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

This senior risk manager values his role in helping Varian Medical Systems support research and technologies in the fight against cancer.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

When I was 15 years old I had a summer job working for the city of Plentywood, mowing grass in the parks and ballfields, emptying garbage cans, hauling waste to the dump, painting crosswalk lines.  A great job for a teenager but I thought getting a college degree and working in an air-conditioned office would be a good plan long term.

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

I was enrolled in the University of Montana as a general business student, and I wanted to declare a more specialized major during my sophomore year. I was working for my dad at his insurance agency over the summer, and taking new agent training coursework on property/casualty risks in my spare time, so I had an appreciation for insurance. My dad suggested I research risk management for a career, and I transferred sight unseen to the University of Georgia to enroll in their risk management program. I did an internship as a senior with the risk management department at Sulzer Medica, and they offered me a full time job.

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

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We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks. If we initiate a collaborative exercise with the risk owners — people who may have unique knowledge about that particular risk — and include a cross section of people from other corporate functions, you can do an effective job of taking the risk apart to analyze it, figure out a way to manage that exposure, and then reap the upside benefits while reducing the downside exposure. That can be done with new products and new service offerings, when there isn’t coverage available for a risk. It’s asking, is there anything we can do to reduce the risk without transferring it?

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

Cyber liability. There’s so much at stake and the bad guys are getting more resourceful every day. At Varian, our first approach is to try to make our systems and products more resilient, so we’re trying to direct resources to preventing it from happening in the first place. It’s a huge reputation risk if one of our products or systems were compromised, so we want to avoid that at all costs.

We need to do a better job of saying yes. We tend to want to say no to many risks, but there are upside benefits to some risks.

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

I’ve worked with a number of great ones over the years. We’ve enjoyed a great property insurance relationship with Zurich. Their loss control services are very valuable to us. On the umbrella liability side, it’s been great partnering with companies like Swiss Re and Berkley Life Sciences because they’ve put in the time and effort to understand our unique risk exposures.

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

One hundred percent through a broker. I view our broker as an extension of our risk management team. We benefit from each team member’s respective area of expertise and experience.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. The brokers were kind of villainized by Spitzer. I think it’s fair for brokers and insurers to make a reasonable profit, and if a portion of their profit came from contingent commissions, I’m fine with that. But I do appreciate the transparency and disclosure that came out as a result of the fiasco.

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

David Collins, Senior Manager, Risk Management, Varian Medical Systems Inc.

While we might be doing fine here in the U.S. from an economic perspective, the Middle East is a mess, and we’re living with nuclear threat from North Korea. But hope springs eternal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping saner minds prevail and our leaders throughout the world work together to make things better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My Dad got me started down the insurance and risk path. I’ve also been fortunate to work for or with a number of University of Georgia alumni who’ve been mentors for me. I’ve worked side by side with Karen Epermanis, Michael Rousseau, and Elisha Finney. And I’ve worked with Daniel Dean in his capacity as a broker.

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

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Raising my kids. I have a 15-year-old and 12-year-old, and they’re making mom and dad proud of the people they’re turning into.

On a professional level, a recent one would be the creation and implementation of our global travel risk program, which was a combined effort between security, travel and risk functions.

We have a huge team of service personnel around the world, traveling to customer sites to do maintenance and repair. We needed a way to track, monitor and communicate with them. We may need to make security arrangements or vet their lodging in some circumstances.

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

My 12-year-old son thought my job responsibilities could be summed up as a “professional worrier.” And that’s not too far off.

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

Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. Proper administration of the risk function puts the company in a better position to financially support research that improves products and capabilities, helps to educate health care providers and support cancer care in general. It means more lives saved from a terrible disease. I’m proud to contribute toward that.

When you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully treated with one of our products, it’s a powerful reward.




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