Le Andra Holly
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?
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?
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?
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.