Former Presidents Roundtable at RIMS 2012

Ever wonder what the former RIMS presidents have been up to since they fulfilled their leadership service to the Society? Well, they’re still practicing risk management — and doing it well.

At the RIMS 2012 Conference & Exhibition in Philadelphia, one of this morning’s sessions brought together past presidents who have a combined 100 years of experience in the field. They were:

  • Louis Drapeau, director of risk management for the University of Kentucky
  • Lance Ewing, vice president of Chartis
  • Michael Liebowitz, director of insurance and risk management for New York University
  • Christopher Mandel, executive vice president of professional services for rPM3
  • Janice Ochenkowski, managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated
  • Mark Walls, assistant vice president of claims for Safety National (moderator)

The first issue discussed was the state of the economy and how that affects risk managers across all industries, to which Ewing remarked, “I don’t think they’re looking at the poor economy and wondering what to do, I think they’re living the economy and figuring it out as they go.” He also emphasized the importance of risk managers taking this opportunity to get in face time with senior management and claims people. Liebowitz added that companies will likely go looking for other sources of revenue during hard economic times and, therefore, will look to emerging markets. But with emerging markets come emerging risks.

When asked about the impact of the eurozone financial crisis, everyone was in agreement that it undoubtedly affects the industry. “We’re seeing the beginning of a hardening market in Europe,” said Liebowitz. “It’s a mirror of what we’re seeing here in the U.S.” Ochenkowski reminded everyone that investors in European banks are from all over the world and the impact from the eurozone financial crisis is global, not centered solely in Europe.

The topic of social media and cyber liability was brought up, and rightly so and it is a serious emerging risk that will affect every company sooner or later. “We’ve decided to embrace social media but we can’t ignore the risks,” said Ochenkowski. “We ask ourselves, ‘how can we do it not viewing it as a risk, but as an opportunity?'” To control the risks, Jones Lang LaSalle has incorporated social media guidelines for employees. “You can go from a nobody to viral in 15 seconds,” said Ewing. Referencing the recent Pink Slime incident and how both traditional media and social media coverage of the event eventually caused the company’s demise. “There should be no doubt about its potential,” he said. Indeed. As Leon Panetta has said, the next Pearl Harbor is going to be a cyber attack.

And it wouldn’t be a meeting of risk management minds without the mention of reputational risks. “A company’s reputation comes down to its weakest employee,” said Ewing, as he emphasized that the risks of reputational damage gives risk managers an opportunity for more face time with senior leaders and a chance to explain how the’re going to protect the company’s reputation and brand image. Drapeau recounted his school’s recent NCAA championship win and how he prepared for the following riotous behavior of students and fans because, if he had not, the school’s reputation would have suffered. “We faced risk immediately [following the game], but we did a lot of preparation in advance,” he said.

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