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

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