Risk Management

The Profession

William Getreuer started in risk management dealing with claims from Three Mile Island.
By: | June 2, 2014

R&I: What was your first job?

My first job as a teenager, in New City, N.Y., was a landscaper. My first job after I graduated from college was an auto property claims handler at Allstate Insurance in Bardonia, N.Y. Some of my high school friends worked there, which made it special. But even more important, it gave me the best training for my career. I still pick up the phone after the first ring!

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

As a broker, I worked on the property claims, emanating from Three Mile Island, and as a result, I got to know the risk manager at GPU (the former owners of Three Mile Island). A position opened up at GPU in Parsippany, N.J., and I took it.

William Getreuer, director, corporate insurance group, Pfizer Inc.

William Getreuer,
director, corporate insurance group, Pfizer Inc.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

Being proactive and protecting the company’s assets from unforeseen events. We also keep on top of industry and economic developments.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Better educating the public about what we do. Risk managers need to be seen as more than just number crunchers. People need to know that our roles go beyond purchasing insurance. In fact, non-insurance solutions to risk and loss control are now a large part of our function. In addition, we need to demonstrate that our jobs are very interesting — especially to high school and college students.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Philadelphia 2013. The venue was terrific and easy to access, and the conference was incredibly well organized. Oh, and we had a heat wave in April!

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, and non-insurance solutions to risk and loss now being a bigger part of our job than purchasing insurance traditionally was.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

Cyber liability, terrorism and political risk, especially in areas such as Russia, Ukraine and Venezuela.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

While I work with a number of very good carriers, both Chubb and Liberty Mutual continue to deliver the best service.

R6-14p42_Profession.inddR&I: How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

All of our insurance purchasing business is brokered.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

No, I believe the topic of contingent commission is underemphasized and deserves some more discussion.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

John Marinan (deceased) someone I worked with at AIG, who subsequently lured me over to the brokerage side and got me involved with the Three Mile Island claims. He was a retired marine who sustained severe facial and hip injuries in combat during the Korean War. He was an incredible manager who gave his subordinates as much decision making authority as they could handle. He absolutely loved to share his knowledge with his subordinates and he also had an incredible gift of reading people.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

Paying off the mortgage, surviving two teenagers and being prepared to pay for college tuitions!

R&I: How many emails do you get in a day?

At least 100.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Holocaust. Both reading the book and watching the movie were incredible experiences, especially as I’m the son of a Holocaust survivor.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Windows on the World (at the top of the old World Trade Center). I ate there for the last time two weeks before 9/11/01.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

My preference is red wine, particularly pinot noir.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

Prague. My father’s family is from there, and it’s an absolute miracle that it survived intact, both from World War II and from all the years under Communist rule.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Mixing chemicals while employed at Avon in Suffern, N.Y. I got the job through a friend of mine, and fortunately, it didn’t last too long!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Colin Powell, a four-star African American general and Secretary of State who rose from meager beginnings to achieve a successful career. Ironically, we were born only a few blocks from each other, in Manhattan.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Most people don’t understand that we help not only our own employees but also third parties when adversity strikes. We make sure that proper medical care and financial assistance are available and provided on a timely basis. And for our enterprises, we make sure that every available resource is accessed to get us up and running after a disruption.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They don’t have a clue! It runs the gamut from making drugs to working at this mysterious office near the United Nations.

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected].

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