2017 Risk All Star: Faith Cring

Seeking Clarity

As the risk manager for an agricultural cooperative that sprays pesticides, plants genetically modified crops and sells propane and other explosive materials, Faith Cring knows that there are few underwriters who want any part of her business.

Faith Cring, director, Engineering, Environmental, Safety and Insurance, Growmark Inc.

“In agriculture, we deal with everything that the underwriter doesn’t like,” she said.

Cring also recognizes that excess underwriters tend to be city dwellers, not immediately comfortable with agriculture, or its risks.

“We’re not the hamburger joint on the corner,” she said. “We’re not typical.”

So Cring, herself a former underwriter with an MGA, took a wise approach to helping underwriters get more comfortable with her cooperative’s risk. So comfortable in fact, that Growmark is now considered a benchmark organization, one that underwriters refer to when asking other firms to step up their game.

“Growmark has embraced enterprise risk management across the board. They want to bear risk, they don’t want to just trade dollars with insurance companies,” said Dan Real, the president of ECC Insurance Brokers in Oak Terrace, Ill., which services Cring’s account.

One of Cring’s key programs brings urban-based underwriters out to the country to educate them about pesticide drift claims, grain siloes, and other realities of the agriculture business. When Cring conducts tours of Growmark facilities, she insists on complete transparency.


For example, she doesn’t coach location managers on what to say to underwriters.

“She wants full and total transparency on the exposure,” said Real. “The last thing she wants to hear from an underwriter is ‘Oh, I didn’t know you did that.’ ”

And rather than just seeing the underwriters at renewal time or once or twice a year, Cring visits with some underwriters four or five times per year. She lets her broker, Dan Real, handle the renewal negotiations.

“No insurance company makes any money that first year they put an insured on the books; they don’t. The only way they are making money is if they keep and maintain relationships, and that is what we’re looking for.”  — Faith Cring, director, Engineering, Environmental, Safety and Insurance, Growmark Inc.

What she’s after is a much more thorough understanding of the insurance companies she is working with.

In turn, she wants the underwriters to fully understand her company’s business, and where the risk lies.

Cring seeks long-term relationships with her carriers, some of which she has been working with for more than 20 years, others closer to 30.

As a former underwriter, she knows that’s the way she can get tailored coverage for her business, and make sure that her underwriting partners make enough money to want to keep her business.

“I always tell them, I’m here to see you make money, but that you don’t make too much money,” Cring said. “No insurance company makes any money that first year they put an insured on the books; they don’t.

“The only way they are making money is if they keep and maintain relationships, and that is what we’re looking for,” she said. &


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

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.


Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.


Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &


More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.


Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.


Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.


Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.


Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.


Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.


Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]