Encouraging resilience for Jennifer Santiago’s year as president of the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc. and Ms. Santiago, director of risk management & safety at Wakefern Food Corporation, a retailer-owned cooperative, were key themes. Based in Keesbay, New Jersey, he discussed RIMS’ support for the development of the federal cyber insurance backstop and how risk managers can navigate challenging market conditions. Commercial insurance Associate Editor Claire Wilkinson. Edited sections follow.
K: How did you get your start in the industry?
A: When I came out of school there weren’t many plans for risk management. I got an internship as a medical liability representative for a medical malpractice firm, which helped me get my first big job at NYU Medical Center in New York. I came in at entry level, was promoted to Director within two years, managing a team, reporting to the CFO and involved in a captive insurance company. I was very fortunate to get that start and it led me down the path of risk management. I went to my first RIMS conference in 1999 and Colin Powell was the keynote speaker. I thought, wow, this is a pretty incredible system. There were thousands of risk managers waiting outside the auditorium and that drew me in. The community has always kept me engaged.
K: You have worked in brokerage and risk management roles in various industries. How did it affect you?
A: I love pivot and challenge and change in learning a new business model, learning about key operational risks and creating solutions. It’s really a risk manager’s toolkit that goes with you. That’s what’s exciting for me, constantly being out of my comfort zone and always challenging and stressful. I worked as a broker for a while and then decided that risk management was really my sweet spot. I have spent significant time in risk management and insurance, enterprise risk, ethics and compliance and risk assessment at Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., Ingersoll Rand, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., and was Chief Risk Officer at Penn State University. My current role. So I was diversified from a career standpoint, which was interesting.
K: What are your goals for RIMS in the coming year?
A: RIMS has a long history of success and incredible leaders and risk management professionals committed to society over decades. We’ve come through the pandemic and the key word for me is resilience. Coming out the other side stronger and better and ready for the next challenge is key to resilience. My focus is on bringing our community back together – because Covid has changed the way people interact – and reconnecting and strengthening the community we have. The pandemic has really put a spotlight on risk management professionals. Everyone works in their own silo and the risk expert knows what’s going on across the organization, so it’s only logical that they’d be right at the table when the pandemic hit. The momentum is there and we need to seize it and push forward. We need to advocate for a risk expert to ensure that we step into the role of chief risk officer in the C-suite and that we sit on boards and provide expertise. The other thread is DEI, which creates more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments for people to succeed.
K: RIMS advocates for a federal cyber backstop. Why do risk managers want government support for cyber coverage?
A: RIMS submitted a letter of opinion to the Central Insurance Office last November. A conversation about creating a federal framework to deal with large-scale cyber incidents. As risk managers, we know that when we put cyber coverage in place, we see an erosion of coverage, capacity and cost. This creates a very challenging environment for the risk management professional. The fear is that coverage will evaporate, so there will be fewer markets willing to write cyber and more deductibles — a kind of Swiss cheese policy. I think it’s a real, legitimate fear. There are concerns about systemic cyber risk and vulnerability to infrastructure, causing massive outages. This is an important area, but there are also day-to-day cyber risks where coverage is being eroded. We like to talk about cyber backstop from government, not limited to critical infrastructure and broader scope. Whether it is somehow tied to TRIA, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, or stands entirely on its own remains to be determined. So, there are a lot of pieces to it, but it makes sense because as more and more insurance companies are pulling their heads back, the need for a federal backstop becomes more important.
K: What can risk managers do to get the best results in a challenging insurance market?
A: It’s been a tough couple of years and I don’t doubt it’s going to get even better, and for some insurance lines like Internet and property, we’re going to continue to be challenged. Therefore, it is important to help boards understand what the situation is and understand risk appetite and tolerance at the organizational level. How much risk can we tolerate domestically? How much can we exchange? What should we pay for that risk transfer? There is a balancing act between retention and change. The prison population is growing, and people are looking for ways to self-insure. It’s really the three C’s of coverage, capacity and cost, and all three are being challenged. There was a time when you raised your deductible, your premium went down and you got premium savings, that’s a strategy. Now you raise the deductible and your premiums are still 20%, 30%, 40% higher. What we hear as risk managers from the insurance industry is that it is really driven by reinsurers. So this is a knock-on effect for the risk manager from the reinsurance market to the insurance market.