Risk Management

The Profession

Jacques Arragon on earning management’s trust, focusing on education, and Roger Moore as the best James Bond.
By: | August 4, 2014 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I interned at Guy Carpenter in New York City, which was a memorable learning experience. After graduating from Temple, I was hired as a risk analyst in Ford Motor Co.’s global risk management department.

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

My majors were Risk Management & Insurance and Finance. I became very focused on the risk side at Temple, which produced my first job opportunity in that field.

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Jacques Arragon, vice president, risk management, Penn National Gaming, Inc.

R&I: Did you come to the U.S. solely to attend Temple? What attracted you to the school?

I came to the U.S. to finish my undergraduate degree at Temple… . Temple at the time was No. 1 or 2 in the country for the risk management & insurance major, which was the main reason for choosing it. My American Business School in France (CEFAM) partnered with various colleges in the U.S., including Temple.

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

The focus on risk management education is tremendous — which is critical for our industry’s succession planning. … Many insurers are realizing that their workforce is aging and succession planning is critical to remain competitive in business. As such, many companies are hiring college graduates and teaching them underwriting, broking, risk management, etc. … RIMS and other risk management foundations provide more and more opportunities for current college students to find internships.

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

The gradually evolving role and increased visibility of the risk management function. Risk management morphed from just being perceived as an insurance purchase function to a valued business function.

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

Cyber risk is most definitely in the forefront today due to the increased reliance on technology for many business functions.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?
The U.S. economy has been slowly improving; however, I believe that we are in a new normal. Confidence levels are nowhere near the levels of a few years ago. Hopefully, business and political leaders have learned from their past errors in judgment.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

The most influential individual in my career was Dan Sobscynski, my first boss out of college at Ford Motor Co. He was extremely focused on risk management/insurance education and excellence, and believed risk managers can make a difference. The most important takeaways were to always set high level of expectations for yourself and your insurance partners, and as risk managers, always know more than your brokers! He unfortunately passed away in 2010.

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

Personally, marrying my soul mate and raising (continuous process) two daughters. Professionally, successfully bringing risk management awareness at all levels at Penn and earning management’s trust.

R6-14p42_Profession.inddR&I: How were you able to get management’s attention?

It was result-based. We experience many claims of various natures in our industry and our experience has been very positive with our insurance partners.  However, even when we faced adversity, we were ultimately successful in achieving our goals. It is my belief that trust is a byproduct of positive outcomes of real-life risk challenges.

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R&I: How many e-mails do you get in a day?

Too many! Between 70 and 80.

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

The best restaurant for its atmosphere and eclectic menu was Pomegranates in London — it unfortunately closed a few years ago.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Sparkling water (I know — very boring).

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

I loved Rome for its endless history.

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

Zip lining in Costa Rica in June!

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

Any James Bond movie!

R&I: Who is the best James Bond?

Roger Moore would be my favorite.

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

Knowing that I have an impact on preventing employees and guests from injury as well as protecting the company when unfortunate circumstances occur.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They are still not sure.

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

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It would be unfair to pinpoint just one. I have a few insurers around the globe with which I enjoy true partnerships whereas they are committed to long-term relationships, spend time understanding my risks, and are there when I need them the most and treat me fairly.

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

All my placements are through brokers however … I am constantly in direct communication with my major insurance partners.

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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.

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R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.

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R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &




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