Risk Management

The Profession

Sandra Little of the Bar-S Foods Co. talks about the diligence needed to prevent product recalls and the fascination of people-watching.
By: | November 2, 2015

R&I: What was your first job?

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My first job ever was for the Newark Star Ledger. I used to deliver papers in the morning before school. I was probably about 12 years old.

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

I was working in the liability claims area in New Jersey and Delaware for ESIS, a TPA that is part of ACE. Then when I came to Arizona I worked for a couple of excess and surplus insurance companies in the claims area. I just got to the point where I was looking for a change but wanted to be able to use my claims skills and risk management seemed to be a perfect fit.

R&I: Where did you start out?

My first risk management position was with Elizabeth Arden Spas, where I began working in 2006. I stayed on until 2013.

Sandra Little, manager, enterprise risk, Bar-S Foods Co.

Sandra Little, manager, enterprise risk, Bar-S Foods Co.

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

I think we’re creating visibility for ourselves by demonstrating vision and value. In my view, risk management is the blending of science and art. You’ve got to be creative in how you approach everyday challenges, but then you have to translate information into concrete numbers to provide to the financial side of the business, again establishing value. That is really a great part of what we do.

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

I think we could do a better job at establishing support and purpose for risk management education at the university level. There are some programs out there, and I think we could do more to promote existing ones and to create new ones.

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

Being in the food manufacturing business, we are always very aware of contamination issues. We’ve seen a lot of recalls this year with a variety of different things involving produce, ice cream, hummus and more. I think that the risk management community and insurance industry must remain diligent in efforts to maintain effective supply chains and distribution channels.

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

The one I have the highest opinion of is the one that responds when I have a problem. Our organization is so large and complex that when I have a problem I need someone who can address the scope of what my risk is. It could be AIG, or ACE, Travelers, Liberty or virtually any commercial insurer that has depth and resources.

112015_profession_sidebarR&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I’m going to say optimistic. I’m generally a “less regulation” person, so I think if companies had the benefit of having less regulation, in a general context, we could be doing even better.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Actually many of the people I’ve met through RIMS have been mentors to me. But I want to particularly mention two women, the first being Lynn Lovell, who has been a mentor for me since I entered the risk management community. She is a risk manager and an educator and does a lot of in-person and online teaching. I would also mention a woman by the name of Jackie Wanta, who is a construction account manager for broker Lovitt & Touché. I met her through Lynn and she lives down the street from me so we spend a lot of time talking about industry topics. She is also a former president of the “Big I” (Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America) here in Arizona.

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

I have two things to mention: I trained for and ran a half-marathon a few years back. It was one of those things I just thought I’d never be able to do. Also the completion of my MBA. Those two things really gave me the ability to understand that I could accomplish whatever I wanted and that led me to the place I am today.

I like this work because it’s different every day. You don’t know what’s going to happen or the challenges you’re going to be handed on any given day.

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

There is a steak house here in Scottsdale called City Hall. I really enjoy that restaurant because the food is simple but so well done that it’s exquisite.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

I really had to think about this one: It’s my morning coffee! After that, its probably water. But I just love the experience of coffee in the morning.

R&I: What is the most unusual or interesting places you have ever visited?

I haven’t travelled too much outside of the United States, so I would have to say Times Square and Las Vegas. In both places, particularly Times Square, you just see every range of person in just about every point in their life, with every type of emotion that you could imagine. It’s just fascinating to watch those people.

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

Inviting two of my nieces to move in with me when they were trying to launch their careers after graduating college. It’s so important to have a mentor and a support system at that stage since it will impact the rest of that person’s life. I took that vocation very seriously because I was aware of how I could impact these girls.

R&I: What do they do now?

One is about to become a senior accountant for a company called SilverRock. The other is an accounting assistant for broker Risk Placement Services in Scottsdale.

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

At the risk of sounding cliché I think it’s the military, the police and the firefighters. These people put their lives on the line every day and yet are so humble, and ask for so little in return.

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

I like this work because it’s different every day. You don’t know what’s going to happen or the challenges you’re going to be handed on any given day.

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

I don’t think they know what I do. They do know I am a great reference for insurance-related questions, but unless they are industry people, I don’t think they know what I do.

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. She can be reached at [email protected]

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