The Profession

Susan Hiteshew

Susan Hiteshew embraces the dynamic nature of her role and says the risk management community must put increased focus on integrating high-level concepts into day to day operations.
By: | October 3, 2017

R&I: What was your first job?

I worked for Travelers right out of college in the Special Liability Group. My first job in general was working at a horse farm, taking English riding lessons, mucking stalls and doing other fun manual labor. I was riding competitively until I started having kids. Hopefully, I’ll be back at it after baby number three gets here. I was also a wrangler on a dude ranch one summer in college.

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

I enjoyed working on the claims side at Travelers, but I never really got to see things full circle or be involved in any preventative or loss control measures that happen pre-claim. I was getting my MBA and researching roles that would allow me to use my insurance knowledge as well as [my] finance skills, and I landed on risk management. I … was super fortunate to find this position at Under Armour. They took a chance on me and let me run risk financing for what was then a $1 billion company. We’ll be at $5 billion in revenue this year. It’s been an exciting six years, and I feel very fortunate to work for such a great team.

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

I think we’re doing a good job of creating opportunity for women and creating flexible schedules for families. We’re allowing people to have both personal and professional growth. There are great companies in the broker community and in insurance that are putting strong women in leadership roles and not inhibiting their career growth because they have families.

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

We talk a lot in the industry about best practices and risk frameworks, but distilling those high-level ideas into actionable items is difficult. It’s essential for risk management to add value to an organization, and that’s where we have to get better — applying big-picture ideas to the day-to-day and making them operational.

Susan Hiteshew, Senior Manager, Global Insurance – Risk Management, Under Armour Inc.

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

When people first started talking about buying cyber policies, it was because P&C carriers were taking a hard line on excluding anything that could be construed as a cyber loss. The market shied away from cyber coverage unless you were buying a standalone policy. But now carriers are better able to model certain losses; there’s more cyber capacity, and insurers are starting to get more creative on the P&C lines about adding coverage extensions for cyber-related issues.

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

Overall, brand and reputational risk are paramount concerns for everyone. You can model the likelihood and impact of how that might materialize, but the velocity with which it materializes because of social media is unprecedented. The disruption that those brand risks can create is pretty unique as well. It’s a complicated risk to understand, and it’s certainly a moving target.

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

We prioritize long-term relationships and transparency, where we’re involving them in our business and keeping them updated on how we’re growing and changing. The carriers that best support us are those that are willing to talk more than once a year at renewal and want to be a part of the conversation and add risk management value in day-to-day operations.

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

It was a good industry wake up call, because it forced risk managers to start to dig deep and understand what was truly driving the cost of risk transfer solutions. It is overblown in some ways, but it also presented opportunity to collectively look at and agree on a fair price of risk and increase transparency.

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

A personal accomplishment would be my two, almost three, kids — baby three is due soon. They are the thing that I’m most proud of.

In terms of professional accomplishments … prior to my time at Under Armour, insurance was a decentralized function. I spent my first 12 to 18 months sitting down with different business units and talking to them about their priorities, goals, and strategies and the types of insurance that directly support their business. Soon, information started to flow to me rather than me having to go out to seek information. That was one of my early wins.

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

The coolest restaurant I’ve been to is called Il Botin in Madrid. It’s the oldest restaurant in the world. The Old World ambiance is really unique.

“It’s essential for risk management to add value to an organization, and that’s where we have to get better — applying big picture ideas to the day-to-day and making them operational.”

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

I went to Capri for my honeymoon. I hope to go again sometime in the future.

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

One of the most exciting things about risk management is that you’re always learning. You have to be someone who is comfortable with change and excited about learning new things. We’re providing a service internally, helping our organizations achieve their goals and strategically aligning with what’s important to them, so we have to be constantly evolving with the business.

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

Because I work at Under Armour, my son thinks I play football with Cam Newton and Tom Brady, and I’m OK with that!

Katie Dwyer is a freelance editor and writer based out of Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected].