2016 Risk All Star: Susan Tukel

Revolutionizing the Organization

Claims to cover wage losses for disciplined union transportation workers were ramping up, and LECMPA’s reserves were dwindling — from $10 million to about $5.5 million.

Susan Tukel, president, Locomotive Engineers and Conductors Mutual Protective Association

Susan Tukel, president, Locomotive Engineers and Conductors Mutual Protective Association

“The trend was so dire, I was concerned we would run out of money,” said Susan Tukel, president of the nonprofit Locomotive Engineers and Conductors Mutual Protective Association (LECMPA).

Adding to the troubles, Union Pacific, employer of the majority of LECMPA members, had increased its discipline for safety violations from about five days’ suspension to a minimum of 180 days.

A more thorough risk management approach was needed, and Tukel’s approach revolutionized her industry.

“She brought an awful lot of foresight to bear to position a 100-year-old organization for the long-term,” said Rod Bloedow, a trustee of the organization. “Susan is clearly a terrific leader.”

LECMPA not only had to increase prices, but Tukel decided it had to begin differentiating its coverage based on frequency and severity of claims as well as by job function. At the time, LECMPA had no writing groups and all members paid the same premium.

The riskiest workers — conductors, engineers, dispatchers and crew callers — would be offered newly created Group A coverage. It was more costly and provided expansive coverage for disciplinary days. Group A workers also had the option to purchase a lower cost policy that would provide fewer benefits.

Newly created Group B policies would be offered to railroad workers with less risk of discipline, those in communications and signals, and maintenance.


About 75 percent of the members fell into Group A, and the decision wasn’t popular. It also wasn’t popular with the nonprofit’s salespeople, who feared decreased commissions.

“It was very controversial,” Tukel said. “We lost about 5,000 members. It was very scary. I probably didn’t sleep the entire year. Everybody was angry with me.

“But the next year, we operated at a profit. We had fewer members but we operated more profitability. Bigger isn’t always better. I learned that that year.”

“It was very scary. I probably didn’t sleep the entire year. Everybody was angry with me.” — Susan Tukel, president, Locomotive Engineers and Conductors Mutual Protective Association

And later that year, some of those 5,000 members who left for a competitor asked to return when the competitor raised its prices.

They were surprised when LECMPA turned them down, Tukel said.

“We decided to use this as an opportunity to do some housecleaning,” she said. “We had paid some big claims, $70,000, $80,000 claims, and then they left. And then they wanted to come back.”

Since then, she has reached out to transportation and logistics union workers to expand membership, introduced a loyalty program for retiring members, and enhanced both Group A and Group B benefits at either the same or lower price due to improved underwriting.

“She’s done an excellent job for her clients,” said David Duthie, chair, Vistage Michigan, a peer-to-peer business organization that honored Tukel with a “Soaring Eagle” award in 2015.

“She’s taken that nonprofit organization from not being as well financed as it should be to being comfortably financed as far as reserves and a growing client base and coming up with a variety of new products,” he said.

At its high point, LECMPA had 32,500 members. After seeing the huge loss of members, it now has 30,200. And its reserves are about $53 million. &


AllStars2016v1oRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2016 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

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Risk Management

The Profession

The risk manager for Boyd Gaming Corp. says curiosity keeps him engaged, and continual education will be the key to managing emerging risks.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was trained as an accountant, worked in public accounting and became a CPA. Being comfortable with numbers is helpful in my current role, and obviously, the language of business is financial statements, so it helps.

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

Working in finance in the corporate environment included the review of budgets and the analysis of business expenses. I quickly found the area of benefits and insurance — and how “accepting risk” impacted those expenses — to be fascinating. I asked a lot of questions. Be careful what you ask for — I soon found myself responsible for those insurance areas and haven’t looked back!

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


I have found the risk management community to be a close-knit group, whether that’s industry professionals, risk managers with other companies or support organizations like RIMS and other regional groups. The expertise of the carriers and specialty vendors to develop new products and programs, along with the appropriate education, will continue to be of key importance to companies going forward.

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

As I’m sure many in the insurance field would agree, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 changed our world and our industry. It was a particularly intense time and certainly a baptism by fire for people like me who were relatively new to the industry. This event clearly accelerated the switch to the acceptance of more risk, which impacted mitigation strategies and programs.

Bob Berglund, vice president, benefits and insurance, Boyd Gaming Corp.

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

The fast-paced threat that cyber security represents today. Our company, like so many companies, is reliant upon computers, software and IT expertise in our everyday existence. This new risk has forged an even stronger relationship between risk management and our IT department as we work together to address this growing threat.

Additionally, the shooting event in Las Vegas in 2017 will have an enduring impact on firms that host large gatherings and arena-style events all over the world, and our company is no exception.

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


With the various types of insurance programs we employ, I have been fortunate to work with most of the large national and international carriers — all of whom employ talented people with a vast array of resources.

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

We use brokers for many of our professional coverages, such as property, casualty, D&O and cyber. We are self-insured under our health plans, with close to 25,000 members. We tend to manage those programs internally and utilize direct relationships with carriers and specialty vendors to tailor a plan that works best for team members.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have been fortunate to have worked alongside some smart and insightful people during my career. A key piece of advice, said in many different ways, has served me well. Simply stated: “Seek to understand before being understood.”

What this has meant to me is try everything you can to learn about something, new or old. After you have gained this knowledge, you can begin to access and maybe suggest changes or adjustments. Being curious has always been a personal enjoyment for me in business, and I have found people are more than willing to lend a hand, offer information and advice — you just need to ask. Building those alliances and foundations of knowledge on a subject matter makes tackling the future more exciting and fruitful.

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

Our benefit health plan is much more than handing out an insurance card at the beginning of the year. We encourage our team members and their families to learn about their personal health, get engaged in a variety of health and wellness programs and try to live life in the healthiest possible way. The result of that is literally hundreds of testimonials from our members every year on how they have lost weight, changed their lifestyle and gotten off medications. It is extremely rewarding and is a testament to [our] close-knit corporate culture.

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


Some will remember the volcano eruption in Iceland in spring of 2010. I was just finishing a week of meetings in London with Lloyd’s syndicates related to our property insurance placement when the airspace in England and most of northern Europe was shut down — no airplanes in or out! Flights were ultimately canceled for the following five days. Therefore, with a few other stranded visitors like myself, we experimented and tried out new restaurants every day until we could leave. It was a very interesting time!

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

I am originally from Canada, and I played ice hockey from the time I was four years old up until quite recently. Too many surgeries sadly forced my recent retirement.

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

That’s a funny one … I am a CPA working in the casino industry, doing insurance and risk management, so neighbors and acquaintances think I either do tax returns or they think I’m a blackjack dealer at the casino!

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