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The Profession

Joon Sung

After 20 years on the job, TransUnion's Joon Sung knows that risk management success is based in part on the quality of relationships with brokers, carriers and other risk professionals.
By: | April 7, 2017 • 4 min read


R&I: What was your first job?

I was a clerk at my father’s video store. I got to learn firsthand the power of customer service — we had to do it better to differentiate from the big box stores just to survive. I don’t miss calling customers with outstanding videos or informing them that they owed a rewind fee.

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

I took an introductory course in risk management taught by Professor Joan Schmit.

I was fortunate to attend an institution that had such a wonderful and dedicated risk management and insurance discipline. Our professors were passionate about the role of insurance whether it was in a social or commercial setting and challenged us to advance it.

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

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San Diego, bar none. The location of the convention center with all of the nearby hotels, downtown and scenery make it pretty hard to beat. Oh and the weather is out of this world.

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

Cyber.

R&I: How do you keep yourself educated about emerging risks like cyber? What are your go-to resources?

I try to talk to our CISO [chief information security officer] every chance I get. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience and has line of sight into the kinds of things we’re seeing every single day. Understanding what keeps him up at night helps me think about our perils and how insurance should respond to it.

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

Beazley. You have to have guts to insure a company like ours. You hear buzz words like trust, commitment and partnership bandied about all the time. Beazley breathes it. I’ve effectively had the same underwriter and claims manager for more than 10 years.

We’ve had our ups and downs, like in any relationship, but we got through them. And in so doing, it made our bond even stronger. In many respects, Beazley is similar to our company. We say what we mean, we take ownership in our work, and we follow through on our promises.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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Yes it is. I’m not crazy about it, but it’s been around in our industry a long time, and well before Mr. Spitzer made it a big deal. As risk managers, we’ve always tried to be pragmatic about it. If brokers can keep us fully informed of the contingent commission, then we don’t have to second guess whether or not they are looking out for our company’s best interest.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

John Bradley, the risk manager of U.S. Bank. Every decision he makes is rooted in the question, “What is best for my company?” He understands insurance and people, and in this business, the latter is critical to success. If he wasn’t so loyal to the Chicago Bears, I’d call him a friend.

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

I enjoy the interaction and collaboration among my colleagues, insurance brokers and insurers. We all come from such different backgrounds, yet when we work together to accomplish a single goal, it is incredibly gratifying.

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

My parents still think I sell personal lines insurance, which is perfectly fine except when their friends call me about getting a quote for a homeowner’s policy.

My friends think I do what Ben Stiller did in the movie “Along Came Polly” — using the Riskmaster 9000 …

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

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I’d have to say technology. Our industry was so paper intensive in the past. I remember a time when we faxed insurance applications, insurance certificates, insurance policies, etc.

Now most of the insurance policies are PDFs, searchable and largely sent by email. I’m receiving claims notices by text from my insurer as it’s reported in real time. We’ve come a long way. The challenge now is to make sure we’re taking advantage of the efficiency for good.

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

“Tommy Boy” starring Chris Farley and David Spade. I’m not ashamed to admit it either. It’s funny, touching and has tremendous replay value.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

The Korean name for it is Makgeolli. It’s a rice wine that was popular among farmers and the “working class” back in the day. It’s fermented rice and tastes a little sweet, but it pairs nicely with just about any meat.




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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

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