Risk Management

The Profession

Risk Manager Rich Johanson on the need for tailored solutions for cyber risk and why it might be less risky to skydive to work.
By: | October 1, 2015

R&I: What was your first job?

Selling sodas at the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ home football games. It was easy to make a killing early in the season when it was still hot out. Later in the season, it got more difficult when it got cold. So sometimes instead of yelling “Cokes” I’d yell “mixers!”

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

When I graduated from college I’d been working in retail loss prevention for a few years. I enjoyed the work but there weren’t many opportunities for growth. I was fluent in Spanish, having studied in Madrid for a year. So when the Crawford & Co. office in downtown San Diego was looking for someone bilingual and was willing to provide insurance and claims handling training, I applied and they hired me — and that’s where it all started.

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

We’ve done a good job in recent years in succession planning and reaching out to the next generation of risk managers. When I started out in this field people weren’t entering risk management intentionally.10012015_09_profession_sidebar I think that’s changed since then due to the outreach efforts of organizations like RIMS and the growth of university programs throughout the U.S.

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

I think we need to become more engaged with those in senior management and being viewed as a resource when they consider risk management issues. I do think we’ve come a long way from being viewed as the “insurance folks.” But there’s still work to be done.

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

The biggest change I’ve seen recently is in the number of insurers in existence. We’ve seen a lot of consolidations of late and I think it’s still up in the air as to whether that’s a good thing or not for policyholders. This may create efficiencies and broader offerings, perhaps, but I think it will be some time before we are able to see what it really means for insurance buyers.

Rich Johanson, risk manager, Leidos Inc.

Rich Johanson, risk manager, Leidos Inc.

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

Mixed. I think there are several insurers – for example Beazley at Lloyd’s, AIG and Zurich – who have been at the leading edge of developing solutions whereas other insurers are still struggling to get their heads around the risk and be able to price it accurately, that is if they’re offering the coverage at all. There is also very wide disparity in terms of the scope of coverage being offered from one insurer to the next.

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

That’s a tough one. There are a lot of insurance carriers I enjoy doing business with and yet I have yet to find one that knocks it out of the park on every single aspect. … The insurers that have impressed me are the ones that have shown they can be flexible and adaptive enough to tailor a policy’s terms and conditions to meet my company’s specific coverage needs.

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

I’m optimistic — partly because I’m an optimist by nature but also because we’re seeing signs of positive growth in terms of jobs and GDP.  But we also have plenty of threats, many of them external to our economy … there is a lot of instability in the world. So I would say I’m cautiously optimistic.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

My boss Patrick Greene. Pat’s given me a lot of opportunities as well as the tools and the advice I need to be successful. He’s taught me the value and importance of cultivating relationships, not only with our external business partners but especially with our internal constituents.

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

Being viewed as a resource by others within my company. When someone has a problem and they’ve come to me for a solution, that is quite gratifying professionally. Of course, I’m also really proud of my family, we have a great time together and are supportive of each other in so many ways.

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

Morocco. That was my first and only experience with the Arab world and it’s just so different. It was like I stepped off the ferry [from Spain] and there’s that instant feeling of “We’re not in Kansas anymore!”

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

Skydiving. But it’s not as risky as you might think. Statistically it’s safer than driving a car. So I guess my answer is driving to work this morning.

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

I have a lot of respect and admiration for people who use their money, power and influence to do things that have no profit motive. Bill Gates [has spent] half of his money on charitable causes, addressing really important and difficult problems. I’m not saying we should expect successful people to just give away all of their hard-earned money. But if more people followed his example, we’d be a lot better off in tackling some of our most important problems.

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

It’s the problem-solving aspect; when somebody comes to me because they have a challenging situation and they’re seeking advice on how to solve that problem. That’s really why I do this job. The collaborative approach to working with business partners to find a solution is what makes the work fun and interesting to me.

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

I think they would say something to do with managing risk, but probably not really knowing much more than that.

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

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