Jennifer Santiago (pictured above) was sworn in as president of RIMS, the international risk management association, earlier this year. Santiago holds RIMS-CRMP, ARM, and MBA designations, and is co-owner of Wakefern Food Corp., America’s largest retailer. He is Director of Risk Management and Security at He has been a member of RIMS for 15 years and has been part of its Board of Directors since 2014.
Corporate Risk and Insurance He spoke to Santiago about his career in risk management and what he expects to see as the head of RIMS at a pivotal time for the industry.
Corporate Risk and Insurance: Tell us about your career in risk management. How did you get into this field?
Jennifer Santiago: It was definitely accidental. I got an internship in the medical field as a medical liability representative in medical malpractice – a fascinating field. This led to my role at NYU Medical Center in risk management and insurance. It was an entry-level job, but I was promoted to director after two years. The director role was extensive and required me to manage a team, report to the CFO and work on my first captive insurance company. There, I gained tremendous exposure and experience in healthcare risk management and the seeds for an amazing career were planted.
CRI: What got you into risk management?
JS: I expanded my knowledge and developed professionally through opportunities in various organizations of various sizes and financial structures, such as medical, pharmaceutical, higher education, manufacturing and services. These include well-known companies such as Novartis Pharmaceutical, Ingersoll Rand and Penn State University, and most recently, a US$18 billion cooperative called Wakefern Food Corp. The diversity of operations and business model keeps things interesting for me. Here, I use my risk management leadership, skills and experience to help organizations and teams assess risk and uncertainty, plan and improve organizational resilience based on smart decision making.
I find that no day is the same; I am always learning, growing, pushing boundaries and barriers, and that has made for a very rewarding career.
CRI: Tell us about some of the key challenges and learning opportunities you have encountered in your career?
JS: I think, as you move forward in your career, there may be many challenges that stumble your way and test your personal courage and resilience. I have chosen to take some big risks in my life and change the path if I see things that are too narrow or don’t align with my values. RIMS and the RIMS community have always been my guiding light.
I have found that all my challenges and opportunities have given me the opportunity to get to know myself better, which is important for a leader. It has allowed me to develop into a better, more effective leader for my teams and organizations. It’s fair to say that I haven’t met a challenge or opportunity that I haven’t relished, I mentor young professionals and learn from them, and I trust that personal tenacity and resilience to help them respond and thrive. These are challenging, uncertain times.
CRI: what does Became President of RIMS Meaning to you? What do you hope to tackle during your tenure?
JS: We are entering this new post-pandemic world, and this is proving to be one of the most critical periods for risk management in recent history.
Risk professionals need to dust off their strategic plans, rethink key priorities and reevaluate processes, and our organizations need to do the same to change strategies and develop processes.
The path to building a resilient organization is not easy to find or follow. That’s where I’m sure RIMS can help. As president, I want to ensure that RIMS continues to empower the risk community to be a catalyst for change, focusing its energy on providing risk leaders with the tools and support to innovate within their organizations and strengthen their programs. Most importantly, RIMS must continue to be a platform for the exchange of ideas and powerful conversations that connect and inspire risk professionals from all industries, career levels, professional experiences and backgrounds.
It is a great honor and privilege to serve RIMS and the risk management profession in this capacity. This is an incredible opportunity to continue to help elevate the industry and bring it to new heights.
CRI: What is your prediction for the risk management industry in the future?
JS: Risk management is fundamental to building resilient organizations and the “road to resilience” starts with a risk professional. Leaders around the world have recognized the importance of strong risk management capabilities in their organizations – the pandemic clearly exemplifies this. Therefore, they need trained, skilled risk management professionals to not only respond in a crisis, but also to build capabilities, programs and resources to ensure organizational resilience.
The global pandemic has opened boardroom doors to risk management experts. Seeks support from leadership risk management, particularly emergency and crisis management, business continuity, risk financing and adapting operational strategies. It is up to us and our organizations to keep this door open and move more risk management professionals into C-suite roles and seats on for-profit, for-profit and private company boards.
Needless to say, my prediction for the future growth of the risk management industry is strong.