Risk Management

The Profession

Skip Smith, of Hooters of America, can point to numerous mentors who aided him.
By: | May 1, 2014 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Business Unit Safety/Loss Control Manager for Marriott Corporation, Bethesda, Md. I managed a team of safety coordinators throughout the United States and was a road warrior.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

I was working at Marriott Corporation and met a gentleman by the name of Arnie Davenport who was the vice president of risk management. He would stop me in the halls and tell me that I was doing some really good things in safety and loss control for a division that I oversaw. He always encouraged me to get into risk management and learn the insurance side of the business.

Thomas "Skip" Smith, senior director of risk management and insurance, HOA, Inc.

Thomas “Skip” Smith, senior director of risk management and insurance, HOA, Inc.

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

RIMS continues to grow at the grass roots level to attract more members, which is a good thing if you want to learn about insurance. I am also glad to see a lot of diversity of thought in the business.

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

Over my career I have seen a lot of changes in technology, finance and risk. There were points when the risk management community could have done a better job in teaching companies how to prepare for the opportunities that accompany change. I would like to see a more systematic approach (other than ERM) to integrate risk management reforms with companies.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

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How the actuarial review process is taking over the insurance underwriting process. I spent some time in underwriting and deals were made over dinners and lunch meetings. Now, if I need to make a deal, the underwriter will tell my broker that he needs to discuss it first with the actuarial people and will get back to us. However, I see more underwriters getting out and making sure they have face time with clients. This is good.

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

Bitcoin, the decentralized peer-to-peer digital currency and payment network. Needless to say, this industry in growing and as users grow, so will the risks.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

Very optimistic about the economy as it will keep getting stronger and better.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

We do about 80 percent through a broker and 20 percent direct.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

Liberty Mutual Insurance. They keep getting better and better in workers’ compensation program development and other areas.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

That’s a good Monday morning question. The insurance companies took a public relations hit on the topic and should have seen it coming before it got “overblown.” As a client you really want to make sure that the broker has your best interest at heart and the process is transparent.

R5-14p46_Profession_revised.inddR&I: Who is your mentor and why?

A gentleman by the name of O.B. Fawley … showed me I could do anything that I wanted to do in life. He told me this every day. Indeed, he was like a father to me and I will always be grateful for that.

R&I: How many emails do you get in a day?

Due to the nature of our business I find myself getting about 100 to 150 a day.

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

My favorite book — “They Call Me Coach” by John Wooden. I keep it in my office.

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

I tell everybody this — I married out of my league. My wife is the reason I am where I am today. She made it possible for me to excel in my career by providing a balance in my life with our family. To be able to find a person that understands your career and is willing to support you (all the way) is a big accomplishment. I really lucked out when she decided to married me.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

For me it was the 2009 Orlando RIMS. I was really fortunate to meet a lot of good people that I continue to have relationships with today.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

I am a pizza nut and the place that has the best pizza is Antico in Atlanta, Ga. This place has authentic Naples-style pizza. Hands down it’s the best pizza in the United States.

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R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Root beer floats … from my West Virginia days as a kid.

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

Willis Reed’s house in upstate New York. It was like stepping back in time with all of the sports memorabilia he had as a basketball player for the New York Knicks.

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

I would give a shout out to all of the teachers and coaches. I can’t tell you [how many of them] had a profound effect on my life. They have the ability to change people and shape minds.

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]