Risk All Star: Simon Argent

Country Credit Risk Guru

When Argentina’s economy sank into a severe depression in 1998 and stayed there until 2002, business leaders everywhere realized they needed a better way to understand global credit and country risk.

Simon Argent, senior vice president and head of credit risk management, XL Catlin

XL Insurance, now known as XL Catlin, started working on the challenge and is still at it. Simon Argent, the company’s senior vice president and head of credit risk management, heads a team that created a global credit and country risk aggregation framework.

The framework, created using a mixture of vendor models and proprietary platforms, gives insurance and reinsurance leaders in all of XL Catlin’s businesses a much better look at where they should consider growing their businesses. It also lets them know where they should be moving more conservatively.

“We realized that we needed to be as competent in this space as we were in dealing with natural catastrophes such as fires and earthquakes,” Argent said.

He describes the framework as a “living, breathing thing,” that stays vibrant due to transparent communication between XL Catlin’s various business leaders across the globe and those charged with understanding and managing the company’s enterprise risk.

“When it works, the sum is greater than its parts,” Argent said of the global team of XL Catlin employees that maintains and builds the framework.

“I think we have a very good cross-section of experience and expertise and it fits nicely into all of the aspects that we manage,” Argent said.

Fid Norton, XL Catlin’s deputy chief enterprise risk officer, said the creation of the country and credit risk management framework is an example of the kind of collaboration and shared vision that leaders of XL and Catlin envisioned when the two companies merged back in 2015.

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“Fortunately, XL and Catlin had a lot in common, which is why we got together in the first place,” said Norton, who sees himself as occupying an advisory or mentoring role for those, including Argent, who are assigned responsibility for monitoring and reporting on corporate-wide credit and country risks.

“We’re proud of the way we brought teams and tools together to truly do a best of both combination,” Norton said.

“We realized that we needed to be as competent in this space as we were in dealing with natural catastrophes such as fires and earthquakes.” —Simon Argent, senior vice president and head of credit risk management, XL Catlin

Given substantial industry headwinds, i.e. declining rates for quarter on quarter now, the work Argent’s team is doing is credited with keeping XL Catlin profitable for 17 straight quarters. It’s given its various business leaders better insight into risk budgeting, portfolio optimization and whether they should get involved in new business.

For his part, Argent sounds thankful that he leads a diverse, talented team and that he gets to innovate while engaging global risks, the worries over North Korea’s missile capabilities being one of the more recent examples.

“Every year we have done something that I have looked back and been able to say, ‘Wow, that was really cool, we have done something really good there,’” Argent 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

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.

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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.

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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]