Risk Management

The Profession

The Greenbrier Cos. Inc.'s Donna Tyner says a key part of risk management's appeal is that it's always brand new.
By: | October 1, 2014 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first official job right out of college was as a management trainee for the former First Interstate Bank in Portland, Ore.

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

Like a lot of risk professionals, I started in the world of insurance. I first worked as a claims adjuster for Allstate Insurance Co. and then looking for a different challenge, I went to work for the State of Oregon as a compliance officer. Eventually I ended up working for the state’s risk management division. I provided risk management consulting services to all state agencies such as the Oregon Health Sciences University, police and the department of transportation.

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

I have been in risk management for many years now, and I like how it’s grown to be a professional business with a code of conduct and educational standards, and that it encourages people to get an ARM or CPCU designation. I like that we’re encouraging youth to pursue risk management careers, and think highly of all the mentoring we provide each other. I’m proud to be part of such a professional industry.

I like that we’re encouraging youth to pursue risk management careers, and think highly of all the mentoring we provide each other.

R&I: What changes have you needed to deal with in shifting from the public to the private sector?

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At the Port of Portland [Ore.], nearly everything you do is transparent. You’re free to share all sorts of information. At a publicly traded company, not everything can be shared. The only thing that’s truly public is the annual report.

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

The accessibility of information is the biggest change. I think I got my work computer in 1991. There was no Internet at the time. Information was not at your fingertips. Back in the day, I’d have to create things from scratch. Today, things are different. You can find templates and samples online. I used these resources when I was learning about business continuity planning.

Donna Tyner Corporate Risk Manager The Greenbriar Cos

Donna Tyner
Corporate Risk Manager
The Greenbrier Cos.

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

Technological risk is concerning. We’ve all heard stories about what happened with TJ Maxx and Target. And now, people are talking about what an unscrupulous person could do with drones in terms of obtaining proprietary information.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

I would say no. I want to know if my broker is receiving contingent commissions, so I can factor that in to the advice they’re giving me. I can also look for patterns over time.

Years ago, I brought my children to work during “Bring Your Child To Work Day” so they think that all I do all day is sit in front of a computer, attend meetings and talk on the phone.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Andrea Marzette the former risk manager for the Port of Portland. She retired this past March. She was my boss for 13 years. She showed me what it means to lead and that being a great manager means making sure your employee is successful.

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

My role as a parent. I am proud of my two sons. One is a senior and the other is a sophomore in college. They are just great young men and they’re gifted in many ways. Fortunately, I’ve had lots of great support from my family, and my husband of 30 years.

R&I: Were you a stay-at-home mom?

Pretty much, yes, until my youngest was in preschool. I was fortunate to be able to work two days a week in a job-share arrangement at the risk management division with Robert Nies. You can only do this sort of thing if both of you have a solid work ethic.

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

I happen to love Malcolm Gladwell. My favorite book of his is “The Tipping Point.” It investigates the factors that go into making incremental change. He has written five books and I’ve read them all.

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

I love E-San Thai food in Portland.

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

Among my favorites are the Mayan ruins in Honduras, Guatemala’s ruins of the sun and moon, the Coliseum in Rome, the Vatican for its artwork, and Frederick Douglass’ house in Washington, D.C.

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

I think when I went body surfing in Limon, Costa Rica. I was in college at the time. I didn’t check to see if there was undertow or look for any other risks.

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

Roy Pittman. He has a wrestling club at Peninsula Park Community Center in North Portland and has coached thousands of young men and women over the years. Many of his students have won state, regional and national titles.

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

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What I’ve always loved about risk management is that it’s so stimulating. Something always comes up that is brand-new.

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

Years ago, I brought my children to work during “Bring Your Child To Work Day” so they think that all I do all day is sit in front of a computer, attend meetings and talk on the phone. Some of my friends think I just buy insurance and prevent employees from getting injured. It’s hard to describe what we do in simple terms. I take the time, however, to explain our role in managing risk.

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]