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 • 4 min read
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]

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]