Risk Management

The Profession

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

062016_Profession
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 Power Broker

To the Ends of the Earth

From the frozen Arctic to the inferno of a high net worth divorce, Power Brokers go to extremes to find solutions for their clients.
By: | February 20, 2018 • 2 min read

Looking for the Power Broker Winners? Click Here.

Picture this: A bitter divorce so heated that the principals are only communicating through their attorneys. Then their house burns down. Imagine walking into that situation and trying to find solutions that will please both parties.

But that’s exactly what 2018 Power Broker® Jeff Kaplan, family office practice leader, Risk Management Strategies, did.

Kaplan, who won in the Private Client category, negotiated the sale of the property — forget the rebuild, let the new owner take that on, he counseled his clients — orchestrated a 30-day auction for its sale, and achieved a profitable result for every party in the transaction, each half of the feuding couple and the developer of the sold property.

To the client, Kaplan’s work, including his high degree of emotional intelligence, released him from the “seventh circle of hell.”

From that doused inferno, let us now cast our eyes to the frozen north.

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The owner of a barge learned their property sank off of Nome, Alaska, (average temperature 27 degrees Fahrenheit). With an approaching freeze threatening to seal off the harbor, the owners, Phoenix Marine, risked losing valuable equipment.

Into action sprang George Andersen, a 2018 Power Broker® in the Marine category. With precious little time to lose, Andersen negotiated the claim and communicated proactively with the U.S. Coast Guard and other officials. Then he commissioned salvage divers from New York to travel to Alaska and retrieve the valuable equipment from the sunken barge.

Before we depart the Arctic, let us consider another 2018 Power Broker® from Aon, Christian Wise. To arrange cover for a defense contractor’s radio installations in a remote Arctic location, Wise dispatched a loss control engineer, complete with instructions on the use of a shotgun should polar bears interlope in temperatures that registered negative 29 degrees Fahrenheit.

One of the radio installations had already burned to the ground due to scant local fire protection, culminating in a $20 million loss. Despite that, working with London underwriters, Wise and his team were able to shave $1.3 million off an initial property premium cost of $1.8 million.

Power Brokers are judged by a team of Risk & Insurance® editors and writers over a three-month period each year. After interviews with hundreds of sources, winners are picked for their creativity and resourcefulness, their excellent customer service and their industry knowledge.

Not every Power Broker® required one of their associates to tote a shotgun. But many of them went to extremes for their clients; some of them waded into hurricane ravaged neighborhoods to document damage; others put their personal lives on hold, including one Power Broker® who delayed his honeymoon to attend a meeting on behalf of his client.

This year, 158 Power Broker® winners were chosen, as well as 55 finalists, spanning 25 industry categories. Congratulations to every one of these exceptional individuals. Click here to begin reading the profiles of this year’s winners. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]