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2017 Risk All Star: Steve Richards

Seeing Opportunity in Expansion

In 2014, Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated announced it would be expanding its territory over the following two years, but didn’t specify by how much.

Steve Richards, Director Claims & Litigation, Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated

“The information trickled out slowly, and I got the sense that we were going to grow much more than I originally anticipated,” said Steve Richards, director of claims and litigation for the company.

His premonition was correct. He expected Coca-Cola to grow its workforce by about 50 percent, which would bring the payroll up to roughly 10,000 employees. Instead, it almost tripled in size, increasing the number of workers to upwards of 14,000.

Since the initial announcement, the company also acquired 25 new locations across six states. With a massive influx of new workers — both union and non-union — and varying state laws to contend with, the workers’ compensation program faced some growing pains.

In an effort to head off the expected spike in workers’ comp claims, Richards conducted a comprehensive review of the program, allowing him to identify the primary drivers of claim costs, the suitability of network penetration, and inefficiencies in claims management.

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“We had an unbundled program that wasn’t scalable,” Richards said. “Some of our partners in the unbundled model couldn’t handle the flood of new employees. We needed partners with more providers so there were more in-network options for our workers, which also leads to greater cost savings. Bundling the program expanded our access to these providers.”

Implementing stricter loss control measures was also a key feature of the program overhaul. But overcoming cultural differences among the new workers and locations took persistence and consistency of message.

“We lead with safety,” Richards said. “Some of the new territories were not accustomed to strict loss control and were more skeptical of leadership. They were used to different claims-filing procedures, different payment methods … a totally different work injury experience. We want to make that experience as easy as possible, and it took time to convince them that the changes were in their best interest.”

“We needed partners with more providers so there were more in-network options for our workers, which also leads to greater cost-savings. Bundling the program expanded our access to these providers.” — Steve Richards, Director Claims & Litigation, Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated

Prior to the expansion, 6 to 7 percent of the employee population would be injured at any given time. Since acquiring the new locations, that figure initially jumped to 10 to 15 percent, but has since dropped down to 8 to 9 percent.

“The longer workers stay on with us, the more I expect to see that number drop as they grow more used to our safety program,” Richards said.

He also streamlined the approach to claims management in an effort to improve cost control and speed up claim closure.

“Steve’s engagement and expertise, not to mention his great communication skills, provided the foundation from which we were able to meet CCBCC’s needs during the transition process,” said Sharon LaCour, account principal, Gallagher Bassett. “Partnering with Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated — and especially working with Steve Richards — demonstrated the value of true strategic collaboration.” &

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

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession: Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

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

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

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

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

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

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

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

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

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

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

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

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

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

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

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

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

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

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

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

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

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

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

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

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

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

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

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

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

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

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

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