The Profession

David Hornaday

David Hornaday knows risk managers have to be more fluent and competent in the financial world. Just procuring insurance isn’t enough anymore.
By: | August 3, 2016 • 4 min read

082016_Profession
R&I: What was your first job?

Working as a signalman for Consolidated Rail Corp. I did that for about a year and a half before I got my first risk management job as a claims agent for ConRail. That was a self-insured company, so they administered their own claims.

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

ConRail got acquired by two different railroads and was split up, so I had the opportunity to either go with one of the railroads or look outside for another position, and I wanted to do more than just work with claims. I wanted to be exposed to the corporate risk management side of things. So I found a job as a risk manager for Suburban Propane in Whippany, N.J.

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

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We’re working closely with brokers and underwriters and communicating internally to bring the insurance expertise to companies that need it.

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

Risk managers should be aware of non-traditional risks and focusing on ERM, versus just the traditional insurance procurement function. That’s where the future of our profession is going.

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

This is a little self-serving, but I thought Vancouver in 2011 was great because I had never been there but always wanted to go.

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

Risk managers have to be more fluent and competent in the financial world. Just procuring insurance isn’t enough anymore. You have to have a basic level of financial knowledge to communicate with not only internal treasury and CFOs, but also with underwriters and insurers.

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

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Social engineering. The onslaught of fraudsters is relentless. Companies have to be vigilant. But the coverage surrounding that sort of risk is also emerging, so risk managers will have to pay close attention to that and keep up with that evolving coverage.

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

We had a major loss recently and there was a handful of insurers who paid on that claim which I thought were exceedingly professional: ACE (now Chubb), Ironshore and XL (now XL Catlin).

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

We use a broker for everything.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

It probably was a little bit overblown, but I think it’s good that things are more transparent now.

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

I’m probably a little more pessimistic than optimistic. I just don’t see signs of strength out there. There are still companies with tons of cash outside the U.S. which can’t really bring it back in a way that makes sense. U.S. oil production is way down since the price of oil is so low.  Of course, the lower gas prices help the average consumer and lowers overhead costs for businesses, so it’s a little bit of a mixed bag.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My mentor in this business is Joe Racansky. He was the director of risk management and my boss at CyTec Industries, and I learned as much from him as anybody in my career.

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

Successfully resolving claims stemming from the Lac-Megantic train derailment in 2013.

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

I’d say about 100.

R&I: How many do you answer?

All the important ones.

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

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Prime 112 in South Beach, Miami. It was the freshest tuna I’ve ever had, and it was with the team from Aon, so it was great food and great company.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Gin and tonic.

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

My favorite movie is “Bull Durham.” It’s a baseball movie.

R&I: Who’s your favorite baseball team?

The Cincinnati Reds.

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

Key West, Fla., is pretty interesting. My wife and I have been there a few times and you always see something different.

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

I was moved by the Chris Kyle story. I thought his life and story were inspiring.

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

I think they think I just buy insurance, when it’s really more comprehensive than that. They don’t know about meeting with underwriters and contract review and working on M&A deals.




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She 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]