The Profession

Paul Piazza

Paul Piazza of Honeywell International Inc. takes pride in protecting his company from all exposures — and being the master of the thermostat at home.
By: | April 4, 2016 • 6 min read

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R&I: What was your first job?

At 15, I worked as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant. I was eager to earn money to save for a car. After months of saving and countless clean plates, I finally purchased my first car from a retired New York City police officer. Little detail was paid to the fact that it was likely a used squad car since it came equipped with the shiny cage between the front and back seats. Dates were interesting.

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

I was an underwriter for a major insurance carrier. I traveled to Boston to attend a seminar where a Risk Manager was giving a presentation.

I was intrigued by Risk Management; it seemed like an opportunity to have exposure to all aspects of the insurance industry – claims, litigation, risk and underwriting. I didn’t want to limit myself to one area of insurance, so I decided to pursue a career in the Risk Management field.

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

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There are many positive developments in risk management. Recognition from the C-Suites has helped foster a strong environment for growth. Additionally, senior management has demonstrated a genuine interest in not only what we do, but how we can have a major financial impact on our corporations.

R&I: What could it be doing a better job of?

There is always room for growth. When I attended college, I did not really appreciate a possible career in Risk Management. I think we could do a better job at attracting candidates and exposure to the Risk Management field at the collegiate level.

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

Los Angeles. It’s a triple threat: location, weather and endless opportunities.

“Working with risks for the aerospace, oil and gas, chemical and automated control businesses — to name a few — is extremely challenging and rewarding.”

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

The position is now recognized much more as a financial function as opposed to a human resources or legal function. Risk managers have more direct exposure to CFOs, treasurers and controllers.

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

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Cyber risk, social phishing, and terrorism are all major risks. It’s an unpredictable world, and it’s a 24-hour job to ensure that I’m protecting my company’s assets and managing its exposures.

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

I have a high opinion of several carriers, and it would be difficult to choose, since each specializes in their own field. I always look for strength in customer service; and the ability to underwrite the tough risks.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

Not in my opinion. I believe that all financial transactions should be as transparent as possible. We compensate our brokers directly, and contingent commission is not acceptable in our insurance placements.

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

I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the US economy. History has taught us that our financial economy can survive and flourish after major lifetime events.

“I had the opportunity to drive a professional race car at the Dover Speedway in Delaware.”

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Agnes Woros was the former director of risk management for Barnes & Noble. Agnes was a tremendous mentor when I started in the risk management field. She taught me how to manage the markets and take calculated risks. Ironically it was Agnes who recommended that I accept the position at Honeywell. Best career advice to date.

R&I: What is about Honeywell that makes working there so great?

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There are numerous reasons why I relish the opportunity to work at Honeywell. Consistently, out of any major conglomerate around the world, Honeywell has one of the most diverse listings of products and exposures. Working with risks for the aerospace, oil and gas, chemical and automated control businesses — to name a few — is extremely challenging and rewarding.

R&I: What accomplishment are you proudest of?

My family. A career in risk management would not be possible without their support. Also when I was promoted to vice president of risk management at Honeywell. I am also very proud of our risk management team.

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

On average, I receive about 120 to 200 emails a day. I strive to answer 75 percent of those, or until the charge on my iPhone wears out.

“The physicians who volunteer for Doctors without Borders are heroes.”

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

I have a 12-year-old son who was assigned “Catcher in the Rye” as a required reading. I dusted off my copy as well. It is amazing what you can learn reading it again as an adult.

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

Il Mulino’s in New York City.

R&I: What’s your favorite drink?

Chianti or a Super Tuscan wine from the Tuscany region in Italy.

R&I: What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited?

The Costa Rican rainforest. I was on my honeymoon and it was the only activity I choose and well worth it.

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

I had the opportunity to drive a professional race car at the Dover Speedway in Delaware.

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

The physicians who volunteer for Doctors without Borders are heroes. They deliver medical aid to countries in the midst of financial and social turmoil. These doctors are the true risk managers. They risk their own lives to save others and help solve world health crises.

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

Most of my friends and family think I work as a financial executive for Honeywell. If you were to ask my kids, I’m the person who knows how to fix the thermostat. It’s programmable, and this winter, my daughter insists on setting it to 74 degrees. Inevitably, I have to reprogram the system. She insists that “Dad knows how to fix the thermostat because he works at Honeywell.”




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.

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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]