Risk Management

The Profession

"Every experience — good, bad or indifferent — led me here and has put me in a position to make a real difference in our organization both personally and professionally."
By: | March 3, 2017 • 4 min read

 
R&I What was your first job?

I had a two-week stint at McDonald’s my freshman year of high school; so that probably doesn’t count. After that I worked as a server at a local restaurant.

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

I began as a multiline claims adjuster right out of college for three years. I then branched out and worked for a broker as a claims analyst and account executive for six and a half years before moving over to the employer side, first as the insurance and claims manager of a third party logistics’ risk management department and now as the risk manager of Staples.

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

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We are finally recognizing the value in going back to basics in the training and management of claims; as well as the importance of educating a corporation, from the executive level to the associate level, that risk management is more than just the department that secures insurance and manages workers’ compensation. We are now seen as the department that can actually improve the profitability of the organization.

R&I What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Risk managers have to think outside the box to determine how we can pay for the programs and tools necessary to effectively manage the organization’s total cost of risk. We need to take the time to figure out what tools or programs truly make sense and will mesh into our company’s culture. Throughout my career I have seen many programs and initiatives quickly crash and burn because they were not properly vetted. When deciding what tool, program or initiative we want to pursue, we have to realize we have one shot to sell the message to make it a reality.

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

The focus on big data and data analytics. It was a long time coming and I am glad it is here, but we do have to ensure the data we are relying upon is accurate, which I believe is the next evolution in data analytics. I think we are all seeing there are many inaccuracies, various perspectives and gaps in the data we are relying upon.

R&I What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

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I think the evolution of cyber risk will always concern me. I always say, “if only they would use their powers for good, they could cure cancer!”

However, with the fast-paced nature of change, [the challenge of staying] relevant is right up there with cyber. Our brand is so important. At the end of the day, it is the reputation of our company at stake. We have to ensure that each associate, no matter what position they hold in our organization, understands their importance. Every one of our actions and decisions individually and collectively impact our brand every day in some way.

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

I look at the direction Staples is headed and I cannot help but be excited and optimistic. Other companies are in our position and their associates are just as dedicated to the success of their respective organizations as we are.

R&I Who is your mentor and why?

My father is my mentor. He worked hard all his life and learned to make a way out of no way. I feel blessed and take pride in everything I do because of the lessons he taught me and continues to teach me every day.

R&I What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would say the evolution of my career to bring me where I am today. Every experience — good, bad or indifferent — led me here and has put me in a position to make a real difference in our organization both personally and professionally.

R&I How many emails do you get in a day?

Is this a trick question? In this day and age, I think all we can do is prioritize and manage email. My team is in the process of utilizing RMIS to automate a lot of processes in our department to cut down on the email traffic.

R&I What is your favorite book or movie?

“The Godfather,” hands down, is my favorite movie. If it is on, I have to watch it.

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

Rabot 1745 in London. All meals have a cocoa-based theme … yum!

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

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I love the Caribbean and love St. Martin (Dutch), Curacao and Puerto Rico. The landscapes and cultures throughout the Caribbean are very interesting to me.

R&I What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Driving down to a local beach in Mexico at the age of 18 with two friends, and not turning back when we came upon Mexican military [stopping visitors at the entrance] to the beach. We then proceeded to camp out on the beach with strangers. I look back and realize how incredibly lucky we were that nothing happened to us!

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

I can make a positive difference to Staples and to our individual associates.

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

A majority of my friends and family know my job has something to do with insurance and claims but they don’t firmly grasp all that I am responsible for as a risk manager.




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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

This senior risk manager values his role in helping Varian Medical Systems support research and technologies in the fight against cancer.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

When I was 15 years old I had a summer job working for the city of Plentywood, mowing grass in the parks and ballfields, emptying garbage cans, hauling waste to the dump, painting crosswalk lines.  A great job for a teenager but I thought getting a college degree and working in an air-conditioned office would be a good plan long term.

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

I was enrolled in the University of Montana as a general business student, and I wanted to declare a more specialized major during my sophomore year. I was working for my dad at his insurance agency over the summer, and taking new agent training coursework on property/casualty risks in my spare time, so I had an appreciation for insurance. My dad suggested I research risk management for a career, and I transferred sight unseen to the University of Georgia to enroll in their risk management program. I did an internship as a senior with the risk management department at Sulzer Medica, and they offered me a full time job.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

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We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks. If we initiate a collaborative exercise with the risk owners — people who may have unique knowledge about that particular risk — and include a cross section of people from other corporate functions, you can do an effective job of taking the risk apart to analyze it, figure out a way to manage that exposure, and then reap the upside benefits while reducing the downside exposure. That can be done with new products and new service offerings, when there isn’t coverage available for a risk. It’s asking, is there anything we can do to reduce the risk without transferring it?

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

Cyber liability. There’s so much at stake and the bad guys are getting more resourceful every day. At Varian, our first approach is to try to make our systems and products more resilient, so we’re trying to direct resources to preventing it from happening in the first place. It’s a huge reputation risk if one of our products or systems were compromised, so we want to avoid that at all costs.

We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

I’ve worked with a number of great ones over the years. We’ve enjoyed a great property insurance relationship with Zurich. Their loss control services are very valuable to us. On the umbrella liability side, it’s been great partnering with companies like Swiss Re and Berkley Life Sciences because they’ve put in the time and effort to understand our unique risk exposures.

R&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

One hundred percent through a broker. I view our broker as an extension of our risk management team. We benefit from each team member’s respective area of expertise and experience.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. The brokers were kind of villainized by Spitzer. I think it’s fair for brokers and insurers to make a reasonable profit, and if a portion of their profit came from contingent commissions, I’m fine with that. But I do appreciate the transparency and disclosure that came out as a result of the fiasco.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

David Collins, Senior Manager, Risk Management, Varian Medical Systems Inc.

While we might be doing fine here in the U.S. from an economic perspective, the Middle East is a mess, and we’re living with nuclear threat from North Korea. But hope springs eternal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping saner minds prevail and our leaders throughout the world work together to make things better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My Dad got me started down the insurance and risk path. I’ve also been fortunate to work for or with a number of University of Georgia alumni who’ve been mentors for me. I’ve worked side by side with Karen Epermanis, Michael Rousseau, and Elisha Finney. And I’ve worked with Daniel Dean in his capacity as a broker.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

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Raising my kids. I have a 15-year-old and 12-year-old, and they’re making mom and dad proud of the people they’re turning into.

On a professional level, a recent one would be the creation and implementation of our global travel risk program, which was a combined effort between security, travel and risk functions.

We have a huge team of service personnel around the world, traveling to customer sites to do maintenance and repair. We needed a way to track, monitor and communicate with them. We may need to make security arrangements or vet their lodging in some circumstances.

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

My 12-year-old son thought my job responsibilities could be summed up as a “professional worrier.” And that’s not too far off.

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

Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. Proper administration of the risk function puts the company in a better position to financially support research that improves products and capabilities, helps to educate health care providers and support cancer care in general. It means more lives saved from a terrible disease. I’m proud to contribute toward that.

When you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully treated with one of our products, it’s a powerful reward.




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