RIMS 2016

Manage Expectations, Manage Reputation

Molding the expectations of customers and shareholders through ERM is critical to reputation protection.
By: | April 13, 2016 • 4 min read
Topics: Reputation | RIMS

The art of managing reputation risk really comes down to shaping the expectations of shareholders, customers, vendors, creditors and investors.

“Not an easy thing to do,” said Nir Kossovsky, chief executive officer, Steel City Re, speaking at the annual RIMS conference in San Diego on April 12.

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“Managing expectations involves behavioral economics – shaping what people expect from you and then meeting those expectations.”

He said expectations typically revolve around six key areas: safety, ethics, quality, security, sustainability and innovation. Failing to meet any of those expectations creates vulnerability for a company, opening up an opportunity for shareholders or special interest activists to come after the board of directors as the culpable party.

Increasingly, directors and officers are the true casualties of reputation damage.

Dissatisfied customers or partners know that “the court of public opinion is much more effective than the court of law,” Kossovsky said, so they will bring allegations against the board and force a public response.

“Managing expectations involves behavioral economics – shaping what people expect from you and then meeting those expectations.” – Nir Kossovsky, chief executive officer, Steel City Re

The best way to mitigate reputation risk, then, is to proactively communicate the board’s awareness of a company’s exposures, and acknowledge its duties to deliver on expectations related to the six key areas.

“Communication is critical,” said Todd Marumoto, director of risk management, Mattel, Inc. “There needs to be some sense of a plan for how the board will respond to a reputation event.”

Without a quick response, the silence is filled by the white noise of unsubstantiated opinion, Kossovsky said. That weakens the board’s credibility.

“Facts are available without much of a down payment. Allegations brought against the board don’t necessarily have to be true and can’t always be validated.”

Conflicting expectations make reputation risk management even harder.

Customers expect, for example, near impossible standards of quality and customer service, while shareholders expect strong profit and growth, and creditors expect swift payment.

While many believe that marketing and press coverage can be the tool for the messaging needed to mold expectations through public perception, the most effective way to mitigate reputation risk is through enterprise risk management that strives for excellence, the speakers said.

In other words, expectations should be set by a company’s performance.

Kossovsky offered the example of BP, which claimed to be “beyond petroleum.”

Despite impressive initiatives to use cleaner energy, BP was still, in fact, heavily reliant on petroleum. The Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010 sparked so much anger because people expected BP to be above such environmentally dangerous accidents.

ExxonMobil, on the other hand, acknowledged to its shareholders that a spill was always a real threat, but demonstrated the steps it was taking to minimize the risk. Shareholders thus had more realistic expectations of the company and are harder to disappoint.

Presenting to the C-Suite

Risk managers can bring the importance of reputation risk to the C-suites’ attention by demonstrating its financial impact.

“Expenses could come from having to replace a vendor, from a government penalty, litigation and class action lawsuits, or having to implement a new management process,” Marumoto said.

Overall, costs associated with remediating a reputational event can be two to seven times higher than costs related to the operational failure that caused the reputation damage in the first place.

“With reputation risk, it’s not always about right or wrong, but about getting the right outcome to satisfy shareholders and customers.” — Todd Marumoto, director of risk management, Mattel, Inc.

“It affects every line item of the P&L,” Kossovsky said.

The impact on D&O effectiveness will also certainly grab senior management’s attention.

“A typical board member makes about $250,000 per year to sit on the board for a term usually of about three years, and he’s usually sitting on three different boards,” Kossovsky said.

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“He’s looking at a personal loss of over $2 million” if a reputational hit leads to him being asked to step down from those boards.

According to Marumoto, risk managers can influence outcomes of a reputational event by working internally with investor relations and marketing to ensure the company is sending a consistent message, and to develop a coordinated response plan.

“Ultimately, you have to be responsible for all things that pass in front of you,” he said. “Partner with vendors you trust, be transparent in your efforts to mitigate risks, and develop relationships with government agencies.

“With reputation risk, it’s not always about right or wrong, but about getting the right outcome to satisfy shareholders and customers.”

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

More from Risk & Insurance

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The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.

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R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.

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R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &




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