R&I: What was your first job?
Besides the usual babysitting, mowing lawns and bean-picking in the summers, at age 15 I worked in the men’s department of a store in Eugene, Ore. I clerked at a law firm when I was 17. My first insurance job was as a field claim examiner with Wausau Insurance when I was 22.
R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
Wausau Insurance was conducting on-campus interviews at Oregon State and they offered me a job right after graduation. I had no idea what a claim examiner was … but I needed a job. Later I moved on from multi-line adjusting at Wausau to focusing on workers’ compensation claims at INA/Aetna (Cigna) and Liberty Mutual.
R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?
I think they are spot-on in regard to educating and recruiting millennials toward careers in insurance and risk management. As the boomers leave the industry we need to be replaced by those who see risk management as a viable career option.
R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think they could do a better job explaining how to engage senior management. The success of enterprise risk management, like many programs, hinges on support from the C-suite. How does one convey the importance of risk management to a level of executives who always seem to have bigger fish to fry at the moment?
R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management & insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’ve been around long enough to witness the decline in customer service in the insurance industry as companies are forced to do more with diminished staff. Wausau Insurance Cos. always emphasized customer service. They no longer exist and that speaks volumes.
R&I How do you grade the insurance industry’s response to the threat of cyber attacks?
I think the insurance community’s response has been very positive as they realize the lifeblood of any organization is its computer network and if that is disrupted, it can bring anyone’s business to a halt.
R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?
If I had to choose one based on honesty, integrity, and great customer service, it would be Allianz. Daimler and Allianz have forged a great relationship over the years.
R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?
I was never in favor of contingent commissions. I thought it conveyed the impression that business was placed with certain carriers because of the commission structure rather than what’s best for the insured. … As for whether it was overblown; I will agree it was overly politicized by those with lofty career aspirations.
R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?
I try to be optimistic, but the recent recession certainly rocked my faith in the ability of our government to forecast such downturns. So while the economy is definitely improving, I don’t think I will ever be complacent that all will be well from here on. I wonder if that’s how our grandparents felt coming out of The Great Depression.
R&I: Who is your mentor and why?
I tried to glean the best from each manager I worked for and each insurance professional I encountered. But if I have one role model it would be Brian Perko of Sather, Byerly and Holloway, LLP, an insurance defense law firm in Portland, Ore. From Brian I learned the nuances of the insurance industry, professional communication, the importance of networking and the ability to tell someone to jump in a lake so they look forward to the swim.
R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?
Well, I have two beautiful daughters and three grandkids, so I guess that should be my first answer.
R&I: How about in your professional life?
I’ve had some successes over the past three decades in terms of implementing cost-saving programs for clients and policyholders. I once convinced a carrier to reimburse my policyholder for claims they accepted which were clearly not compensable. … Substandard claims handling is unacceptable in my book. As for my position at Daimler, I’ve been able to maintain the same level of internal service with reduced staff and at the same time decrease premiums through improved loss history. In 2014, I was named a Risk & Insurance® magazine All-Star as well as Liberty Mutual Responsibility Leader® designee.
R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
My favorite book is “How the Irish Saved Civilization” by Thomas Cahill. It’s the story of how the Irish preserved Western Civilization from destruction during the European dark ages, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, and later reintroduced that culture on the European continent.
R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?
Weinstube Am Stadtgraben in Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. It’s the best place for Swabian food.
R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?
Probably Bunratty Castle in County Clare, Ireland. Next door is “Durty Nellies” pub established in 1620. Who wouldn’t want to quaff a pint in a 400-year old saloon?
R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?
When I was a senior at OSU I took skydiving lessons and did a solo static line jump. The risky part was if the cable didn’t deploy the chute, I would have become part of the landscape in seconds. I also returned to the rugby pitch about 10 years ago after a 25-year hiatus. Work was stressful and I needed to let off some steam. I got banged up a lot but I loved every minute of it.
R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?
My personal hero is Pope Francis. Regardless if you’re Protestant or Catholic, atheist or agnostic, you have to respect a freethinking guy who focuses on the traditional Catholic value of volunteering and helping others in need.