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Column: Roger's Soapbox

Perspective | May I Please Skip the Group Hug?

By: | September 14, 2018 • 2 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

I was grocery shopping when the public ding-dong sounded. “Would senior management please proceed to the conference room,” a metallic voice said, “for the afternoon group hug.”

Stunned by the imbecility, I paused to regroup. A fellow passing by said: “It’s alright. He really did say that.”

A broker pal is, as I write, preparing for a week-long ‘teamcation.’ All 22 members of his office are going on a company-sponsored vacation together in an eco-lodge in a down-market Spanish resort — all to encourage bonding. Had I been forced to attend such an abomination, it may have encouraged something less positive.

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Some Wall Street finance companies now reportedly encourage (a.k.a. require) employees to join in company-sponsored marathons, ironmans and arctic treks. Those not fit enough to compete, goes the mantra, aren’t ready to take on the competition. How this fits in with diversity in hiring, I’m not sure.

How did all this unconscionable idiocy start? A consultant, I’d wager, a baby boomer, probably in New York City, delivered a paper to one of his clients on corporate culture. He probably proposed that, to make them better workers, employees should be pampered a little. Why not bring teams together in informal settings and let them bond?

Memo to employers: Some people thrive outside the team regime. Some are lone wolves, eating only what they kill. Some burn in the sun. For all these and more, a week spent struggling to maintain one’s office face and demeanor could cause psychological problems.

It must have worked. It needs only one company in the world to do something that works before everyone has to do it. Sooner or later, even the most conservative among us, actuaries, say, are using words like ‘silo’ or ‘execution metrics’ and embracing change management and disruption. From there, it’s apparently a short hop to the whole company spending a week together in hell.

Memo to employers: Some people thrive outside the team regime. Some are lone wolves, eating only what they kill. Some burn in the sun. For all these and more, a week spent struggling to maintain one’s office face and demeanor could cause psychological problems. You may want to weed out these non-conformists, but they’re probably the ones driving your company forward.

Too cynical? How long, I wonder, before it’s all ’round to the local tattoo parlor to have the company logo emblazoned on everyone’s forehead?

Apropos the consultant, The New Yorker ran a cartoon of two detectives looking at a corpse lying on the floor. “From the severity and quantity of the wounds,” one detective says, “I’d say he was a management consultant.”

Since late last year, I have been looking for a way to work the following into a column. Now is the hour. Since insurance people are all, at heart, mathematicians, you might enjoy this: In January, we went from 2017 (a prime number) to 2018 (two times a prime number, 1009). Next year will be 2019, three times a prime number, 673. This has happened only three other times in the past 1,129 years.

Try making conversation at the next bonding session with that information. You won’t be asked back. &

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.

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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.

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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. &

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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]