Risk Management

The Profession

The VP of risk management for the Tutor Perini Corp. understands the value of risk management for a company’s long-term success.
By: | April 8, 2015
Topics: April 2015 Issue | ERM

R&I: What was your first job?

I was hired at a local bank in Chicago as the first person to go through their new management-training program. I worked in all of the major areas of the bank and ended up in the controller’s office.

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

Over time, I have held all of the major financial positions — I was controller at North Park College, treasurer at Bank Western, and CFO at Adwest Minerals International — a gold mining company.

In each of those positions I managed various elements of risk management. My focus became full time when Mary Gardner hired me into risk management, finance, insurance and claims, at MediaOne during the 1990s and I have enjoyed the job ever since.

R6-14p42_Profession.inddR&I:  What is the risk management community doing right?

When the community started to see itself as an asset to their companies rather than just a cost center, the real value of risk management started to come into focus. Today’s risk managers are pulling together various elements of risk and creating profit centers for their corporations.

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

For me, I need to continue to focus on our partnership with the safety team — project executives that have the most influence on their job site — and to look for trending data to support the various business units.

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

Most people will say San Diego and I would not disagree.

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

Rather than a “fire and forget” [i.e., buy your corporate policy once a year and never look back] tool, risk management is an active partner around the CEO’s table.

R&I:  Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?


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

Some of our London placements are direct — otherwise we use our broker to our fullest advantage.

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

The risks of cyber security and the rise of tribalism, which is unsettling communities and country borders.  A return to a Cold War is also a very real risk. We pulled most of our operations out of several Middle Eastern countries for these reasons.

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

Optimistic. We have a growing economy, relatively secure borders, and we are close to having an immigration policy.

R&I:  Who is your mentor and why?

I mentioned Mary Gardner, director of risk management, finance insurance and claims with the former Media One in an earlier answer.  She took the time to teach me the important aspects of what we were doing and also gave me an opportunity to learn and grow. That’s the definition of a mentor.

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

Personally: my marriage and our three daughters.  In my professional life, it is those that I was able to support and mentor in the various roles I have been entrusted with.

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

Plus or minus 100.

R&I:  How many do you answer?

Probably 20 or 30. I have several risk managers that work for me around the country and they frequently copy me on emails to keep me apprised as to what is going on at the firm.

Bill Buchan, vice president, risk management, Tutor Perrini Corp.

Bill Buchan, vice president, risk management, Tutor Perini Corp.

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

The last movie I watched was “Fury.” A guy movie to be sure, but the sub-story to the tank battles was “what does it take to build a team?”

In this case, in a tank in the middle of World War II, it was the statement that “I promise to get each of my men home safely,” even though the reality of death was all around them.

I have often told people I was recruiting that I would take the first bullet for them. People have a need and a desire to know that managers and co-workers will stand with them in both good and hard times.

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

I like pizza — so most pizza places are on this list.

R&I:  What is your favorite drink?

I live in Sonoma — so I need to say wine!

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

Cambodia, about 10 years ago. The border had just opened up with Thailand and we were on a guided tour and visited Angkor Wat, which had been a large thriving city containing many religious and ceremonial buildings.

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

A high ropes course in Ecuador.

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

The world has many heroes. We just need to look around us — they are everywhere.

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

When all of the construction crews go home at night to their families.

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

I’ve had a few careers and right now they would say I buy insurance and handle claims.

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

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