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2017 Risk All Star: Gillian-Cummings Beck

This Risk Manager Cut Her Weakest Links

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

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]