The Profession

Mark Kebert of Purdue University

This university risk director says the profession has come a long way, but risk managers can increase their value by getting more involved in business strategy and driving true ERM.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Life insurance sales agent.

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

Early in my insurance career, I interviewed for a risk management position with an agriculture firm. I found the position and duties to be fascinating. Sadly, I lacked qualifications at the time and was not selected for the position.
I decided to work toward that career path over time by supplementing my education. Later I happened upon my position at Purdue. The organization and I have been growing together since then.


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

I think we do great with collaboration and knowledge sharing through a variety of professional networks, which helps us enhance efficiencies. We also are reaching out to important tangent professional areas — like auditing and legal — in our collaborative efforts. We are doing much better at creating risk awareness from our boards to our frontline employees.

R&I: At what could the risk management community do a better job?

Promoting robust enterprise risk management (ERM) implementation. Many organizations have a pretty model they display on their website; however, a robust program is often lacking. I am of the opinion risk managers are not spending enough time with their boards and officers, engaged in corporate strategy and observing what is on the horizon of their industries.

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

The year does not matter, any RIMS hosted in San Diego is always blissful for this guy.

Mark Kebert, director, domestic and global risk, Purdue University

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

Complexity and velocity. The complexity of our organizations in relation to business environments, regulations, compliance, technology and emerging risks. It is these things, and the increasing speed at which they come at us, that create unprecedented challenges.

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

At the moment, cyber and the use of drone technology.

R&I: Of what insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

I am split between FM Global and AIG. They have been incredible partners.

R&I: Of which of your accomplishments are you most proud?

My mind goes to two places on this one. Non-profession related — my amazing wife and three children who never fail to amaze with kind hearts and the desire to transform our world for the better.
Professionally — I have managed to assemble and retain the most incredible work family. They share my daily challenges and without their outstanding talent and support, life would be so much more difficult.

R&I: How many emails do you get in a day and how many do you answer?

Who has time to count? Several million, with about 200 or so actionable. Well, it seems like that anyway …

R&I: What is your favorite book?

It is an old book, but I keep it on my desk. It has been there for a few decades now. I brush through it once a year just to remind myself of its lessons. It remains so relevant. It is called Leadership Is an Art by Max DePree, Dell Publishing 1989. It is a quick read and everyone who is in a leadership position should read it and apply its concepts.

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

Hands down, Filippo’s Italian Restaurant, West Allis, Wisconsin. I have driven 300 miles to go back and eat there. It is that good.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Margarita. Is there anything else?

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

The Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize. Words are inadequate to describe the experience.

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

I have a Suzuki GSX-R cycle. She makes me feel 20 again. Constantly managing that risk …


R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

This would have to be any single parent trying to raise future leaders in our current society. My heart goes out to them.

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

Every day is different and full of challenges. I could be addressing the risks of nuclear reactors, experimental rocket fuel, jet turbines and the design and manufacture of prosthetics and that’s only half my day. I really wear about 10 different hats at any given time. It is challenging and utterly amazing.

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

It is too hard to explain what I do to friends, and it generates too many questions. To them I am a department head at a large research university, and I offer no additional details. To my kids, wife and extended family, I’m a “risk jockey.”

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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance


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.”


“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.


“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?


“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