Sometimes risk management is as much about communication as it is about buying insurance. At a company as large as Cisco Systems Inc. — with a market cap of $50 billion and more than 70,000 employees in 80 countries — that involves a lot of dialogue.
Or ought to, anyway. But historically, not many risk conversations had taken place across Cisco’s operational units. Leslie Lamb, director of global risk & resiliency management (GRRM) at Cisco, and her team of three set out to have every one of those necessary conversations.
To appreciate the determination it took, let’s consider that previously, Lamb’s department worked with brokers and legal counsel to understand and apply coverages to “perceived risks.”
Sure, brokers helped by providing benchmarking against peers. But often, decisions were based on “information in the annual report, internal website and in some cases, informal internal meetings,” said Cisco’s Senior Manager of Treasury Tom Bandoni.
“While we touched base with the business units, we didn’t have the deeper discussions with them to better understand the risks or to explain what is/is not covered under our insurance policies,” Lamb explained.
“This created a gap on our side of really understanding the risks and on the business unit’s side of not even knowing there was insurance and/or understanding what is covered.”
Lamb and team set out to break down barriers about five years ago. They called their efforts “Risk ID meetings,” essentially formal meetings with the functional senior leaders and their staffs.
From its side of the table, Lamb’s department explained what coverages may be relevant for a unit and how the insurance would respond in the event of a claim; from the other side of the table, the functional team explained what they do and what risks they face.
The result was a dialogue about exposures, risk scenarios and how best to mitigate them.
For some Cisco business units, this may have been the first serious discussion of risk they had. As Lamb recalled, one business head they met didn’t even know her team existed.
But that initial meeting, like many of the Risk ID meetings, led to subsequent conversations and progress on risk management — new collaborative projects and other attempts to strategically and proactively address exposures.
The wealth of information and understanding gained through these meetings also now find their way to Cisco’s brokers and underwriters.
“One of the most beneficial outcomes of these reviews is they allow Marsh to convey to the underwriters a knowledgeable insight of Cisco’s operations and confidence that there is a strong awareness throughout Cisco regarding the need to understand and manage risks,” said Graham Rickard, client executive at Marsh responsible for the Cisco account.
“As a consequence, underwriters continue to be enthusiastic about the risk, which leads to sustainable, broad protection,” he said.
Lamb said every meeting leads her team to learning something new and allowing them to better align coverages with exposures. Better yet, business leaders across the enterprise are aware of her team and risk in general.
“I think the most important thing we’ve derived from the Risk ID meetings has been the discussion around risk. Now more people, internally, are aware of the risks and also of what coverage is/is not in place,” Lamb said.
Leslie is also being recognized as a 2014 Responsibility Leader.
Worth Her Weight in Gold
The company Leslie Lamb works for has more than 75,000 employees and $100 billion in assets.
It can’t have been easy to go to company leadership and say that you want to conduct risk meetings with each department, to get a better understanding of not only each department’s risk but how risk straddles the entire company.Imagine the amount of work involved to break down department silos and gain a better understanding of risk on a department by department basis.
But that’s what Leslie Lamb and her risk management team of three did.
Senior leaders who didn’t before are now talking to one another about risk as a result of Lamb’s drive to unify all stakeholders.
The result is a sharing of information about exposures, risk scenarios and how best to mitigate them.
Because of Lamb’s leadership, Cisco can take to its underwriters a story that is far more educated and nuanced. Underwriters like that; they like it very much.
As a Responsibility Leader® and winner of a Risk All Stars Award, Leslie gets a plaque and mention in this magazine. But to the company that employs her, she is worth her weight in gold.
Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.
Responsibility Leaders overcome obstacles by doing the right thing over the easy thing to find practical solutions that benefit their co-workers and community.