From her co-worker Eric Lardy’s
perspective, one of Michelle Bennett’s
most winning traits is her ability to
build relationships and use them to
strengthen risk management.
“One of her advantages is that she
really knows how to create personal
networks. And that’s something that
I didn’t have to foster; it’s innate with
“She created good and strong
relationships throughout the
company,” said Lardy, a senior vice
president with Phoenix-based Cable
As the sole risk manager for a
cable company that was spun off
from Graham Holdings in late
2015, Bennett was smart to focus on
relationships; she was going to need
them because she faced a host of
One of her first challenges is that
she inherited a risk management
program that she knew she’d have to
make adjustments to if it was going to
better fit the new operation.
“What I inherited was your Dad’s
size 50 suit and you are a freshman in
college and you wear a 32,” she said.
Banking on her relationship skills,
Bennett set about identifying strategic
partners that were going to be able to
help her streamline Cable One’s risk
Eventually that meant changing
brokers, but Bennett was thoughtful
and diplomatic in making that change.
She had to know when to make a move
and when to stand pat.
“The challenge is in knowing when
to play that card and when to sit back,”
Bennett’s changes worked, she cut
premium costs from the company and
added to net income as a result.
She also faced a vendor relationship
challenge. Cable One serves
populations in underserved areas like
Mississippi and Idaho. Making sure
vendors are financially viable and
can deliver needed services was a key
So, again using her relationship
talents. Bennett began the process
of educating various business leaders
throughout the company on the need
to vet vendors in order to avoid credit
and supply chain risks.
Initially it took some time for
department heads to understand what
Bennett was driving at. But in the end,
the process helped the business units
understand the “why” of the perceived
risk, as well as the importance of
demanding certain coverages and
endorsements before approving a
“For me, that’s half the battle,”
Bennett said. “If you can explain the
‘why,’ then the buy-in is going to be
In essence, Bennett, operating
as a one-woman risk management
department, is bringing culture change
to her entire company.
That includes the concept of
enterprise risk management, which she
is in the process of implementing at
“She is bringing to us a more
formalized vision of risk,” Lardy said.
— Dan Reynolds
The Right Connections
Cable One’s Michelle Bennett is very good at forming relationships, both
inside and outside of her company.
Kevin Moss jocularly refers to himself
as a “recovering adjuster.” But the term
is apt, given the way his view of claims
has evolved over time. He sees the big
picture, he asks questions and listens.
He figures out how to turn each unique
situation into a win for everyone.
Moss is the director of Casualty
Insurance and Risk for Greenville,
S.C.-based Michelin North America
Inc., managing risk for 22,000-plus
employees across 19 plants. One key
area of focus for Moss, since joining
the company in 2007, has been
reducing the company’s outstanding
liability exposure from worker injury
claims — some decades old.
In 2014, Moss launched Michelin’s
largest comprehensive claim review
to date and determined that of the
company’s 483 open claims, 186 high-value claims accounted for 83 percent
of Michelin’s outstanding liability.
Working closely with partners from
claims services provider Gallagher
Bassett Services and broker Willis
Towers Watson, the team brought in
reserve experts and undertook a sizable
claims closure project.
The outstanding exposure on the
closure project has been reduced to
$14,097,290 – a 46 percent reduction
in outstanding reserves. Achieving that,
said Moss, takes hard work, but the
keys to success are quite clear.
First things first: Put in the work
on the front end to review all claims
and ensure they’re correctly reserved.
With that locked down, you can put
settlement plans in place for each
claim, involving annuity companies
Moss says he’s not opposed to
spending extra money to close a claim,
and he credits Michelin’s leadership
for allowing him the leeway to do so.
Getting that kind of buy-in for a claims
closure project, he said, means being
able to clearly express the business case
and the benefits for the company.
“I want to make sure that the
financial people here understand what
I’m doing, that my boss understands
it,” he said, “so I’ve had to learn how
to speak finance — I do have an econ
degree so that helps.”
When it’s time to approach
claimants, keep in mind that some
claims require careful handling.
In Michelin’s case, “most of the
older claims are medical,” Moss
explained, “and people are scared to
monkey with something they’ve been
doing since the ’60s.”
That’s why Moss wasn’t content
to just send out letters. He knew that
in some cases, his efforts would be
better spent going to people’s houses,
bringing an annuity expert along, and
explaining to people face-to-face what
settling the claim would mean.
With many of the claimants
advancing in age, Moss would talk to
them about creating a transferrable
annuity, allowing them to give it to a
grandchild or other family member to
help pay for college.
Above all, Moss is committed to
making sure each settlement is fair.
“Not only do we want to make sure
we understand what the exposure is,”
he said, “we want to make sure we do
the right thing by everybody.”
— Michelle Kerr
The Right Formula for Claims Closure
With diligent prep work and high emotional intelligence, Kevin Moss cut
Michelin’s outstanding reserves nearly in half.
“What I inherited was your
Dad’s size 50 suit and you are
a freshman in college and you
wear a 32.”
— Michelle Bennett, director of risk management,
“Most of the older claims are
medical, and people are scared to
monkey with something they’ve
been doing since the ’60s.”
— Kevin Moss, director, Casualty Insurance and Risk,
Michelin North America Inc.