Risk Insider: Tony Boobier

Risk Managers: Change is Good

By: | February 23, 2018 • 3 min read
Tony Boobier is an experienced independent consultant focusing on insurance analytics. An international speaker, commentator and published author, he lies awake at night thinking about the convergence of insurance and technology. He can be reached at [email protected]

We are more aware of change than ever before. Whereas once we became only occasionally aware of what was happening, through watching television, checking out the daily newspaper or through word of mouth, today we are constantly bombarded with new information, most often through our mobile devices.

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For many of us, keeping ‘up to speed’ with current affairs seems to have become an addiction. We convince ourselves that something might have happened which is important and could affect us personally. Not only have we become ‘Change Junkies,’ we have all now become ‘Change Experts.’

Some people even make professions from the topic of change – such as thought leaders, change managers or even risk experts. We often look back fondly with rose-tinted glasses at bygone days, a time when we think there seemed to be more stability and certainty about life. But in reality our recollections are often flawed. Invariably we forget times of relative austerity due to budgetary debts, higher levels of infant mortality, less reliable medical treatments, and less transparency in our political and financial systems.

I predict that through innovative business models, refinement around coverage levels, and a continuous move towards proactivity, the insurance industry will still fundamentally fulfil the same role. That role is one of providing safety and security in a continually volatile world of uncertain climate, finance and behaviours? With this in mind, we should take comfort that, at least, this one thing won’t change.

The same ‘rose-tinted specs’ also take on a darker hue as we look into to the future, with our own forecasts and those of others often tainted by the gloomy predictions of science fiction.

Maybe it’s time to be more positive about the future. Instead, shouldn’t we think about our data-driven prospects as being bright ones?

  • Greater customization of education through personalised analytics at all levels of our careers, providing us with a better chance of reaching what was once thought to be our full potential, but then increasingly exceeding it.
  • Increases in automation of mundane systems initially reducing, and then removing entirely the risk of making mistakes, as well as improving accuracy.
  • Intelligent systems replacing the drudgery of mind-numbing production work, tasks which increasingly belong to a by-gone era.
  • Robotic companionship, even in old age, which may not be so strange after all, especially for those who have relied on computers throughout their entire lives.

Isn’t mankind destined for something grander than just fulfilling what is rapidly becoming an outdated ethic of ‘hard work?’

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Whilst we tend to focus on changes happening in the workplace, inevitably there will be societal changes. We’ll have more time on our hands, but what will we do with it?  Doesn’t the Law of Unexpected Consequences have a role to play? The expression, coined by U.S. sociologist Robert K. Merton, suggested that ‘unexpected consequences’ fall into three categories – unexpected benefit, unexpected drawback, and a ‘perverse outcome’ (or ‘backfire’), when an intended solution unexpectedly makes a problem worse.

The role of risk managers is likely to evolve beyond their existing responsibilities, to include managing those unexpected drawbacks and backfires. Regulators – named after the regulating device on an old steam engine to prevent overheating – will become pivotal in avoiding ‘overheating’ of the economy and society.

Isn’t mankind destined for something grander than just fulfilling what is rapidly becoming an outdated ethic of ‘hard work’?

As for the insurance industry itself, won’t it also will change with the times in terms of products, services, and in new essential skills needed by its employees (such as imagination, operational agility, and ability to interact with the system)? Underwriting, claims and distribution will inevitably become digitally transformed.

My prediction is that, through innovative business models, refinement around coverage levels, and a continuous move towards proactivity, the insurance industry will still fundamentally fulfil the same role. That role is one of providing safety and security in a continually volatile world of uncertain climate, finance and behaviours. With this in mind, we should take comfort that, at least, this one thing won’t change.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

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]