Column: Roger's Soapbox

The Thought Police

By: | August 4, 2014 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

I wish to make a statement about political correctness. What does that have to do with insurance, you ask? To my mind, everything has something to do with insurance, because anything that affects people affects insurance people, who are often, when all is said and done, people.

“Political correctness gone mad.” How often have you heard that phrase? The best definition of PC I’ve ever come across was written by journalist and author Paul Johnson:

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“[It] is invented and enforced … by members of the lower-middle classes with official positions and leftist leanings — municipal librarians, state school teachers, minor employees in central and local government. It is primarily a system of verbal and written censorship, banning all words and expressions likely to ‘cause offence.’

“It is,” Johnson added, “the most comprehensive system of censorship since the days of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.”

Some examples of PC in action: A driver in England was arrested for “revving his car engine in a racist manner.” He had stopped at a traffic light. He was white, some nearby pedestrians, black.

Elsewhere, a man was arrested and held for saying to a mounted police officer: “Your horse is a bit gay.”

A college professor was fired for using the word “niggardly.” The word, the root of which is Scandinavian, means “stingy.” No matter, someone got offended so he’s out.

An angry crowd beat senseless a pediatrician because they thought the word synonymous with pedophile. Sheer ignorance at work there more than political correctness, but it speaks to the moment.

Last month, a church poster stating that unrepentant sinners go to hell was forcibly removed by police. Unable to find any illegality in the poster, they recorded the act of putting it up as a “hate crime.”

Cohabiting in infamy next door to the n-word is now the g-word. The British Broadcasting Corp. last month banned the use of the word “girl” lest it caused offense. Bowdlerizing words merely draws attention to them. We all know what the n-word is; some of us understand that, in its use, context is king. To ban something is to add to its allure.

Rules intended to achieve diversity among the community have resulted in its direct opposite: uniformity of expression.

In the inspirational sentence (wrongly attributed to Voltaire), “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” the second half of the sentence has been replaced by “and the expression of your thoughts, since they disagree with mine, will result in your imprisonment.”

Most of the foregoing examples happened in the UK, all within the past three or four years. We are, dear reader, on the highway to, er, a place where it’s intolerably hot and everyone is extremely miserable. No, not Bermuda.

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As I said, these matters may not directly affect insurers yet, other than in their capacity as human beings, but sooner or later, someone will accuse the industry of discrimination and the walls will fall.

Oh, wait. It’s already happened. European motor insurers may no longer discriminate between male and female drivers. Their inability to use valuable data on the differences in driving habits between the two groups raised premiums across the board. Ignominy was subsequently piled on the industry.

The road to the h-word is paved with good intentions. It is to that very place that political correctness will assign us.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2018 Risk All Stars

Stop Mitigating Risk. Start Conquering It Like These 2018 Risk All Stars

The concept of risk mastery and ownership, as displayed by the 2018 Risk All Stars, includes not simply seeking to control outcomes but taking full responsibility for them.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 3 min read

People talk a lot about how risk managers can get a seat at the table. The discussion implies that the risk manager is an outsider, striving to get the ear or the attention of an insider, the CEO or CFO.

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But there are risk managers who go about things in a different way. And the 2018 Risk All Stars are prime examples of that.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Goodyear’s Craig Melnick had only been with the global tire maker a few months when Hurricane Harvey dumped a record amount of rainfall on Houston.

Brilliant communication between Melnick and his new teammates gave him timely and valuable updates on the condition of manufacturing locations. Melnick remained in Akron, mastering the situation by moving inventory out of the storm’s path and making sure remediation crews were lined up ahead of time to give Goodyear its best leg up once the storm passed and the flood waters receded.

Goodyear’s resiliency in the face of the storm gave it credibility when it went to the insurance markets later that year for renewals. And here is where we hear a key phrase, produced by Kevin Garvey, one of Goodyear’s brokers at Aon.

“The markets always appreciate a risk manager who demonstrates ownership,” Garvey said, in what may be something of an understatement.

These risk managers put in gear their passion, creativity and perseverance to become masters of a situation, pushing aside any notion that they are anything other than key players.

Dianne Howard, a 2018 Risk All Star and the director of benefits and risk management for the Palm Beach County School District, achieved ownership of $50 million in property storm exposures for the district.

With FEMA saying it wouldn’t pay again for district storm losses it had already paid for, Howard went to the London markets and was successful in getting coverage. She also hammered out a deal in London that would partially reimburse the district if it suffered a mass shooting and needed to demolish a building, like what happened at Sandy Hook in Connecticut.

2018 Risk All Star Jim Cunningham was well-versed enough to know what traditional risk management theories would say when hospitality workers were suffering too many kitchen cuts. “Put a cut-prevention plan in place,” is the traditional wisdom.

But Cunningham, the vice president of risk management for the gaming company Pinnacle Entertainment, wasn’t satisfied with what looked to him like a Band-Aid approach.

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Instead, he used predictive analytics, depending on his own team to assemble company-specific data, to determine which safety measures should be used company wide. The result? Claims frequency at the company dropped 60 percent in the first year of his program.

Alumine Bellone, a 2018 Risk All Star and the vice president of risk management for Ardent Health Services, faced an overwhelming task: Create a uniform risk management program when her hospital group grew from 14 hospitals in three states to 31 hospitals in seven.

Bellone owned the situation by visiting each facility right before the acquisition and again right after, to make sure each caregiving population was ready to integrate into a standardized risk management system.

After consolidating insurance policies, Bellone achieved $893,000 in synergies.

In each of these cases, and in more on the following pages, we see examples of risk managers who weren’t just knocking on the door; they were owning the room. &

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

See the complete list of 2018 Risk All Stars.

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