Risk Management

The Profession

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?


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?


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?


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?


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

Risk Report: Marine

Crewless Ships Raise Questions

Is a remote operator legally a master? New technology confounds old terms.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 6 min read

For many developers, the accelerating development of remote-controlled and autonomous ships represents what could be the dawn of a new era. For underwriters and brokers, however, such vessels could represent the end of thousands of years of maritime law and risk management.

Rod Johnson, director of marine risk management, RSA Global Risk

While crewless vessels have yet to breach commercial service, there are active testing programs. Most brokers and underwriters expect small-scale commercial operations to be feasible in a few years, but that outlook only considers technical feasibility. How such operations will be insured remains unclear.

“I have been giving this a great deal of thought, this sits on my desk every day,” said Rod Johnson, director of marine risk management, RSA Global Risk, a major UK underwriter. Johnson sits on the loss-prevention committee of the International Union of Maritime Insurers.

“The agreed uncertainty that underpins marine insurance is falling away, but we are pretending that it isn’t. The contractual framework is being made less relevant all the time.”

Defining Autonomous Vessels

Two types of crewless vessels are being contemplated. First up is a drone with no one on board but actively controlled by a human at a remote command post on land or even on another vessel.

While some debate whether the controllers of drone aircrafts are pilots or operators, the very real question yet to be addressed is if a vessel controller is legally a “master” under maritime law.


The other type of crewless vessel would be completely autonomous, with the onboard systems making decisions about navigation, weather and operations.

Advocates tout the benefits of larger cargo capacity without crew spaces, including radically different hull designs without decks people can walk on. Doubters note a crew can fix things at sea while a ship cannot.

Rolls-Royce is one of the major proponents and designers. The company tested a remote-controlled tug in Copenhagen in June 2017.

“We think the initial early adopters will be vessels operating on fixed routes within coastal waters under the jurisdiction of flag states,” the company said.

“We expect to see the first autonomous vessel in commercial operation by the end of the decade. Further out, around 2025, we expect autonomous vessels to operate further from shore — perhaps coastal cargo ships. For ocean-going vessels to be autonomous, it will require a change in international regulations, so this will take longer.”

Once autonomous ships are a reality, “the entire current legal framework for maritime law and insurance is done,” said Johnson. “The master has not been replaced; he is just gone. Commodity ships (bulk carriers) would be most amenable to that technology. I’m not overly bothered by fully automated ships, but I am extremely bothered by heavily automated ones.”

He cited two risks specifically: hacking and fire.

“We expect to see the first autonomous vessel in commercial operation by the end of the decade. Further out, around 2025, we expect autonomous vessels to operate further from shore — perhaps coastal cargo ships. For ocean-going vessels to be autonomous, it will require a change in international regulations, so this will take longer.” — Rolls-Royce Holdings study

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, asked an even more existential question: “From an insurance standpoint, are we even still talking about a vessel as it is under law? Starting with the legal framework, the duty of a flag state is ‘manning of ships.’ What about the duty to render assistance? There cannot be insurance coverage of an illegal contract.”

Several sources noted that the technological development of crewless ships, while impressive, seems to be a solution in search of a problem. There is no known need in the market; no shippers, operators, owners or mariners advocate that crewless ships will solve their problems.

Kinsey takes umbrage at the suggestion that promotional material on crewless vessels cherry picks his company’s data, which found 75 percent to 90 percent of marine losses are caused by human error.


“Removing the humans from the vessels does not eliminate the human error. It just moves the human error from the helm to the coder. The reports on development by the companies with a vested interest [in crewless vessels] tend to read a lot like advertisements. The pressure for this is not coming from the end users.”

To be sure, Kinsey is a proponent of automation and technology when applied prudently, believing automation can make strides in areas of the supply chains. Much of the talk about automation is trying to bury the serious shortage of qualified crews. It also overshadows the very real potential for blockchain technology to overhaul the backend of marine insurance.

As a marine surveyor, Kinsey said he can go down to the wharf, inspect cranes, vessels and securements, and supervise loading and unloading — but he can’t inspect computer code or cyber security.

New Times, New Risks

In all fairness, insurance language has changed since the 17th century, especially as technology races ahead in the 21st.

“If you read any hull form, it’s practically Shakespearean,” said Stephen J. Harris, senior vice president of marine protection UK, Marsh. “The language is no longer fit for purpose. Our concern specifically to this topic is that the antiquated language talks about crew being on board. If they are not on board, do they still legally count as crew?”

Harris further questioned, “Under hull insurance, and provided that the ship owner has acted diligently, cover is extended to negligence of the master or crew. Does that still apply if the captain is not on board but sitting at a desk in an office?”

Andrew Kinsey, senior marine risk consultant, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Several sources noted that a few international organizations, notably the Comite Maritime International and the International Maritime Organization, “have been very active in asking the legal profession around the world about their thoughts. The interpretations vary greatly. The legal complications of crewless vessels are actually more complicated than the technology.”

For example, if the operational, insurance and regulatory entities in two countries agree on the voyage of a crewless vessel across the ocean, a mishap or storm could drive the vessel into port or on shore of a third country that does not recognize those agreements.

“What worries insurers is legal uncertainty,” said Harris.

“If an operator did everything fine but a system went down, then most likely the designer would be responsible. But even if a designer explicitly accepted responsibility, what matters would be the flag state’s law in international waters and the local state’s law in territorial waters.


“We see the way ahead for this technology as local and short-sea operations. The law has to catch up with the technology, and it is showing no signs of doing so.”

Thomas M. Boudreau, head of specialty insurance, The Hartford, suggested that remote ferry operations could be the most appropriate use: “They travel fixed routes, all within one country’s waters.”

There could also be environmental and operational benefits from using battery power rather than conventional fuels.

“In terms of underwriting, the burden would shift to the manufacturer and designer of the operating systems,” Boudreau added.

It may just be, he suggested, that crewless ships are merely replacing old risks with new ones. Crews can deal with small repairs, fires or leaks at sea, but small conditions such as those can go unchecked and endanger the whole ship and cargo.

“The cyber risk is also concerning. The vessel may be safe from physical piracy, but what about hacking?” &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]