Risk Management

The Profession

Foster Farms’ director, corporate treasurer knows that risk managers need to graduate from a “necessary evil” to a true business partner in their companies.
By: | August 31, 2016 • 4 min read

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R&I: What was your first job?

I first started working in high school scanning accounts payable invoices and washing cars on the side. I consider my first career job to be when I graduated college as an internal auditor.

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

Just natural career progression. Parts of risk management have been a function of my positions throughout my career and even more integrated into my current position at Foster Farms.

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

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Using data to better understand and assess risk, which I think is making the overall process more efficient and cost effective.

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

I think we need to continue progressing as a value-added partner to the business and support for the C-suite. As an internal auditor for a large public company, we spent a lot of time improving our processes and procedures to show that we were a business partner and not a “necessary evil.” As risk managers, we can bring a lot to the table and are an important part of the business’ success and sustainability.

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

Expectation and flexibility. I think the expectation of risk management has continued to evolve and the role has continued to expand, especially as we continue to push for becoming a stronger business partner. I’ve also continued to see more flexibility with the insurance carriers in structuring programs to meet the individual needs of the business and key risks. There is more of a partnership between the carriers and the business in managing the risk and developing strong programs.

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

Right now, I am most concerned about increasing regulatory and social risk. The evolving USDA standards and requirements on food companies, along with the consumers’ expectations and how quickly they can influence new trends and social movements are both challenges for us.

“I like to question the processes, procedures and challenge the status quo, which has generated savings and overall improvements for the company.”

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

That varies by line of coverage. Based on more recent changes, SwissRe and Zurich have been great partners for us and continue to hold lead positions on different programs when others were exiting the space. They both continue to participate in various programs and support our business.

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

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We work 100 percent with a broker.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

I think so. It seems a lot of controversy comes from the thought that brokers may not be making the best decision for policyholders when placing coverage in order to earn additional commission. But if the risk manager stays involved in the annual renewal process and is the ultimate decision-maker, I think the risk is minimized.

I generally require a marketing of our programs every year and review both pricing and coverage options, and instruct our broker where to place business. If that decision happens to earn the broker some additional commission from the volume, it doesn’t really cause concern for me.

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

I am optimistic for the longer term given the resiliency of the U.S. economy, but a little pessimistic for the shorter term. There are big decisions coming down the pipeline that are dividing the nation, and who knows how the markets and economy will react once the dust settles.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Jana Owens, my first boss out of college. She really helped formulate my attitude toward business, developing relationships and setting goals to become better. We still keep in contact and have worked off and on together over the years.

R&I: What accomplishment are you proudest of?

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From a career standpoint, I’m happy that I have always been able to find ways to improve the areas I have been given responsibility over. I like to question the processes, procedures and challenge the status quo, which has generated savings and overall improvements for the company.

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

Generally over 100 emails. That number will quadruple when I take a vacation, because for some reason everything happens when you try and take a day off.

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

There is a little place called Frisco Deli in Jackson, Miss., that has the best ribs. It was a surprise because there are a lot of sandwiches on the menu, hence deli in the name, but the ribs are amazing and it’s a must stop when I am in the area.

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

That’s a good question. They think I am always out having fun, so they have a lot to learn!




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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.

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Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.

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Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &

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More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.

 

Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.

 

Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

 

Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.

 

Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.

 

Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.

 

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]