2015 Risk All Stars

The Courage to Create   

We honor the 2015 Risk All Stars, who stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem-solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.
By: | September 14, 2015 • 2 min read

When I think of the courage to create, and the accompanying traits of passion and perseverance that define Risk All Stars, I can’t help but think of Renee Crow of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants.

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Like a number of our Risk All Stars winners, Crow manages risk at a company that is experiencing rapid growth. Rapid growth brings opportunity. But rapid growth, as we know, carries risk.

When Crow joined Kimpton, the company owned 24 properties. Now, it owns more than 60.

Although customer service underlies so much, there is a laser focus on it in the hospitality business.  Much is expected and very little is forgiven.

The organizations these professionals manage risk for are stronger because of their courage.

According to Crow, Kimpton sets high customer service standards, but it was also facing legal snares from guest and employee interactions gone bad. She devised a training program that enabled Kimpton staff across the country to re-enact various customer service scenarios and learn from them.

Crow humbly states that she did what she did because she’d seen enough bad training approaches to know better. But I say what she did was innately brilliant.

She took a risk, or a negative, and created employee engagement across the board in seeking solutions. This is an era when employee disengagement is reported to be at high levels across many industries. The cost of risk at Kimpton has plummeted as a result.

The creative courage of Risk All Stars winner Kris Finell of Rytec Corp. also comes to mind. Finell possessed not merely the courage to create, but also the moxie to confront.

Rytec, another fast growing company, is a manufacturer of high-speed industrial doors. You can easily see the risks and the results when something goes wrong.

Rytec salesmen were in the habit of removing industrial door safety features at the behest of customers. Finell, practically brand new in her role as risk manager, put a stop to it.

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Waivers that allow customers to remove safety features on Rytec doors are now a thing of the past.

Finell also had the courage to remove a broker that was friends with one of her supervisors. The relationship wasn’t working for her vision, so she vetted a number of candidates and chose one with the right fit for her.

Talking to these Risk All Stars reminded me that it’s not enough to see something; you have to say and do something. The organizations these professionals manage risk for are stronger because of their courage.

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R9-15-15p26_Intro_Allstar4-2.inddRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.

See the complete list of 2015 Risk All Stars.

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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

As risk manager for a cloud computing and software company, Laurie LeLack knows that the interconnected economy and cyber security remain top risks.
By: | December 14, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

One of my first jobs was actually at a local insurance agency when I was a high school student, before I had any idea I was going to get into insurance. After college, I was a claims analyst at Sunbeam.

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

I fell into it after college, where I studied international business. I had a stack of resumes, and Sunbeam came to Florida from Rhode Island, so I applied. I interviewed with the director of risk management and just stuck with it and worked my way up.

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

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Getting a holistic view of risk. Risk managers are understanding how to get all stakeholders together, so we understand how each risk is aligned. In my view, that’s the only way to properly protect and serve our organizations.

R&I: What could the risk management community do better?

We’ve come a long way, but we still have to continue breaking down silos at organizations. You also have to make sure you really understand your business model and your story so you can communicate that effectively to your broker or carrier. Without full understanding of your business, you can’t assess your exposures.

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

Being on the East Coast, I like Philadelphia.

Laurie LeLack, Senior Director, Corporate Risk and Americas Real Estate, Citrix Systems Inc.

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

Organizations understanding their cyber risk exposures and how this line of insurance can best protect them. Five to ten years ago, people shrugged it off as something just for technologies companies. But you can really see the trend ticking up as a must-have. It was always something that was needed, but people came to their own defining moments as we got more involved in electronic content and social media globally. Cyber risk is inherent in the way we do business today.

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

The advent of security and contractual obligations. These are concerns as we all play a part in this big web of a global economy. There’s that downstream effect — who’s going to be best insulated at the end of the day should something transpire, and did we set the right expectations?

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. At the end of the day, it’s all about the transparency you’re getting from the people you work with. I think some best practices in transparency came out of the situation, but we were working on a fee basis, so it wasn’t as much of an issue for us as it may have been for other companies.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I’m cautiously optimistic. We seem to be stable in terms of growth, and I’m hoping that the efficiencies and the economies of scale we achieve through technology will benefit us. But I’m also worried about the impact that could have on the number of jobs globally.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Robert O’Connor, my former director when I was first on-boarded at Sunbeam, gave me so many valuable tidbits. I’ll call him to this day if I have an idea I want to bounce off him. He’s a good source of comfort and guidance.

R&I: Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

I have two very empathetic, healthy and happy boys. Eleven and soon-to-be 14.

On the professional side, there were a lot of moments during my career at Citrix where we were running a very lean organization, so I had the opportunity to get involved in many different projects that I probably wouldn’t have had in other larger organizations.

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

My favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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

A place in Santa Barbara called Bouchon.

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

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Caverns in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They were interesting. It was cool to see these stalagmites and stalactites that have been growing for millions of years, and then just above ground there are homes from the 1950s.

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

Riding on the back of my husband’s Harley.

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

I like educating people and helping them find their ‘aha’ moment when you highlight areas of risk they may not have thought about. It allows people to broaden their horizons a little bit when we talk about risk and try to explore it from a different angle. I try not to be the person who always says “No” because it’s too risky, but find solutions that everyone is comfortable with given a risk profile.

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

I tell my kids I protect people and property and sometimes the things you can’t feel or touch.




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