Risk Insider: Peter Rosiere

The Positively Disagreeable Nature of Risk Managers     

By: | March 3, 2015 • 2 min read
Peter Rosiere is the vice president, Risk Management for Sodexo, Inc. He has over 30 years of industry experience including multiple engagements as the senior risk management officer for multibillion dollar companies with decentralized structures and various business models. He can be reached at [email protected]

I don’t know about you, but I often spend my free time (usually stuck in traffic) trying to occupy my mind with positive thoughts. I often think about not just the “what” of things, but “how” and “why.” On the highway one day, I thought … as a risk manager, I am positively disagreeable. And that is not a bad thing at all.

It would be easy to perceive disagreeableness as negative, but it is actually quite useful in risk management. The practice of being disagreeable emphasizes critical thinking skills, which is something that many risk managers encounter all too frequently in their organizations.

No offense to colleagues, but lack of critical thinking skills tends to keep risk managers employed.

When I speak of being disagreeable, by no means do I intend it in a negative sense. Those who infer negativity may lack a complete understanding or appreciation of the exact role of risk management in an organization.

The fact that the risk role differs among organizations, even within the same industry, might add to the confusion.

I speak of being disagreeable in the sense that complete permission and total consensus may not occur and a risk manager must forge ahead. Some may refer to this as “the high wire act without a net.”

Risk management professionals do think differently and look at issues through a different lens from our corporate colleagues. Good risk managers must think from an alternative perspective and be risk innovators. It is all about the complementary nature of the leadership function within effective organizations.

The following is a passage from a 2013 Malcolm Gladwell speech, as referenced in a Wall Street Journal blog:

“‘Part of the role of senior management of creating an atmosphere of innovation is allowing people to be disagreeable,’ said Mr. Gladwell. He stresses that disagreeable doesn’t mean obnoxious but, rather, indifferent to the ways others see them. It’s the characteristic that lets innovators pursue breakthrough ideas even when faced with objections and derision, he said.”

Risk management professionals do think differently and look at issues through a different lens from our corporate colleagues. Good risk managers must think from an alternative perspective and be risk innovators.

When I thought about the above, while stuck in traffic, I came to the conclusion that the same applies to my function. Being the risk leader or risk voice in an organization can be a challenging job given the fluid nature of perceived risk. Alignment of risk strategies with corporate and finance strategies is essential and provides a stable platform to work from.

The rhetorical question flowing from my answer is as follows. If risk managers don’t think in a critical and disagreeable manner, are risk managers really doing their job? The challenge is to remove the doubt. Because we deal with ambiguity on a daily basis, it would be a nice to have at least one certainty.

2017 RIMS

RIMS Conference Opens in Birthplace of Insurance in US

Carriers continue their vital role of helping insureds mitigate risks and promote safety.
By: | April 21, 2017 • 4 min read

As RIMS begins its annual conference in Philadelphia, it’s worth remembering that the City of Brotherly Love is not just the birthplace of liberty, but it is the birthplace of insurance in the United States as well.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin and members of Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire brigade conceived of an insurance company, eventually named The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.

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For the first time in America — but certainly not for the last time – insurers became instrumental in protecting businesses by requiring safety inspections before agreeing to issue policies.

“That included fire brigades and the knowledge that a brick house was less susceptible to fire than a wood house,” said Martin Frappolli, director of knowledge resources at The Institutes.

It also included good hygiene habits, such as not placing oily rags next to a furnace and having a trap door to the roof to help the fire brigade fight roof and chimney blazes.

Businesses with high risk of fire, such as apothecary shops and brewers, were either denied policies or insured at significantly higher rates, according to the Independence Hall Association.

Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

Before that, fire was generally “not considered an insurable risk because it was so common and so destructive,” Frappolli said.

“Over the years, we have developed a lot of really good hygiene habits regarding the risk of fire and a lot of those were prompted by the insurance considerations,” he said. “There are parallels in a lot of other areas.”

Insurance companies were instrumental in the creation of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which helps create standards for electrical devices, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which works to improve the safety of vehicles and highways, said Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and former president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurers have also been active through the years in strengthening building codes and promoting wiser land use and zoning rules, he said.

When shipping was the predominant mode of commercial transport, insurers were active in ports, making sure vessels were seaworthy, captains were experienced and cargoes were stored safety, particularly since it was the common, but hazardous, practice to transport oil in barrels, Hartwig said.

Some underwriters refused to insure ships that carried oil, he said.

When commercial enterprises engaged in hazardous activities and were charged more for insurance, “insurers were sending a message about risk,” he said.

In the industrial area, the common risk of boiler and machinery explosions led insurers to insist on inspections. “The idea was to prevent an accident from occurring,” Hartwig said. Insurers of the day – and some like FM Global and Hartford Steam Boiler continue to exist today — “took a very active and early role in prevention and risk management.”

Whenever insurance gets involved in business, the emphasis on safety, loss control and risk mitigation takes on a higher priority, Frappolli said.

“It’s a really good example of how consideration for insurance has driven the nature of what needs to be insured and leads to better and safer habits,” he said.

Workers’ compensation insurance prompted the same response, he said. When workers’ compensation laws were passed in the early 1900s, employee injuries were frequent and costly, especially in factories and for other physical types of work.

Because insurers wanted to reduce losses and employers wanted reduced insurance premiums, safety procedures were introduced.

“Employers knew insurance would cost a lot more if they didn’t do the things necessary to reduce employee injury,” Frappolli said.

Martin J. Frappolli, senior director of knowledge resources, The Institutes

Cyber risk, he said, is another example where insurance companies are helping employers reduce their risk of loss by increasing cyber hygiene.

Cyber risk is immature now, Frappolli said, but it’s similar in some ways to boiler and machinery explosions. “That was once horribly damaging, unpredictable and expensive,” he said. “With prompting from risk management and insurance, people were educated about it and learned how to mitigate that risk.

“Insurance is just one tool in the toolbox. A true risk manager appreciates and cares about mitigating the risk and not just securing a lower insurance rate.

“Someone looking at managing risk for the long term will take a longer view, and as a byproduct, that will lead to lower insurance rates.”

Whenever technology has evolved, Hartwig said, insurance has been instrumental in increasing safety, whether it was when railroads eclipsed sailing ships for commerce, or when trucking and aviation took precedence.

The risks of terrorism and cyber attacks have led insurance companies and brokers to partner with outside companies with expertise in prevention and reduction of potential losses, he said. That knowledge is transmitted to insureds, who are provided insurance coverage that results in financial resources even when the risk management methods fail to prevent a cyber attack.

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This year’s RIMS Conference in Philadelphia shares with risk managers much of the knowledge that has been developed on so many critical exposures. Interestingly enough, the opening reception is at The Franklin Institute, which celebrates some of Ben Franklin’s innovations.

But in-depth sessions on a variety of industry sectors as well as presentations on emerging risks, cyber risk management, risk finance, technology and claims management, as well as other issues of concern help risk managers prepare their organizations to face continuing disruption, and take advantage of successful mitigation techniques.

“This is just the next iteration of the insurance world,” Hartwig said. “The insurance industry constantly reinvents itself. It is always on the cutting edge of insuring new and different risks and that will never change.” &

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]