2017 Risk All Star: Gillian-Cummings Beck

Sharp Instincts

Popular retailer Chico’s was undergoing a reduction-in-force across the board, including in the risk management department.

That meant the departure of the company’s VP of risk and global compliance. Gillian Cummings-Beck stepped in and took the lead.

A month and a half later, another team member announced her retirement. That left a team of two running a risk management department responsible for 1,500 stores, 2.5 billion dollars in revenue and 23,000 associates.

More determined than daunted, Cummings-Beck and her teammate evaluated their own strengths as well as the potential resources already within the company.

Gillian Cummings-Beck, Director of Insurance and Risk Management, Chico’s

They found not one, but two people with complementary strengths — a finance expert who would have been affected by the reduction in force, and a safety director working in global compliance.

From there, the reformulated team hit the ground running.

With such a small team tasked with enormous responsibility, Cummings-Beck kept a sharp focus on putting the right external partners in place.

The team’s first major undertaking was to cut ties with a persistently underperforming TPA.

“If you have any kind of a weak link, you need to see if it can be fixed, and if not, change it out,” said Cummings-Beck.

The team is also actively eliminating weak links among the attorneys who represent Chico’s, particularly in historically challenging states such as California, Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

“We give them the first claim and they hit it out of the ballpark or they strike out — there’s really no middle ground,” she said.

Cummings-Beck takes the same decisive approach to all of Chico’s partnerships, including brokers and carriers.

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“If the connection’s not there, you know it right away,” she said. “[You have to] listen to that connection, home in on it and see if it’s going to work.”

Other initiatives designed to minimize waste included an overhaul of the company’s certificate of insurance program.

Borrowing an idea she gleaned from GameStop’s Dave Lynch at an industry event, Cummings-Beck worked with Chico’s real estate and legal departments to change COI procedures without alienating landlords. The result? A drop in COIs issued annually from 4,000 to 50, saving both money and man-hours.

“We give them the first claim and they hit it out of the ballpark or they strike out — there’s really no middle ground.” — Gillian Cummings-Beck, Director, Insurance and Risk Management, Chico’s FAS Inc.

Chico’s also secured a premium reduction of 20 percent. That goes back to having the right partners, said Cummings-Beck. It’s about having a broker that fully grasps the value of the company, and having a carrier that is willing and able to see the full picture of the company’s risk management diligence.

“It’s really listening to the team — internal and external,” said Cummings-Beck. “Nobody does it alone.”

For as much as all of this sounds like hard work, Cummings-Beck sounds like she’s having a blast.

“It is just a fantastic, phenomenal field,” she said.  “When you get to put together the things you love most — taking care of people, taking care of the company from a business perspective, finance and legal all rolled up into one — what more could you ask for?”

Cummings-Beck relates the story of helping an employee who called in to the company’s crisis management hotline after losing her home to a tornado.

“It’s knowing that what you do matters to somebody … I love what we do.” &

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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

2017 Risk All Stars

Immeasurable Value

The 2017 Risk All Stars strengthened their organizations by taking ownership of improved risk management processes and not quitting until they were in place.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 3 min read

Being the only person to hold a particular opinion or point of view within an organization cannot be easy. Do the following sound like familiar stories? Can you picture yourself or one of your risk management colleagues as the hero or heroine? Or better yet, as a Risk & Insurance® Risk All Star?

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One risk manager took a job with a company that was being spun off, and the risk management program, which was built for a much larger company, was not a good fit for the spun-off company.
Rather than sink into inertia, this risk manager took the bull by the horns and began an aggressive company intranet campaign to instill better safety and other risk management practices throughout the organization.

The risk manager, 2017 Risk All Star Michelle Bennett of Cable One, also changed some long-standing brokerage relationships that weren’t a good fit for the risk management and insurance program. In her first year on the job she produced premium savings and in her second year is in the process of introducing ERM company-wide.

Or perhaps this one rings a bell. The news is trickling out that a company is poised to dramatically expand, increasing the workforce three- or four-fold. Having this knowledge with certainty would be a great benefit to a risk manager, who could begin girding safety, workers’ comp and related programs accordingly. But things sometimes don’t work that way, do they? Sometimes the risk manager is one of the last people to know.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance.

In the case of 2017 Risk All Star winner Steve Richards of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the news of an expansion spurred him to action. He completely overhauled the company’s workers’ compensation program and streamlined its claim management system. The results, even with a much higher headcount, were reduced legal costs, better return-to-work experiences for injured workers and a host of other improvements and savings.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance. Sometimes it took years for a particular risk solution, as promoted by a risk manager, to find acceptance.

In other cases a risk manager got so excited about a solution, they never even considered getting turned down. They just kept pushing until they carried the day.

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Butler University’s Zach Finn became obsessive about what he felt was a lackluster effort on the part of the insurance industry to bring in new talent. The former risk manager for the J.M. Smucker Co. settled on the creation of a student-run captive to give his risk management students the experience they would need to get hired right out of college.

The result was a better risk management program for the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and immediate traction in the job market for Finn’s students.

A few of our Risk All Stars told us that the results they are achieving were decades in the making. Only by year-in, year-out dedication to gaining transparency about her co-op’s risks and learning more and more about her various insurance carriers, did Growmark Inc.’s Faith Cring create a stalwart risk management and insurance program that is the envy of the agricultural sector. Now she’s been with some of her insurance carriers more than 20 years — some more than 30 years.

Having the right idea and not having a home for it can be a lonely, frustrating experience. Having the creativity, the passion and perhaps, most importantly, the perseverance to see it through and get great results makes you a Risk All Star. &

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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.

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