Risk Management

The Profession

Paul Piazza of Honeywell International Inc. takes pride in protecting his company from all exposures — and being the master of the thermostat at home.
By: | April 4, 2016 • 6 min read

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R&I: What was your first job?

At 15, I worked as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant. I was eager to earn money to save for a car. After months of saving and countless clean plates, I finally purchased my first car from a retired New York City police officer. Little detail was paid to the fact that it was likely a used squad car since it came equipped with the shiny cage between the front and back seats. Dates were interesting.

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

I was an underwriter for a major insurance carrier. I traveled to Boston to attend a seminar where a Risk Manager was giving a presentation.

I was intrigued by Risk Management; it seemed like an opportunity to have exposure to all aspects of the insurance industry – claims, litigation, risk and underwriting. I didn’t want to limit myself to one area of insurance, so I decided to pursue a career in the Risk Management field.

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

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There are many positive developments in risk management. Recognition from the C-Suites has helped foster a strong environment for growth. Additionally, senior management has demonstrated a genuine interest in not only what we do, but how we can have a major financial impact on our corporations.

R&I: What could it be doing a better job of?

There is always room for growth. When I attended college, I did not really appreciate a possible career in Risk Management. I think we could do a better job at attracting candidates and exposure to the Risk Management field at the collegiate level.

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

Los Angeles. It’s a triple threat: location, weather and endless opportunities.

“Working with risks for the aerospace, oil and gas, chemical and automated control businesses — to name a few — is extremely challenging and rewarding.”

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

The position is now recognized much more as a financial function as opposed to a human resources or legal function. Risk managers have more direct exposure to CFOs, treasurers and controllers.

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

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Cyber risk, social phishing, and terrorism are all major risks. It’s an unpredictable world, and it’s a 24-hour job to ensure that I’m protecting my company’s assets and managing its exposures.

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

I have a high opinion of several carriers, and it would be difficult to choose, since each specializes in their own field. I always look for strength in customer service; and the ability to underwrite the tough risks.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

Not in my opinion. I believe that all financial transactions should be as transparent as possible. We compensate our brokers directly, and contingent commission is not acceptable in our insurance placements.

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

I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the US economy. History has taught us that our financial economy can survive and flourish after major lifetime events.

“I had the opportunity to drive a professional race car at the Dover Speedway in Delaware.”

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Agnes Woros was the former director of risk management for Barnes & Noble. Agnes was a tremendous mentor when I started in the risk management field. She taught me how to manage the markets and take calculated risks. Ironically it was Agnes who recommended that I accept the position at Honeywell. Best career advice to date.

R&I: What is about Honeywell that makes working there so great?

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There are numerous reasons why I relish the opportunity to work at Honeywell. Consistently, out of any major conglomerate around the world, Honeywell has one of the most diverse listings of products and exposures. Working with risks for the aerospace, oil and gas, chemical and automated control businesses — to name a few — is extremely challenging and rewarding.

R&I: What accomplishment are you proudest of?

My family. A career in risk management would not be possible without their support. Also when I was promoted to vice president of risk management at Honeywell. I am also very proud of our risk management team.

R&I: How many emails do you get in a day, and how many do you answer?

On average, I receive about 120 to 200 emails a day. I strive to answer 75 percent of those, or until the charge on my iPhone wears out.

“The physicians who volunteer for Doctors without Borders are heroes.”

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

I have a 12-year-old son who was assigned “Catcher in the Rye” as a required reading. I dusted off my copy as well. It is amazing what you can learn reading it again as an adult.

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

Il Mulino’s in New York City.

R&I: What’s your favorite drink?

Chianti or a Super Tuscan wine from the Tuscany region in Italy.

R&I: What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited?

The Costa Rican rainforest. I was on my honeymoon and it was the only activity I choose and well worth it.

R&I: What’s the riskiest activity you’ve ever engaged in?

I had the opportunity to drive a professional race car at the Dover Speedway in Delaware.

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

The physicians who volunteer for Doctors without Borders are heroes. They deliver medical aid to countries in the midst of financial and social turmoil. These doctors are the true risk managers. They risk their own lives to save others and help solve world health crises.

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

Most of my friends and family think I work as a financial executive for Honeywell. If you were to ask my kids, I’m the person who knows how to fix the thermostat. It’s programmable, and this winter, my daughter insists on setting it to 74 degrees. Inevitably, I have to reprogram the system. She insists that “Dad knows how to fix the thermostat because he works at Honeywell.”




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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

After 20 years in the business, Navy Pier’s Director of Risk Management values her relationships in the industry more than ever.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Working at Dominick’s Finer Foods bagging groceries. Shortly after I was hired, I was promoted to [cashier] and then to a management position. It taught me great responsibility and it helped me develop the leadership skills I still carry today.

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

While working for Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel, one of my responsibilities was to oversee the administration of claims. This led to a business relationship with the director of risk management of the organization who actually owned the property. Ultimately, a position became available in her department and the rest is history.

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

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The risk management community is doing a phenomenal job in professional development and creating great opportunities for risk managers to network. The development of relationships in this industry is vitally important and by providing opportunities for risk managers to come together and speak about their experiences and challenges is what enables many of us to be able to do our jobs even more effectively.

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

Attracting, educating and retaining young talent. There is this preconceived notion that the insurance industry and risk management are boring and there could be nothing further from the truth.

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

In my 20 years in the industry, the biggest change in risk management and the insurance industry are the various types of risk we look to insure against. Many risks that exist today were not even on our radar 20 years ago.

Gina Kirchner, director of risk management, Navy Pier Inc.

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

FM Global. They have been our property carrier for a great number of years and in my opinion are the best in the business.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

I am optimistic that policies will be put in place with the new administration that will be good for the economy and business.

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

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The commercial risks that are of most concern to me are cyber risks, business interruption, and any form of a health epidemic on a global scale. We are dealing with new exposures and new risks that we are truly not ready for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My mother has played a significant role in shaping my ideals and values. She truly instilled a very strong work ethic in me. However, there are many men and women in business who have mentored me and have had a significant impact on me and my career as well.

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

I am most proud of making the decision a couple of years ago to return to school and obtain my [MBA]. It took a lot of prayer, dedication and determination to accomplish this while still working a full time job, being involved in my church, studying abroad and maintaining a household.

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

“Heaven Is For Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. I loved the book and the movie.

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

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A French restaurant in Paris, France named Les Noces de Jeannette Restaurant à Paris. It was the most amazing food and brings back such great memories.

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

Israel. My husband and I just returned a few days ago and spent time in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and Jordan. It was an absolutely amazing experience. We did everything from riding camels to taking boat rides on the Sea of Galilee to attending concerts sitting on the Temple steps. The trip was absolutely life changing.

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

Many, many years ago … I went parasailing in the Caribbean. I had a great experience and didn’t think about the risk at the time because I was young, single and free. Looking back, I don’t know that I would make the same decision today.

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

I would have to say the relationships and partnerships I have developed with insurance carriers, brokers and other professionals in the industry. To have wonderful working relationships with such a vast array of talented individuals who are so knowledgeable and to have some of those relationships develop into true friendships is very rewarding.

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

My friends and family have a general idea that my position involves claims and insurance. However, I don’t think they fully understand the magnitude of my responsibilities and the direct impact it has on my organization, which experiences more than 9 million visitors a year.




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