Risk Management

The Profession

Skanska USA Building’s VP of Insurance and Surety knows that sharing data helps combat risk of all kinds.
By: | September 14, 2016 • 4 min read

09152016_profession_johnson
R&I: What was your first job?

I was a financial analyst with Household Finance Corp. after graduating from college.

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

I was an accountant for a long time in the construction industry. Once I became a financial manager, that role started to take on some risk management responsibilities and sort of became a dual role. Then the opportunity came up to move to Skanska and do it full time, so that’s what I did.

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

Advertisement




We’re taking a much more holistic view of risk instead of staying in silos, so it’s not just about insurance, it’s not just about financial risk, or any one thing. It’s about looking at the business holistically.

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

We could be doing a way better job of sharing data around both leading and lagging indicators of what’s driving risk decisions. We all have enough data to get an individual picture of how our businesses are doing, but we’re not sharing very well within the industry.

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

I’ve never been to RIMS. I’ve always gone to IRMI. I would say San Diego has been the best location for that conference because of the great weather, which makes for a nice place for people to relax and get together. IRMI is usually in early November, and that time of year, not every location is nice. But in San Diego it’s almost always a nice day, and that makes people want to go out and meet each other.

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

As a New York contractor, the biggest change has been the exposures in New York and emphasis on our industry there. It seems that now in construction there’s everywhere else, and then there’s New York; it’s become a separate entity.

Another change has been the sharing of risk between us and the insurance industry. When I came into the industry, we were leaving most of the risk with the insurer, and now we’re taking on much more of it ourselves and sharing it with carriers.

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

Advertisement




Labor risk is huge. The subcontractor community is stretched very thin both in terms of labor and the number of projects that are out there. I know everyone wants to talk about cyber risk, but talent shortage is a more critical risk for our business right now. Everything else will fall apart if we don’t fix that problem first.

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

We do everything through a broker.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

Yes. Even if a broker bundles up a bunch of policies, they still have to sell you what you need and the policy still has to do what it has to do. If bundling together a good policy over multiple clients gives them the ability to make a few extra dollars on it, I don’t have a problem with that. It just has to be transparent.  Transparency is what it comes down to.

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

I’m cautiously optimistic. I think better days are ahead if we don’t overthink or overregulate ourselves.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I couldn’t identify one person, but I do have a few folks that I rely on. I’m a strong believer that you need a variety of points of view.

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

Advertisement




From a personal perspective, it’s raising four kids that so far — knock on wood — seem to be solid citizens.

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

I love science fiction and fantasy movies. I have not seen the new Star Trek yet, but that’s on my list.

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

There are way too many in New York to choose just one.

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

Prague, in the Czech Republic. I was there for business and extended the trip. I’ve been to quite a few cities in Europe, and there’s usually some area that’s historic, and in Prague that area is much larger. It’s full of shops and restaurants and interesting sights.

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

Helping my folks on a day-to-day basis get through whatever roadblocks they encounter. I like to use my own expertise to help them move their day along and solve whatever problem is bogging them down.

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

As hard as I try, it’s tough for them to understand. Saying that I buy insurance isn’t really descriptive of what I do because it happens only occasionally. My son is a civil engineer, so he understands parts of it. I’m really working hard with my three daughters to get them interested in the construction business, because there are so many things you can do.




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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Risk All Stars

Immeasurable Value

The 2017 Risk All Stars strengthened their organizations by taking ownership of improved risk management processes and not quitting until they were in place.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 3 min read

Being the only person to hold a particular opinion or point of view within an organization cannot be easy. Do the following sound like familiar stories? Can you picture yourself or one of your risk management colleagues as the hero or heroine? Or better yet, as a Risk & Insurance® Risk All Star?

Advertisement




One risk manager took a job with a company that was being spun off, and the risk management program, which was built for a much larger company, was not a good fit for the spun-off company.
Rather than sink into inertia, this risk manager took the bull by the horns and began an aggressive company intranet campaign to instill better safety and other risk management practices throughout the organization.

The risk manager, 2017 Risk All Star Michelle Bennett of Cable One, also changed some long-standing brokerage relationships that weren’t a good fit for the risk management and insurance program. In her first year on the job she produced premium savings and in her second year is in the process of introducing ERM company-wide.

Or perhaps this one rings a bell. The news is trickling out that a company is poised to dramatically expand, increasing the workforce three- or four-fold. Having this knowledge with certainty would be a great benefit to a risk manager, who could begin girding safety, workers’ comp and related programs accordingly. But things sometimes don’t work that way, do they? Sometimes the risk manager is one of the last people to know.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance.

In the case of 2017 Risk All Star winner Steve Richards of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the news of an expansion spurred him to action. He completely overhauled the company’s workers’ compensation program and streamlined its claim management system. The results, even with a much higher headcount, were reduced legal costs, better return-to-work experiences for injured workers and a host of other improvements and savings.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance. Sometimes it took years for a particular risk solution, as promoted by a risk manager, to find acceptance.

In other cases a risk manager got so excited about a solution, they never even considered getting turned down. They just kept pushing until they carried the day.

Advertisement




Butler University’s Zach Finn became obsessive about what he felt was a lackluster effort on the part of the insurance industry to bring in new talent. The former risk manager for the J.M. Smucker Co. settled on the creation of a student-run captive to give his risk management students the experience they would need to get hired right out of college.

The result was a better risk management program for the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and immediate traction in the job market for Finn’s students.

A few of our Risk All Stars told us that the results they are achieving were decades in the making. Only by year-in, year-out dedication to gaining transparency about her co-op’s risks and learning more and more about her various insurance carriers, did Growmark Inc.’s Faith Cring create a stalwart risk management and insurance program that is the envy of the agricultural sector. Now she’s been with some of her insurance carriers more than 20 years — some more than 30 years.

Having the right idea and not having a home for it can be a lonely, frustrating experience. Having the creativity, the passion and perhaps, most importantly, the perseverance to see it through and get great results makes you a Risk All Star. &

_____________________________________________

Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

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