2017 Risk All Star: Michelle Bennett

The Right Connections

From her co-worker Eric Lardy’s perspective, one of Michelle Bennett’s most winning traits is her ability to build relationships and use them to strengthen risk management.

Michelle Bennett, director of risk management, Cable One

“One of her advantages is that she really knows how to create personal networks. And that’s something that I didn’t have to foster; it’s innate with Michelle.

“She created good and strong relationships throughout the company,” said Lardy, a senior vice president with Phoenix-based Cable One.

As the sole risk manager for a cable company that was spun off from Graham Holdings in late 2015, Bennett was smart to focus on relationships; she was going to need them because she faced a host of challenges.

One of her first challenges is that she inherited a risk management program that she knew she’d have to make adjustments to if it was going to better fit the new operation.

“What I inherited was your Dad’s size 50 suit and you are a freshman in college and you wear a 32,” she said.

Banking on her relationship skills, Bennett set about identifying strategic partners that were going to be able to help her streamline Cable One’s risk management approach.

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Eventually that meant changing brokers, but Bennett was thoughtful and diplomatic in making that change. She had to know when to make a move and when to stand pat.

“The challenge is in knowing when to play that card and when to sit back,” she said.

Bennett’s changes worked, she cut premium costs from the company and added to net income as a result.

She also faced a vendor relationship challenge. Cable One serves populations in underserved areas like Mississippi and Idaho. Making sure vendors are financially viable and can deliver needed services was a key concern.

So, again using her relationship talents. Bennett began the process of educating various business leaders throughout the company on the need to vet vendors in order to avoid credit and supply chain risks.

“What I inherited was your Dad’s size 50 suit and you are a freshman in college and you wear a 32.” — Michelle Bennett, director of risk management, Cable One

Initially it took some time for department heads to understand what Bennett was driving at. But in the end, the process helped the business units understand the “why” of the perceived risk, as well as the importance of demanding certain coverages and endorsements before approving a vendor.

“For me, that’s half the battle,” Bennett said. “If you can explain the ‘why,’ then the buy-in is going to be easier.”

In essence, Bennett, operating as a one-woman risk management department, is bringing culture change to her entire company.

That includes the concept of enterprise risk management, which she is in the process of implementing at Cable One.

“She is bringing to us a more formalized vision of risk,” Lardy said. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Emerging Multipliers

It’s not that these risks are new; it’s that they’re coming at you at a volume and rate you never imagined before.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 3 min read

Underwriters have plenty to worry about, but there is one word that perhaps rattles them more than any other word. That word is aggregation.

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Aggregation, in the transferred or covered risk usage, represents the multiplying potential of a risk. For examples, we can look back to the asbestos claims that did so much damage to Lloyds’ of London names and syndicates in the mid-1990s.

More recently, underwriters expressed fears about the aggregation of risk from lawsuits by football players at various levels of the sport. Players, from Pee Wee on up to the NFL, claim to have suffered irreversible brain damage from hits to the head.

That risk scenario has yet to fully play out — it will be decades in doing so — but it is already producing claims in the billions.

This year’s edition of our national-award winning coverage of the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks focuses on risks that have always existed. The emergent — and more dangerous — piece to the puzzle is that these risks are now super-charged with risk multipliers.

Take reputational risk, for example. Businesses and individuals that were sharply managed have always protected their reputations fiercely. In days past, a lapse in ethics or morals could be extremely damaging to one’s reputation, but it might take days, weeks, even years of work by newspaper reporters, idle gossips or political enemies to dig it out and make it public.

Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

These days, the speed at which Internet connectedness and social media can spread information makes reputational risk an existential threat. Information that can stop a glittering career dead in its tracks can be shared by millions with a casual, thoughtless tap or swipe on their smartphones.

Aggregation of uninsured risk is another area of focus of our Most Dangerous Emerging Risks (MDER) coverage.

The beauty of the insurance model is that the business expands to cover personal and commercial risks as the world expands. The more cars on the planet, the more car insurance to sell.

The more people, the more life insurance. Brand new technologies, brand new commercial covers. It all works well; until it doesn’t.

As Risk & Insurance® associate editor Michelle Kerr and her sources point out, growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, threaten to push the insurance coverage gap to critical levels.

This aggregation of uninsured value got a recent proof in CAT-filled 2017. The global tally for natural disaster losses in 2017 was $330 billion; 60 percent of it was uninsured.

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This uninsured gap threatens to place unsustainable pressure on public resources and hamstring society’s ability to respond to natural disasters, which show no sign of slowing down or tempering.

A related threat, the combination of a failing infrastructure and increasing storm severity, marks our third MDER. This MDER looks at the largely uninsurable risk of business interruption that results not from damage to your property or your suppliers’ property, but to publicly maintained infrastructure that provides ingress and egress to your property. It’s a danger coming into shape more and more frequently.

As always, our goal in writing about these threats is not to engage in fear mongering. It’s to initiate and expand a dialogue that can hopefully result in better planning and mitigation, saving the lives and limbs of businesses here and around the world.

2018 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Critical Coverage Gap

Growing populations and rising property values, combined with an increase in high-severity catastrophes, are pushing the insurance protection gap to a critical level.

Climate Change as a Business Interruption Multiplier

Crumbling roads and bridges isolate companies and trigger business interruption losses.

 

Reputation’s Existential Threat

Social media — the very tool used to connect people in an instant — can threaten a business’s reputation just as quickly.

 

AI as a Risk Multiplier

AI has potential, but it comes with risks. Mitigating these risks helps insurers and insureds alike, enabling advances in almost every field.

 

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]