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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Property

Insurers Take to the Skies

This year’s hurricane season sees the use of drones and other aerial intelligence gathering systems as insurers seek to estimate claims costs.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 6 min read

For Southern communities, current recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey will recall the painful devastation of 2005, when Katrina and Wilma struck. But those who look skyward will notice one conspicuous difference this time around: drones.

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Much has changed since Katrina and Wilma, both economically and technologically. The insurance industry evolved as well. Drones and other visual intelligence systems (VIS) are set to play an increasing role in loss assessment, claims handling and underwriting.

Farmers Insurance, which announced in August it launched a fleet of drones to enhance weather-related property damage claim assessment, confirmed it deployed its fleet in the aftermath of Harvey.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now,” said George Mathew, CEO of Kespry, Farmers’ drone and aerial intelligence platform provider partner.

“The current wind and hail damage season that we are entering is when many of the insurance carriers are switching from proof of concept work to full production rollout.”

 According to Mathew, Farmers’ fleet focused on wind damage in and around Corpus Christi, Texas, at the time of this writing. “Additional work is already underway in the greater Houston area and will expand in the coming weeks and months,” he added.

No doubt other carriers have fleets in the air. AIG, for example, occupied the forefront of VIS since winning its drone operation license in 2015. It deployed drones to inspections sites in the U.S. and abroad, including stadiums, hotels, office buildings, private homes, construction sites and energy plants.

Claims Response

At present, insurers are primarily using VIS for CAT loss assessment. After a catastrophe, access is often prohibited or impossible. Drones allow access for assessing damage over potentially vast areas in a more cost-effective and time-sensitive manner than sending human inspectors with clipboards and cameras.

“Drones improve risk analysis by providing a more efficient alternative to capturing aerial photos from a sky-view. They allow insurers to rapidly assess the scope of damages and provide access that may not otherwise be available,” explained Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy at JLT Specialty USA.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now.” — George Mathew, CEO, Kespry

“In our experience, competitive advantage is gained mostly by claims departments and third-party administrators. Having the capability to provide exact measurements and details from photos taken by drones allows insurers to expedite the claim processing time,” he added.

Indeed, as tech becomes more disruptive, insurers will increasingly seek to take advantage of VIS technologies to help them provide faster, more accurate and more efficient insurance solutions.

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader, Marsh

One way Farmers is differentiating its drone program is by employing its own FAA-licensed drone operators, who are also Farmers-trained claim representatives.

Keith Daly, E.V.P. and chief claims officer for Farmers Insurance, said when launching the program that this sets Farmers apart from most carriers, who typically engage third-party drone pilots to conduct evaluations.

“In the end, it’s all about the experience for the policyholder who has their claim adjudicated in the most expeditious manner possible,” said Mathew.

“The technology should simply work and just melt away into the background. That’s why we don’t just focus on building an industrial-grade drone, but a complete aerial intelligence platform for — in this case — claims management.”

Insurance Applications

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader at Marsh, believes that, while currently employed primarily to assess catastrophic damage, VIS will increasingly be employed to inspect standard property damage claims.

However, he admitted that at this stage they are better at identifying binary factors such as the area affected by a peril rather than complex assessments, since VIS cannot look inside structures nor assess their structural integrity.

“If a chemical plant suffers an explosion, it might be difficult to say whether the plant is fully or partially out of operation, for example, which would affect a business interruption claim dramatically.

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“But for simpler assessments, such as identifying how many houses or industrial units have been destroyed by a tornado, or how many rental cars in a lot have suffered hail damage from a storm, a VIS drone could do this easily, and the insurer can calculate its estimated losses from there,” he said.

In addition,VIS possess powerful applications for pre-loss risk assessment and underwriting. The high-end drones used by insurers can capture not just visual images, but mapping heat, moisture or 3D topography, among other variables.

This has clear applications in the assessment and completion of claims, but also in potentially mitigating risk before an event happens, and pricing insurance accordingly.

“VIS and drones will play an increasing underwriting support role as they can help underwriters get a better idea of the risk — a picture tells a thousand words and is so much better than a report,” said Ellis.

VIS images allow underwriters to see risks in real time, and to visually spot risk factors that could get overlooked using traditional checks or even mature visual technologies like satellites. For example, VIS could map thermal hotspots that could signal danger or poor maintenance at a chemical plant.

Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy, JLT Specialty USA

“Risk and underwriting are very natural adjacencies, especially when high risk/high value policies are being underwritten,” said Mathew.

“We are in a transformational moment in insurance where claims processing, risk management and underwriting can be reimagined with entirely new sources of data. The drone just happens to be one of most compelling of those sources.”

Ellis added that drones also could be employed to monitor supplies in the marine, agriculture or oil sectors, for example, to ensure shipments, inventories and supply chains are running uninterrupted.

“However, we’re still mainly seeing insurers using VIS drones for loss assessment and estimates, and it’s not even clear how extensively they are using drones for that purpose at this point,” he noted.

“Insurers are experimenting with this technology, but given that some of the laws around drone use are still developing and restrictions are often placed on using drones [after] a CAT event, the extent to which VIS is being used is not made overly public.”

Drone inspections could raise liability risks of their own, particularly if undertaken in busy spaces in which they could cause human injury.

Privacy issues also are a potential stumbling block, so insurers are dipping their toes into the water carefully.

Risk Improvement

There is no doubt, however, that VIS use will increase among insurers.

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“Although our clients do not have tremendous experience utilizing drones, this technology is beneficial in many ways, from providing security monitoring of their perimeter to loss control inspections of areas that would otherwise require more costly inspections using heavy equipment or climbers,” said Luck.

In other words, drones could help insurance buyers spot weaknesses, mitigate risk and ultimately win more favorable coverage from their insurers.

“Some risks will see pricing and coverage improvements because the information and data provided by drones will put underwriters at ease and reduce uncertainty,” said Ellis.

The flip-side, he noted, is that there will be fewer places to hide for companies with poor risk management that may have been benefiting from underwriters not being able to access the full picture.

Either way, drones will increasingly help insurers differentiate good risks from bad. In time, they may also help insurance buyers differentiate between carriers, too. &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]