Risk Management

The Profession

Director of risk management Joseph Mazza says heightened visibility is good for risk managers, but cyber remains a top challenge.
By: | October 15, 2015 • 4 min read

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R&I: What was your first job?

During my senior year in high school, [I worked] as a custodian every night and full time on Saturdays for $1 an hour. I had the run of the school. It turned into a summer job at $1.25 an hour after senior year!

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

Having started as an insurance agent in life, health, and then property and casualty in 1975 at John Hancock … I wanted to explore company exposures beyond the insurance field. … I worked for a multiline commercial insurance agency and then a national retailer insurance program for franchisees with Ace Hardware for 20-some odd years. I enrolled in the Associate in Risk Management (ARM) program in 1997 and 1998, and was hired the next year by DaimlerChrysler.

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

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For risk management, the biggest change has been heightened visibility and a better understanding of what it is and how it can drastically impact the bottom line of any entity. For insurance, it’s the speed and communication between underwriters and the producer with the advent of technology. Keep in mind I started in the “write back” days of waiting and waiting for snail mail to arrive.

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

As everyone currently considers data breaches a primary concern, I will go with that one too, and have implemented an insurance policy for my district accordingly. … The main focus here would be protection of data for employee records, student records, financial aid records and other important data we have in our computer systems. If we had a breach, it would be devastating.

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Joseph Mazza, Director, Risk Management/ ADA Coordinator, MiraCosta Community College District

R&I: How would you rate the insurance industry’s response to cyber risk?
Excellent so far with corresponding rate increases coming now that more purchasers are coming on board. Those insured losses need to be paid by someone. I think the frequency of cyber risk is increasing, and that frequency can cause a big severity problem.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Most recently, Edwin Hall, a former regional manager with DaimlerChrysler, who had a great way of understanding and managing people. For my insurance career, it was Al Klipstein, who was an agent when I was with John Hancock. His personality matched mine and I learned so much about the business from him as he was highly successful and a great source of information.

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

Building relationships with colleagues in and out of my entity is the main one. I have been able to implement important driver authorization programs for district drivers. Serving as the San Diego RIMS chapter president for two years in 2012 and 2013 and being awarded the Risk Professional of the Year designation for my chapter in 2008 are very special to me too. I have found that my sense of humor has really helped break the ice and build rapport and it makes my life and career more enjoyable.

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

I like both ACE and AIG as they are both equally high-quality carriers, with AIG returning to an important spot in the marketplace since the financial crisis.

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

Being a born optimist, I am hopeful that the free market system really gets back to the growth days we saw several decades ago.

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

Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans. My wife and I once had a meal there in the early ’90s that ended with the server pouring a liquor-based sauce for dessert on the white tablecloth and lighting it! No one got burned and it was just a wonderful dinner. I’m not sure they still do that, but it was special.

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

Cumberland Falls State Park near Corbin, Ky., has a moonbow, the only one in the Western Hemisphere. You know what a rainbow is — here there is an actual “moonbow” at night!

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

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Forcing myself to speak publicly, for someone with the fear of doing so, is very risky. It was dreadful the first few times. After that, I learned to find a few people to focus on in the front row and to make eye contact with them. If there’s a large group I will stand at the front door and introduce myself as the speaker or presenter. Now you aren’t speaking to a room of strangers; you’re not going in cold. It’s a technique that a lot of people can use.

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

Since we are an educational institution, what is most fulfilling to me is serving faculty and students in a support role and making our district a great place to learn and succeed.

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

They know I was the “insurance guy” for years and then when risk management came along they did not understand it … . At one time, I told them I was in the witness protection program and earned a good living doing that — just kidding!

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

After 20 years in the business, Navy Pier’s Director of Risk Management values her relationships in the industry more than ever.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

Working at Dominick’s Finer Foods bagging groceries. Shortly after I was hired, I was promoted to [cashier] and then to a management position. It taught me great responsibility and it helped me develop the leadership skills I still carry today.

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

While working for Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel, one of my responsibilities was to oversee the administration of claims. This led to a business relationship with the director of risk management of the organization who actually owned the property. Ultimately, a position became available in her department and the rest is history.

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

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The risk management community is doing a phenomenal job in professional development and creating great opportunities for risk managers to network. The development of relationships in this industry is vitally important and by providing opportunities for risk managers to come together and speak about their experiences and challenges is what enables many of us to be able to do our jobs even more effectively.

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

Attracting, educating and retaining young talent. There is this preconceived notion that the insurance industry and risk management are boring and there could be nothing further from the truth.

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

In my 20 years in the industry, the biggest change in risk management and the insurance industry are the various types of risk we look to insure against. Many risks that exist today were not even on our radar 20 years ago.

Gina Kirchner, director of risk management, Navy Pier Inc.

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

FM Global. They have been our property carrier for a great number of years and in my opinion are the best in the business.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?

I am optimistic that policies will be put in place with the new administration that will be good for the economy and business.

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

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The commercial risks that are of most concern to me are cyber risks, business interruption, and any form of a health epidemic on a global scale. We are dealing with new exposures and new risks that we are truly not ready for.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My mother has played a significant role in shaping my ideals and values. She truly instilled a very strong work ethic in me. However, there are many men and women in business who have mentored me and have had a significant impact on me and my career as well.

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

I am most proud of making the decision a couple of years ago to return to school and obtain my [MBA]. It took a lot of prayer, dedication and determination to accomplish this while still working a full time job, being involved in my church, studying abroad and maintaining a household.

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

“Heaven Is For Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. I loved the book and the movie.

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

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A French restaurant in Paris, France named Les Noces de Jeannette Restaurant à Paris. It was the most amazing food and brings back such great memories.

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

Israel. My husband and I just returned a few days ago and spent time in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and Jordan. It was an absolutely amazing experience. We did everything from riding camels to taking boat rides on the Sea of Galilee to attending concerts sitting on the Temple steps. The trip was absolutely life changing.

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

Many, many years ago … I went parasailing in the Caribbean. I had a great experience and didn’t think about the risk at the time because I was young, single and free. Looking back, I don’t know that I would make the same decision today.

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

I would have to say the relationships and partnerships I have developed with insurance carriers, brokers and other professionals in the industry. To have wonderful working relationships with such a vast array of talented individuals who are so knowledgeable and to have some of those relationships develop into true friendships is very rewarding.

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

My friends and family have a general idea that my position involves claims and insurance. However, I don’t think they fully understand the magnitude of my responsibilities and the direct impact it has on my organization, which experiences more than 9 million visitors a year.




Katie Siegel is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]