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

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Pinnacle Entertainment’s VP of enterprise risk management says he’s inspired by Disney’s approach to risk management.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Bus boy at a fine dining restaurant.

R&I: How did you come to work in this industry?

I sent a résumé to Harrah’s Entertainment on a whim. It took over 30 hours of interviewing to get that job, but it was well worth it.

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


The Chinese citizen (never positively identified) who stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. That kind of courage is undeniable, and that image is unforgettable. I hope we can all be that passionate about something at least once in our lives.

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

Cyber risk, but more narrowly, cyber-extortion. I think state sponsored bad actors are getting more and more sophisticated, and the risk is that they find a way to control entire systems.

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

Training and breaking horses. When I was in high school, I worked on a lot of farms. I did everything from building fences to putting up hay. It was during this time that I found I had a knack for horses. They would tolerate me getting real close, so it was natural I started working more and more with them.

Eventually, I was putting a saddle on a few and before I knew it I was in that saddle riding a horse that had never been ridden before.

I admit I had some nervous moments, but I was never thrown off. It taught me that developing genuine trust early is very important and is needed by all involved. Nothing of any real value happens without it.

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


Setting very aggressive goals and then meeting and exceeding those goals with a team. Sharing team victories is the ultimate reward.

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

Disney World. The sheer size of the place is awe inspiring. And everything works like a finely tuned clock.

There is a reason that hospitality companies send their people there to be trained on guest service. Disney World does it better than anyone else.

As a hospitality executive, I always learn something new whenever I am there.

James Cunningham, vice president, enterprise risk management, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

The risks that Disney World faces are very similar to mine — on a much larger scale. They are complex and across the board. From liability for the millions of people they host as their guests each year, to the physical location of the park, to their vendor partnerships; their approach to risk management has been and continues to be innovative and a model that I learn from and I think there are lessons there for everybody.

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

We are doing a much better job of getting involved in a meaningful way in our daily operations and demonstrating genuine value to our organizations.

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

Educating and promoting the career with young people.

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

Being able to tell the Pinnacle story. It’s a great one and it wasn’t being told. I believe that the insurance markets now understand who we are and what we stand for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?


John Matthews, who is now retired, formerly with Aon and Caesar’s Palace. John is an exceptional leader who demonstrated the value of putting a top-shelf team together and then letting them do their best work. I model my management style after him.

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

I read mostly biographies and autobiographies. I like to read how successful people became successful by overcoming their own obstacles. Jay Leno, Jack Welch, Bill Harrah, etc. I also enjoyed the book and movie “Money Ball.”

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Ice water when it’s hot, coffee when it’s cold, and an adult beverage when it’s called for.

R&I: What does your family think you do?

In my family, I’m the “Safety Geek.”

R&I:  What’s your favorite restaurant?

Vegas is a world-class restaurant town. No matter what you are hungry for, you can find it here. I have a few favorites that are my “go-to’s,” depending on the mood and who I am with.

If you’re in town, you should try to have at least one meal off the strip. For that, I would suggest you get reservations (you’ll need them) at Herbs and Rye. It’s a great little restaurant that is always lively. The food is tremendous, and the service is always on point. They make hand-crafted cocktails that are amazing.

My favorite Mexican restaurant is Lindo Michoacan. There are three in town, and I prefer the one in Henderson as it has the best view of the valley. For seafood, you can never go wrong with Joe’s in Caesar’s Palace.

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