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The Profession

Susan Hiteshew

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

Insurtech

Kiss Your Annual Renewal Goodbye; On-Demand Insurance Challenges the Traditional Policy

Gig workers' unique insurance needs drive delivery of on-demand coverage.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 6 min read

The gig economy is growing. Nearly six million Americans, or 3.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, now have “contingent” work arrangements, with a further 10.6 million in categories such as independent contractors, on-call workers or temporary help agency staff and for-contract firms, often with well-known names such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

The number of Americans owning a drone is also increasing — one recent survey suggested as much as one in 12 of the population — sparking vigorous debate on how regulation should apply to where and when the devices operate.

Add to this other 21st century societal changes, such as consumers’ appetite for other electronic gadgets and the advent of autonomous vehicles. It’s clear that the cover offered by the annually renewable traditional insurance policy is often not fit for purpose. Helped by the sophistication of insurance technology, the response has been an expanding range of ‘on-demand’ covers.

The term ‘on-demand’ is open to various interpretations. For Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO of pioneering on-demand insurance platform Trōv, it’s about “giving people agency over the items they own and enabling them to turn on insurance cover whenever they want for whatever they want — often for just a single item.”

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“On-demand represents a whole new behavior and attitude towards insurance, which for years has very much been a case of ‘get it and forget it,’ ” said Walchek.

Trōv’s mobile app enables users to insure just a single item, such as a laptop, whenever they wish and to also select the period of cover required. When ready to buy insurance, they then snap a picture of the sales receipt or product code of the item they want covered.

Welcoming Trōv: A New On-Demand Arrival

While Walchek, who set up Trōv in 2012, stressed it’s a technology company and not an insurance company, it has attracted industry giants such as AXA and Munich Re as partners. Trōv began the U.S. roll-out of its on-demand personal property products this summer by launching in Arizona, having already established itself in Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Australia and the UK were great testing grounds, thanks to their single regulatory authorities,” said Walchek. “Trōv is already approved in 45 states, and we expect to complete the process in all by November.

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group.” – Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group,” he added.

“But a mass of tectonic societal shifts is also impacting older generations — on-demand cover fits the new ways in which they work, particularly the ‘untethered’ who aren’t always in the same workplace or using the same device. So we see on-demand going into societal lifestyle changes.”

Wooing Baby Boomers

In addition to its backing for Trōv, across the Atlantic, AXA has partnered with Insurtech start-up By Miles, launching a pay-as-you-go car insurance policy in the UK. The product is promoted as low-cost car insurance for drivers who travel no more than 140 miles per week, or 7,000 miles annually.

“Due to the growing need for these products, companies such as Marmalade — cover for learner drivers — and Cuvva — cover for part-time drivers — have also increased in popularity, and we expect to see more enter the market in the near future,” said AXA UK’s head of telematics, Katy Simpson.

Simpson confirmed that the new products’ initial appeal is to younger motorists, who are more regular users of new technology, while older drivers are warier about sharing too much personal information. However, she expects this to change as on-demand products become more prevalent.

“Looking at mileage-based insurance, such as By Miles specifically, it’s actually older generations who are most likely to save money, as the use of their vehicles tends to decline. Our job is therefore to not only create more customer-centric products but also highlight their benefits to everyone.”

Another Insurtech ready to partner with long-established names is New York-based Slice Labs, which in the UK is working with Legal & General to enter the homeshare insurance market, recently announcing that XL Catlin will use its insurance cloud services platform to create the world’s first on-demand cyber insurance solution.

“For our cyber product, we were looking for a partner on the fintech side, which dovetailed perfectly with what Slice was trying to do,” said John Coletti, head of XL Catlin’s cyber insurance team.

“The premise of selling cyber insurance to small businesses needs a platform such as that provided by Slice — we can get to customers in a discrete, seamless manner, and the partnership offers potential to open up other products.”

Slice Labs’ CEO Tim Attia added: “You can roll up on-demand cover in many different areas, ranging from contract workers to vacation rentals.

“The next leap forward will be provided by the new economy, which will create a range of new risks for on-demand insurance to respond to. McKinsey forecasts that by 2025, ecosystems will account for 30 percent of global premium revenue.

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“When you’re a start-up, you can innovate and question long-held assumptions, but you don’t have the scale that an insurer can provide,” said Attia. “Our platform works well in getting new products out to the market and is scalable.”

Slice Labs is now reviewing the emerging markets, which aren’t hampered by “old, outdated infrastructures,” and plans to test the water via a hackathon in southeast Asia.

Collaboration Vs Competition

Insurtech-insurer collaborations suggest that the industry noted the banking sector’s experience, which names the tech disruptors before deciding partnerships, made greater sense commercially.

“It’s an interesting correlation,” said Slice’s managing director for marketing, Emily Kosick.

“I believe the trend worth calling out is that the window for insurers to innovate is much shorter, thanks to the banking sector’s efforts to offer omni-channel banking, incorporating mobile devices and, more recently, intelligent assistants like Alexa for personal banking.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.”

As with fintechs in banking, Insurtechs initially focused on the retail segment, with 75 percent of business in personal lines and the remainder in the commercial segment.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.” — Emily Kosick, managing director, marketing, Slice

Those proportions may be set to change, with innovations such as digital commercial insurance brokerage Embroker’s recent launch of the first digital D&O liability insurance policy, designed for venture capital-backed tech start-ups and reinsured by Munich Re.

Embroker said coverage that formerly took weeks to obtain is now available instantly.

“We focus on three main issues in developing new digital business — what is the customer’s pain point, what is the expense ratio and does it lend itself to algorithmic underwriting?” said CEO Matt Miller. “Workers’ compensation is another obvious class of insurance that can benefit from this approach.”

Jason Griswold, co-founder and chief operating officer of Insurtech REIN, highlighted further opportunities: “I’d add a third category to personal and business lines and that’s business-to-business-to-consumer. It’s there we see the biggest opportunities for partnering with major ecosystems generating large numbers of insureds and also big volumes of data.”

For now, insurers are accommodating Insurtech disruption. Will that change?

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“Insurtechs have focused on products that regulators can understand easily and for which there is clear existing legislation, with consumer protection and insurer solvency the two issues of paramount importance,” noted Shawn Hanson, litigation partner at law firm Akin Gump.

“In time, we could see the disruptors partner with reinsurers rather than primary carriers. Another possibility is the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Apple, with their massive balance sheets, deciding to link up with a reinsurer,” he said.

“You can imagine one of them finding a good Insurtech and buying it, much as Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods gave it entry into the retail sector.” &

Graham Buck is a UK-based writer and has contributed to Risk & Insurance® since 1998. He can be reached at riskletters.com.