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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]

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