RIMS 2016

The Battle for New Orleans: And 99 Other Cities

The 100 Resilient Cities initiative continues to grow in the U.S. and globally.
By: | April 11, 2016 • 2 min read

New Orleans went down once.

It cannot afford to go down again.

As one of 68 cities that is currently taking part in the 100 Resilient Cities initiative, the Big Easy appointed a Chief Resilience Officer and created a resiliency strategy.


The hope is that New Orleans, which is still at 85 percent of its pre-Katrina population, can forestall another disaster of that scale and avoid a crippling population loss.

The initiative, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation in conjunction with global reinsurer Swiss Re, aims to bring a private sector concept, the chief risk officer, into the public sector, where fading infrastructure and limited budgets create a pressing need for holistic risk management.

Alex Kaplan, a North American sales leader, public sector business, for the Zurich-based reinsurer, said global private sector risk management knowledge can be brought to bear to make cities better at disaster recovery, and retain their lifeblood, the very citizens who pay their taxes.

“After a disaster what a city wants is not a check. They want their subway to work, they want their water system to work,” said Kaplan, who sat down with R&I at the RIMS Conference in San Diego on April 10.

In January, Swiss Re announced a partnership with Veolia, the venerable French-headquartered engineering and environmental firm with global reach.

With their combined strength, the reinsurer and the engineering firm aim to provide cities all over the globe with the engineering knowledge to strengthen their key assets, and the risk transfer muscle to speed recovery should those precious assets be damaged.

“Veolia is 160 years old,” Kaplan said.

“After a disaster what a city wants is not a check. They want their subway to work, they want their water system to work.” — Alex Kaplan, North American sales leader, public sector business, Swiss Re

“They focus entirely on infrastructure in the space of water, energy and waste. They can take over assets such as water plants and run them themselves or enter into a partnership with the city to help them optimize performance,” he added.

“Not only are they getting the best service, but they are also saving money simultaneously,” he said of the cities engaged in the initiative.

Additional key pieces for this resiliency equation are modeling and risk transfer.

Jamie Miller, a managing director of Swiss Re and its North America Property head, said the venerable Swiss insurer’s data bases and modeling capabilities can also be shared with public sector leaders to good effect.

“We are taking the modeling science and our risk appetite and some of our other ideas and coupling it with a societal need, whether it is climate change, pandemic or some other emerging risk,” Miller said.

Using state of the art analytics to measure the amount of passenger volume a particular subway route can hold, or the cost to a city of removing three inches of snow, gives public sector leaders a way to measure and mitigate or transfer risk that they didn’t have before, Miller said.

Over time, Swiss Re and other highly rated carriers will join together, to provide capital backstops to the public sector in a way that hasn’t been done before, he said.

“This is going to lead to greater syndication in the public space,” Miller said.

By the end of May, Kaplan said 100 Resilient Cities will announce the remaining 32 cities that will take part in the program.

Cities in the U.S. that are in more advanced stages of the program, which launched in 2013, include quake-exposed San Francisco, Norfolk, Va., and hurricane-exposed New Orleans.

The Rockefeller Foundation provides funding for the hiring of a chief resilience officer for a few years and the resources to build a resilience strategy.

But it’s not just physical damage that is the focus of many risk-focused civic leaders.

Societal problems such as affordable housing and egregious income inequality are also a focus, Kaplan said.


“Whereas we are thinking about hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis, they are thinking about aging infrastructure, social inequality, fragmented communities,” Kaplan said.

“So they are thinking about the social aspects as well, and I would say each city that has announced their strategy is paying homage to both,” Kaplan said.

“When a city is responding to a disaster the day the shock occurs, they have to quickly figure out what broke, who can fix it, how long it is going to take and where is the money coming from?”

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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Wawa’s Director of Risk Management knows that harnessing data and analytics will be key to surviving the rapid pace of change that heralds new risk exposures.
By: | July 27, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first job was at the age of 15 as a cashier at a bakery. My first professional job was at Amtrak in the finance department. I worked there while I was in college.

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

A position opened up in risk management at Wawa and I saw it as an opportunity to broaden my skills and have the ability to work across many departments at Wawa to better learn about the business.

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


The advancements in analytics are a success for the industry and offer opportunities for the future. I also find value in the industry focus on emerging and specialty risks. There is more alignment with experts in different industries related to emerging and specialty risks to provide support and services to the insurance industry. As a result, the insurance industry can now look at risk mitigation more holistically and not just related to traditional risk transfer.

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

Developing the talent to grow with the industry in specialization and analytics, but to also carry on the personal connections and relationship building that is a large part of this industry.

Nancy Wilson, director, quality assurance, risk management and safety, Wawa Inc.

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

I have had successes at all of the RIMS events I have attended. It is a great opportunity to spend time with our broker, carriers and other colleagues.

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

I think the biggest challenge facing most companies today is related to brand or reputational risk. With the ever-changing landscape of technology, globalization and social media, the risk exposure to an organization’s brand or reputation continues to grow.

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


The changing consumer demands and new entrants into an industry are concerning. This is not necessarily something new but the frequency and speed to which it happens today does seem to be different. I think that is only going to continue. Companies need to be prepared to evolve with the times, and for me that means new risk exposures that we need to be prepared to mitigate.

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

I try to be optimistic about most things. I think the economy ebbs and flows for many reasons and it is important to always keep an eye out for signs of change.

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

I am fortunate to have opportunities professionally that make me proud, but I have to answer this one personally. I have two children ages 12 and 9 and I am so proud of the people that they are today. They both are hardworking, fun and kind. Nothing gives me a better feeling than seeing them be successful. I look forward to more of that.

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

This is really hard as there are too many favorites. I do prefer books to movies, especially if there is a movie based on a book. I find the movie is never as good. I have multiple books going at once and usually bounce back and forth between fiction and non-fiction.

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


I have eaten at a lot of different restaurants in many major cities but I would have to pick Horn O’ Plenty in Bedford, PA. It is a farm to table restaurant in the middle of the state. The food is always fresh and tastes amazing and they make me feel like I am at home when I am there. My family and I eat there often during our trips out that way.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

I do love a good cup of coffee (working at Wawa helps that). I also enjoy a good glass of wine (red preferably) on occasion.

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

Vacations aside, I do get an opportunity to travel for work and visit our food suppliers. The opportunities I have had to visit back to the farm level have been a very interesting learning experience. If it wasn’t for my role, I would have never been able to experience that.

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

My husband, kids and I recently did a boot-camp-type obstacle course up in the trees 24 feet in the air. Although I had a harness and helmet on, I really put my fear of heights to the test. At the end of the two hours, I did get the hang of it but am not sure I would do it again.

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

The first people that come to mind are those who are serving our country and willing to sacrifice their own lives for our freedom.

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

Every day is different and I have the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different work across the company.

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

My husband and children have a pretty good sense of what I do, but the rest of my family has no idea. They just know I work for Wawa and sometimes travel.

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