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. That kind of courage is undeniable, and that image is unforgettable. I hope we can all be that passionate about something at least once in our lives.

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

Cyber risk, but more narrowly, cyber-extortion. I think state sponsored bad actors are getting more and more sophisticated, and the risk is that they find a way to control entire systems.

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

Training and breaking horses. When I was in high school, I worked on a lot of farms. I did everything from building fences to putting up hay. It was during this time that I found I had a knack for horses. They would tolerate me getting real close, so it was natural I started working more and more with them.

Eventually, I was putting a saddle on a few and before I knew it I was in that saddle riding a horse that had never been ridden before.

I admit I had some nervous moments, but I was never thrown off. It taught me that developing genuine trust early is very important and is needed by all involved. Nothing of any real value happens without it.

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


Setting very aggressive goals and then meeting and exceeding those goals with a team. Sharing team victories is the ultimate reward.

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

Disney World. The sheer size of the place is awe inspiring. And everything works like a finely tuned clock.

There is a reason that hospitality companies send their people there to be trained on guest service. Disney World does it better than anyone else.

As a hospitality executive, I always learn something new whenever I am there.

James Cunningham, vice president, enterprise risk management, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

The risks that Disney World faces are very similar to mine — on a much larger scale. They are complex and across the board. From liability for the millions of people they host as their guests each year, to the physical location of the park, to their vendor partnerships; their approach to risk management has been and continues to be innovative and a model that I learn from and I think there are lessons there for everybody.

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

We are doing a much better job of getting involved in a meaningful way in our daily operations and demonstrating genuine value to our organizations.

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

Educating and promoting the career with young people.

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

Being able to tell the Pinnacle story. It’s a great one and it wasn’t being told. I believe that the insurance markets now understand who we are and what we stand for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?


John Matthews, who is now retired, formerly with Aon and Caesar’s Palace. John is an exceptional leader who demonstrated the value of putting a top-shelf team together and then letting them do their best work. I model my management style after him.

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

I read mostly biographies and autobiographies. I like to read how successful people became successful by overcoming their own obstacles. Jay Leno, Jack Welch, Bill Harrah, etc. I also enjoyed the book and movie “Money Ball.”

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Ice water when it’s hot, coffee when it’s cold, and an adult beverage when it’s called for.

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

In my family, I’m the “Safety Geek.”

R&I:  What’s your favorite restaurant?

Vegas is a world-class restaurant town. No matter what you are hungry for, you can find it here. I have a few favorites that are my “go-to’s,” depending on the mood and who I am with.

If you’re in town, you should try to have at least one meal off the strip. For that, I would suggest you get reservations (you’ll need them) at Herbs and Rye. It’s a great little restaurant that is always lively. The food is tremendous, and the service is always on point. They make hand-crafted cocktails that are amazing.

My favorite Mexican restaurant is Lindo Michoacan. There are three in town, and I prefer the one in Henderson as it has the best view of the valley. For seafood, you can never go wrong with Joe’s in Caesar’s Palace.

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