The Profession

Anne-Marie Amiel

The risk manager for Columbus, Ga., discusses law enforcement liability and venturing into a coal mine at 15.
By: | December 14, 2015 • 5 min read

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R&I: What was your first job?

I worked for The Women’s Royal Naval Service — part of Britain’s Royal Navy. I was a so-called wren and worked in communications: I did coding, decoding, air traffic control, ship-to-shore communications, that sort of thing.

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

When I was still living in England I worked for a P&I club — a third party liability insurer. I was a maritime adjuster. This was back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Soon thereafter I came to America.

R&I: What precipitated the move?

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Koch Industries asked me to come to America and work for them. [They] had been one of the companies whose claims I handled in London. The company needed my maritime law expertise so they asked me to come and work in their risk management department. I was there for over two years. I got back into risk management in 2000, when I was hired by the Chesapeake, Va., public works department.

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

We’re realizing there’s a lot more to risk management than just looking at the bottom line and finding a way to incorporate into our plans the less obvious factors that lead to increased risk.

What the risk management community is doing more of, I think, is looking beyond the bottom line at things like: What are the other parts of the company or the entities doing that we can incorporate into improving safety, reducing our exposure to injuries and the costs of injuries, and asking more questions from the other parts of our organizations. One sign of that is we’ve begun talking a lot about predictive analysis, which incorporates a lot of factors that never used to be incorporated.

“We have a ‘geographic isolation’ tendency as American businesses. We tend to think that we are safe from a lot of things.”

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

That’s the other side of the coin. For those still working under the old system we used to operate by, we do need to bring more people into the wheelhouse. This is why I try to go out to other parts of the organization so I can see them in action. That helps me to identify areas we need to look at. It also helps people in the other parts of the organization to communicate with me their needs and how we can work together.

Anne-Marie Amiel, Risk Manager, Columbus Consolidated Government, Ga.

Anne-Marie Amiel, Risk Manager, Columbus Consolidated Government, Ga.

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

For public entities, law enforcement liability is one of the big issues these days. In the past year, there has been so much in the news about police and lawsuits against law enforcement. I know that is something that is concerning many public entities right now and this is going to be a big one for us as a local government.

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

CCG is basically self-insured. However, our excess coverage on workers’ comp is carried by Safety National of St. Louis, and I really like Safety National.

R&I:  How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

Most of our business is through a broker. We place our workers’ comp excess coverage through broker APEX Insurance, and we are doing property and casualty insurance through a different broker.

R&I: How do you grade the insurance industry’s response to the threat of cyber attacks?

This is a big issue for us as well. For the industry as a whole, I think it’s been a little off the mark. We have a “geographic isolation” tendency as American businesses. We tend to think that we are safe from a lot of things. For instance, look at how the U.S. credit card industry has only recently begun to catch up to what Europe is doing in terms of the upgraded security of the card.

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

In the short term, I think we are basically treading water but long-term, I am optimistic. Americans work hard and want to succeed so I think that in the long term, we will.

R&I:  Who is your mentor and why?

There have been a lot of people who come to mind but probably the key person would be my boss when I was a temporary researcher working for the Secretariat at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. He told me I could do or be anything at a time when there were no women or almost no women in my field.

R&I: What did you do there?

I was a temporary researcher working for the Secretariat. I actually prepared the documentation for the first ever European Parliamentary hearing on maritime pollution. I even got to meet Jacques Cousteau.

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

I think probably it was when I worked for a nonprofit organization that helped people uphold their constitutional rights. It was for people who couldn’t afford expensive lawyers.

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

The Chop House in London.

R&I:  What is your favorite drink?

Peach Bellini.

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

It’s a hard question since I have been around the world since I was 15. Probably New Zealand, because there is a bit of every country in the world in New Zealand in terms of its landscape and weather.

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

Probably going down into a coal mine, which happened to be in New Zealand. It was an educational expedition. I was only about 15 at the time and in the summers we went on wonderful field trips with my school and I got to pan for gold and all sorts of wonderful things.

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

Our military. They risk their lives to save ours and to keep us free.

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

I get to help our employees recover their health and get fit while at the same time saving the taxpayers money.

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

They think I try to make things safer for our employees, that I talk to a lot of unhappy people, and that I’m always trying to save money!

Janet Aschkenasy is a freelance financial writer based in New York. 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]