Risk Management

The Profession

Susan Hiteshew embraces the dynamic nature of her role and says the risk management community must put increased focus on integrating high-level concepts into day to day operations.
By: | October 3, 2017 • 5 min read


R&I: What was your first job?

I worked for Travelers right out of college in the Special Liability Group. My first job in general was working at a horse farm, taking English riding lessons, mucking stalls and doing other fun manual labor. I was riding competitively until I started having kids. Hopefully, I’ll be back at it after baby number three gets here. I was also a wrangler on a dude ranch one summer in college.

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

I enjoyed working on the claims side at Travelers, but I never really got to see things full circle or be involved in any preventative or loss control measures that happen pre-claim. I was getting my MBA and researching roles that would allow me to use my insurance knowledge as well as [my] finance skills, and I landed on risk management. I … was super fortunate to find this position at Under Armour. They took a chance on me and let me run risk financing for what was then a $1 billion company. We’ll be at $5 billion in revenue this year. It’s been an exciting six years, and I feel very fortunate to work for such a great team.

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

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I think we’re doing a good job of creating opportunity for women and creating flexible schedules for families. We’re allowing people to have both personal and professional growth. There are great companies in the broker community and in insurance that are putting strong women in leadership roles and not inhibiting their career growth because they have families.

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

We talk a lot in the industry about best practices and risk frameworks, but distilling those high-level ideas into actionable items is difficult. It’s essential for risk management to add value to an organization, and that’s where we have to get better — applying big-picture ideas to the day-to-day and making them operational.

Susan Hiteshew, Senior Manager, Global Insurance – Risk Management, Under Armour Inc.

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

When people first started talking about buying cyber policies, it was because P&C carriers were taking a hard line on excluding anything that could be construed as a cyber loss. The market shied away from cyber coverage unless you were buying a standalone policy. But now carriers are better able to model certain losses; there’s more cyber capacity, and insurers are starting to get more creative on the P&C lines about adding coverage extensions for cyber-related issues.

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

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Overall, brand and reputational risk are paramount concerns for everyone. You can model the likelihood and impact of how that might materialize, but the velocity with which it materializes because of social media is unprecedented. The disruption that those brand risks can create is pretty unique as well. It’s a complicated risk to understand, and it’s certainly a moving target.

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

We prioritize long-term relationships and transparency, where we’re involving them in our business and keeping them updated on how we’re growing and changing. The carriers that best support us are those that are willing to talk more than once a year at renewal and want to be a part of the conversation and add risk management value in day-to-day operations.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

It was a good industry wake up call, because it forced risk managers to start to dig deep and understand what was truly driving the cost of risk transfer solutions. It is overblown in some ways, but it also presented opportunity to collectively look at and agree on a fair price of risk and increase transparency.

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

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A personal accomplishment would be my two, almost three, kids — baby three is due soon. They are the thing that I’m most proud of.

In terms of professional accomplishments … prior to my time at Under Armour, insurance was a decentralized function. I spent my first 12 to 18 months sitting down with different business units and talking to them about their priorities, goals, and strategies and the types of insurance that directly support their business. Soon, information started to flow to me rather than me having to go out to seek information. That was one of my early wins.

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

The coolest restaurant I’ve been to is called Il Botin in Madrid. It’s the oldest restaurant in the world. The Old World ambiance is really unique.

“It’s essential for risk management to add value to an organization, and that’s where we have to get better — applying big picture ideas to the day-to-day and making them operational.”

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

I went to Capri for my honeymoon. I hope to go again sometime in the future.

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

One of the most exciting things about risk management is that you’re always learning. You have to be someone who is comfortable with change and excited about learning new things. We’re providing a service internally, helping our organizations achieve their goals and strategically aligning with what’s important to them, so we have to be constantly evolving with the business.

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

Because I work at Under Armour, my son thinks I play football with Cam Newton and Tom Brady, and I’m OK with that!




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 Management

The Profession

As risk manager for a cloud computing and software company, Laurie LeLack knows that the interconnected economy and cyber security remain top risks.
By: | December 14, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

One of my first jobs was actually at a local insurance agency when I was a high school student, before I had any idea I was going to get into insurance. After college, I was a claims analyst at Sunbeam.

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

I fell into it after college, where I studied international business. I had a stack of resumes, and Sunbeam came to Florida from Rhode Island, so I applied. I interviewed with the director of risk management and just stuck with it and worked my way up.

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

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Getting a holistic view of risk. Risk managers are understanding how to get all stakeholders together, so we understand how each risk is aligned. In my view, that’s the only way to properly protect and serve our organizations.

R&I: What could the risk management community do better?

We’ve come a long way, but we still have to continue breaking down silos at organizations. You also have to make sure you really understand your business model and your story so you can communicate that effectively to your broker or carrier. Without full understanding of your business, you can’t assess your exposures.

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

Being on the East Coast, I like Philadelphia.

Laurie LeLack, Senior Director, Corporate Risk and Americas Real Estate, Citrix Systems Inc.

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

Organizations understanding their cyber risk exposures and how this line of insurance can best protect them. Five to ten years ago, people shrugged it off as something just for technologies companies. But you can really see the trend ticking up as a must-have. It was always something that was needed, but people came to their own defining moments as we got more involved in electronic content and social media globally. Cyber risk is inherent in the way we do business today.

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

The advent of security and contractual obligations. These are concerns as we all play a part in this big web of a global economy. There’s that downstream effect — who’s going to be best insulated at the end of the day should something transpire, and did we set the right expectations?

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. At the end of the day, it’s all about the transparency you’re getting from the people you work with. I think some best practices in transparency came out of the situation, but we were working on a fee basis, so it wasn’t as much of an issue for us as it may have been for other companies.

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

I’m cautiously optimistic. We seem to be stable in terms of growth, and I’m hoping that the efficiencies and the economies of scale we achieve through technology will benefit us. But I’m also worried about the impact that could have on the number of jobs globally.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Robert O’Connor, my former director when I was first on-boarded at Sunbeam, gave me so many valuable tidbits. I’ll call him to this day if I have an idea I want to bounce off him. He’s a good source of comfort and guidance.

R&I: Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

I have two very empathetic, healthy and happy boys. Eleven and soon-to-be 14.

On the professional side, there were a lot of moments during my career at Citrix where we were running a very lean organization, so I had the opportunity to get involved in many different projects that I probably wouldn’t have had in other larger organizations.

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

My favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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

A place in Santa Barbara called Bouchon.

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

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Caverns in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They were interesting. It was cool to see these stalagmites and stalactites that have been growing for millions of years, and then just above ground there are homes from the 1950s.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity in which you’ve ever engaged?

Riding on the back of my husband’s Harley.

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

I like educating people and helping them find their ‘aha’ moment when you highlight areas of risk they may not have thought about. It allows people to broaden their horizons a little bit when we talk about risk and try to explore it from a different angle. I try not to be the person who always says “No” because it’s too risky, but find solutions that everyone is comfortable with given a risk profile.

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

I tell my kids I protect people and property and sometimes the things you can’t feel or touch.




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