ON THE JOB
R &I : What was your first job?
When I was 15 years old I had a summer job working for the city of Plentywood,
mowing grass in the parks and ballfields, emptying garbage cans, hauling waste
to the dump, painting crosswalk lines. A great job for a teenager but I thought
getting a college degree and working in an air-conditioned office would be a
good plan long term.
R&I : How did you come to work in risk management?
I was enrolled in the University of Montana as a general business student, and
I wanted to declare a more specialized major during my sophomore year. I was
working for my dad at his insurance agency over the summer, and taking new
agent training coursework on property/casualty
risks in my spare time, so I had an appreciation
for insurance. My dad suggested I research
risk management for a career, and I transferred
sight unseen to the University of Georgia
to enroll in their risk management program.
I did an internship as a senior with the risk
management department at Sulzer Medica, and
they offered me a full time job.
R&I : What could the risk management
community be doing a better job of?
We need to do a better job of saying yes. We
tend to want to say no to many risks, but there
are upside benefits to some risks. If we initiate
a collaborative exercise with the risk owners
— people who may have unique knowledge
about that particular risk — and include a
cross section of people from other corporate
functions, you can do an effective job of taking the risk apart to analyze it, figure
out a way to manage that exposure, and then reap the upside benefits while
reducing the downside exposure. That can be done with new products and new
service offerings, when there isn’t coverage available for a risk. It’s asking, is there
anything we can do to reduce the risk without transferring it?
R&I : What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber liability. There’s so much at stake and the bad guys are getting more
resourceful every day. At Varian, our first approach is to try to make our systems
and products more resilient, so we’re trying to direct resources to preventing
it from happening in the first place. It’s a huge reputation risk if one of our
products or systems were compromised, so we want to avoid that at all costs.
R&I : What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?
I’ve worked with a number of great ones over the years. We’ve enjoyed a great
property insurance relationship with Zurich. Their loss control services are very
valuable to us. On the umbrella liability side, it’s been great partnering with
companies like Swiss Re and Berkley Life Sciences because they’ve put in the
time and effort to understand our unique risk exposures.
R&I : How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?
One hundred percent through a broker. I view our broker as an extension of our
risk management team. We benefit from each team member’s respective area of
expertise and experience.
R&I : Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?
I think so. The brokers were kind of villainized by Spitzer. I think it’s fair for
brokers and insurers to make a reasonable profit, and if a portion of their profit
came from contingent commissions, I’m fine with that. But I do appreciate the
transparency and disclosure that came out as a result of the fiasco.
R&I : Are you optimistic about the US economy or pessimistic and why?
While we might be doing fine here in the U.S. from an economic perspective,
the Middle East is a mess, and we’re living with nuclear threat from North
Korea. But hope springs eternal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m hoping saner
minds prevail and our leaders throughout the world work together to make
R&I : Who is your mentor and why?
My Dad got me started down the insurance
and risk path. I’ve also been fortunate to
work for or with a number of University of
Georgia alumni who’ve been mentors for
me. I’ve worked side by side with Karen
Epermanis, Michael Rousseau, and Elisha
Finney. And I’ve worked with Daniel Dean in
his capacity as a broker.
R&I : What have you accomplished that you are
Raising my kids. I have a 15-year-old and
12-year-old, and they’re making mom and
dad proud of the people they’re turning into.
On a professional level, a recent one would
be the creation and implementation of our
global travel risk program, which was a combined effort between security, travel
and risk functions.
We have a huge team of service personnel around the world, traveling to
customer sites to do maintenance and repair. We needed a way to track, monitor
and communicate with them. We may need to make security arrangements or vet
their lodging in some circumstances.
R&I : What do your friends and family think you do?
My 12-year-old son thought my job responsibilities could be summed up as a
“professional worrier.” And that’s not too far off.
R&I : What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?
Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. Proper administration of the
risk function puts the company in a better position to financially support research
that improves products and capabilities, helps to educate health care providers
and support cancer care in general. It means more lives saved from a terrible
disease. I’m proud to contribute toward that.
When you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully treated with one
of our products, it’s a powerful reward.
“Varian’s mission is to focus energy on saving lives. … When
you meet someone whose cancer has been successfully
treated with one of our products, it’s a powerful reward.”
This senior risk manager values his role in helping Varian
Medical Systems support research and technologies in the
fight against cancer.
Company: Varian Medical
Years in Risk Management: 27
Previous Position: Director of
Global Risk Management, Sulzer
Place of Birth: Plentywood, Montana
Alma Mater: University of Georgia; Rice University
Degrees and Certifications: MBA, CPCU, ARM