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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

The risk manager for Boyd Gaming Corp. says curiosity keeps him engaged, and continual education will be the key to managing emerging risks.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was trained as an accountant, worked in public accounting and became a CPA. Being comfortable with numbers is helpful in my current role, and obviously, the language of business is financial statements, so it helps.

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

Working in finance in the corporate environment included the review of budgets and the analysis of business expenses. I quickly found the area of benefits and insurance — and how “accepting risk” impacted those expenses — to be fascinating. I asked a lot of questions. Be careful what you ask for — I soon found myself responsible for those insurance areas and haven’t looked back!

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

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I have found the risk management community to be a close-knit group, whether that’s industry professionals, risk managers with other companies or support organizations like RIMS and other regional groups. The expertise of the carriers and specialty vendors to develop new products and programs, along with the appropriate education, will continue to be of key importance to companies going forward.

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

As I’m sure many in the insurance field would agree, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 changed our world and our industry. It was a particularly intense time and certainly a baptism by fire for people like me who were relatively new to the industry. This event clearly accelerated the switch to the acceptance of more risk, which impacted mitigation strategies and programs.

Bob Berglund, vice president, benefits and insurance, Boyd Gaming Corp.

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

The fast-paced threat that cyber security represents today. Our company, like so many companies, is reliant upon computers, software and IT expertise in our everyday existence. This new risk has forged an even stronger relationship between risk management and our IT department as we work together to address this growing threat.

Additionally, the shooting event in Las Vegas in 2017 will have an enduring impact on firms that host large gatherings and arena-style events all over the world, and our company is no exception.

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

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With the various types of insurance programs we employ, I have been fortunate to work with most of the large national and international carriers — all of whom employ talented people with a vast array of resources.

R&I:  How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

We use brokers for many of our professional coverages, such as property, casualty, D&O and cyber. We are self-insured under our health plans, with close to 25,000 members. We tend to manage those programs internally and utilize direct relationships with carriers and specialty vendors to tailor a plan that works best for team members.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have been fortunate to have worked alongside some smart and insightful people during my career. A key piece of advice, said in many different ways, has served me well. Simply stated: “Seek to understand before being understood.”

What this has meant to me is try everything you can to learn about something, new or old. After you have gained this knowledge, you can begin to access and maybe suggest changes or adjustments. Being curious has always been a personal enjoyment for me in business, and I have found people are more than willing to lend a hand, offer information and advice — you just need to ask. Building those alliances and foundations of knowledge on a subject matter makes tackling the future more exciting and fruitful.

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

Our benefit health plan is much more than handing out an insurance card at the beginning of the year. We encourage our team members and their families to learn about their personal health, get engaged in a variety of health and wellness programs and try to live life in the healthiest possible way. The result of that is literally hundreds of testimonials from our members every year on how they have lost weight, changed their lifestyle and gotten off medications. It is extremely rewarding and is a testament to [our] close-knit corporate culture.

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

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Some will remember the volcano eruption in Iceland in spring of 2010. I was just finishing a week of meetings in London with Lloyd’s syndicates related to our property insurance placement when the airspace in England and most of northern Europe was shut down — no airplanes in or out! Flights were ultimately canceled for the following five days. Therefore, with a few other stranded visitors like myself, we experimented and tried out new restaurants every day until we could leave. It was a very interesting time!

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

I am originally from Canada, and I played ice hockey from the time I was four years old up until quite recently. Too many surgeries sadly forced my recent retirement.

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

That’s a funny one … I am a CPA working in the casino industry, doing insurance and risk management, so neighbors and acquaintances think I either do tax returns or they think I’m a blackjack dealer at the casino!




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