The Profession

Mike Murphy of Kennametal

This director of corporate risk management believes in the education available for risk managers, but more effort should be given to developing talent.
By: | August 29, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I worked at our family-owned neighborhood tavern from an early age. Talk about life lessons! Outside of that, my first job was as a lifeguard at the Rogers-McFeely pool in Latrobe.

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

My predecessor worked in a nearby cube and always had interesting stories. When he retired, it sounded like something that would be fun to pursue.


R&I: What is the risk management community doing right? Where could it improve?

The risk management community does a good job of providing educational and awareness opportunities, like market updates, emerging risks, best practice sharing, etc. There are many learning and networking opportunities.

There is still room for improvement in developing talent; I see movement in that direction, but we could do a better job of communicating the opportunities in the industry.

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

Certainly technology improvements that enable risk managers to be more effective and efficient. Also, the change in image of risk managers from the stereotypical “insurance and claims guys” to business partners.

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

Cyber liability exposures in the manufacturing environment and keeping pace with change, especially with the advent of the Internet of Things.

Mike Murphy, Director, Corporate Risk Management

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My first manager, Rob Hohn. Rob continually challenged me to drive improvements in the risk management function, which positioned me for the path forward.

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

Philadelphia. It is the easiest place to get around.

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

This is a “we” accomplishment. I am most proud of Kennametal’s first quartile TCOR per sales performance, largely driven by a 75 percent reduction in workers’ compensation costs. Kennametal has a relentless
and unwavering commitment to safety.

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

Risk management is literally dealing with something different every day. I enjoy the challenges that present themselves every day, and I enjoy the relationships with insurance carriers, brokers and fellow team members from around the globe.

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


Too many. I get between 100 to 150 emails per day. I answer between 70 to 80.

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

Sentry Insurance. They have been a consistent, dependable long-term partner that understands Kennametal.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

Optimistic, because of general macroeconomic conditions and changes to the tax laws. Once we get the tariff issues sorted out, it is full speed ahead.

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

My heroes are the men and women of our armed services who sacrifice every day so that we can live the lives that we do.

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

My various responsibilities at Kennametal have afforded me the opportunity to travel the world and see many interesting and beautiful places. Among my favorites are Ireland, Israel and China.

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

Walking along the Israel-Lebanon border where it converges with the Mediterranean Sea. I’m not sure if it was risky, but it felt like it.


R&I: What is your favorite movie?

Top five movies: The Godfather, Godfather II, Shawshank Redemption, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and any of the Bourne series.

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

LeVel 33 in Singapore, a microbrewery with fantastic views of the skyline.

R&I: Favorite drink?

Beer. I enjoy different microbrews, almost all of which pair well with pizza.

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

They are not sure, but they know that I like what I do. If they were forced to respond it would be “insurance stuff,” but they don’t firmly grasp all that I am responsible for as a risk manager.

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

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]