The Profession

Alan Gier

GM’s Global Director of Risk and Insurance Alan Gier went from assembling cars to structuring insurance programs.
By: | May 24, 2016 • 4 min read

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R&I: What was your first job?

I had a paper route when I was 12 and many odd jobs in my teens. My first automotive industry job was building rear axles for G vans at a local GM assembly plant during summers in college.

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

It took 20 years. While negotiating contracts with our JV business partners, I interacted frequently with our corporate risk management team and became intrigued by how to quantify and mitigate our exposures. Additionally, I managed a host of operational and strategic issues which required scenario planning and analysis around the risk of taking one course of action versus another. That piqued my interest in risk management as a science and financial discipline.

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

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It’s focusing on analytics that drive better decision-making around program structuring. Risk managers are also being viewed as problem solvers and business facilitators, helping to drive their company’s strategic plan and overall business objectives.

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

Developing the next generation of risk managers by reaching out to college students via social media or college recruitment events.

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

San Diego in any year. Great venue for the weather and access to the convention center and local eateries. Any place where you can walk to get around is better for meeting planning. Of course, there’s always Lyft!

One nephew thought I was a chef because I am forever cooking up something new after returning from a different part of the world.

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

Significant ups and downs in the insurance markets as a result of 9/11, Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and the “Great Recession.” Also underwriters becoming more focused on business and contingent business interruption exposures as they began to understand that their aggregate exposure could be much larger than expected.   Finally, the rise of the Chinese insurers as they expand their capacity, competitive pricing and influence.

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

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Optimistic. The Internet of Things, the disruptive technology that we seem to see every day presents a lot of opportunity. However, I am concerned about the relative wage stagnation and whether others who are coming up now will enjoy the opportunities that I had.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Art Raschbaum, a former executive director of risk management at GM and now CEO of Maiden Re. Art taught me the importance of maintaining strong relationships with the markets and delivering value to the C-suite. Also Ron Judd, of GM and later Ally and AMTrust, who is a model of integrity and leadership.

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

Maintaining relationships with my family and friends despite years of travel and the demands that working at a global company involve.

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

I read a lot so it is difficult to identify a favorite, but a few would include “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig, “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, and “Free to Choose” by Milton Friedman.

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

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Fortunately I’ve had the opportunity to eat in many great restaurants across the globe. I remember certain dishes like mushrooms in butter foam in Paris, venison saddle or lamb curry in London, abalone and sashimi in Tokyo, a great steak in New York, and of course cheese anywhere in Europe.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

That one is easy … a very dry martini followed by a chewy Cab or silky Pinot Noir with dinner.

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

Tuscany, Italy. Beautiful scenery, friendly people, great food, luscious wine and fantastic winding roads that are a blast to drive.

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

Backpacking and alpine skiing throughout the U.S. and Canadian Rockies.

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

The U.S. military and Homeland Security; they have kept us safe since 9/11 through tremendous sacrifice and vigilance.

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

The people I meet, traveling to new places, and balancing the mix of marketing and finance that every risk manager must master.

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

One nephew thought I was a chef because I am forever cooking up something new after returning from a different part of the world.  Another nephew is convinced I have a “government” job because I don’t say much and I go to exotic places … others just think I buy insurance.




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

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]