2014 Risk All Star: Leslie Lamb

Cross Talk

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.

Leslie Lamb, director of global risk & resiliency management (GRRM), Cisco

Leslie Lamb, director of global risk & resiliency management (GRRM), Cisco

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.

Responsibility Leader

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.


350px_allstarRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.

See the complete list of 2014 Risk All Stars.

Responsibility Leaders overcome obstacles by doing the right thing over the easy thing to find  practical solutions that benefit their co-workers and community.

Read more about the 2014 Responsibility Leaders.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

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