Top 5 tips for developing allies to support your clients’ risk objectives
By Michael Wayne
Not everything is insurable.
Of course, not everyone understands that, and in times of great distress there is always a rush to hold someone responsible. Typically, this results in time- and money-consuming finger pointing.
To lessen the aftershocks of insurable events and those more akin to COVID-19, continuity plans have to be put in place. Pandemics, cyber incidents, natural catastrophes, market changes, and other interruptions that cause unforeseen events require that business models move risk aversion to the forefront.
Over the past year, our industry has been forced to adapt in several ways. Certainly, some agencies already were making use of technology to conduct virtual meetings with clients and actively leveraging platforms to deliver services. Over the last 12 months, competitors that were apprehensive about implementing these same techniques were forced to do so. By and large, that playing field has been leveled. However, some are still way out ahead.
While not every organization can afford a chief risk officer as a sole role, every organization needs a risk champion who can engage executives and get them to recognize the vital need to be cognizant of potential disrupters.
Differentiators, we are told, are the key to success for every business—and for life in general. Yet, it certainly feels like a large part of the population is interested in mimicking exactly what they see on television and from “influencers” on various social media platforms. The same thing tends to happen in the business world: Successful products are copied; profitable business models are duplicated; and top talent is poached to replicate wins someplace else.
Individuals and organizations have relied on us in the industry to be in the crow’s nest of their ships, so to speak, peering out ahead and looking for everything from storms and enemy vessels on the horizon to icebergs dead ahead. COVID-19 has shown us that some threats are hidden below the surface—massive leviathans waiting to surprise anyone and everyone who dares attempt to sail by unscathed.
COVID-19 isn’t the first such beast, but it seems short memories and near misses keep many from heeding the past.
The need to mitigate risk is an absolute. Preparing for future crises should be every responsible business owner’s concern. Shoring up supply chains stands out as essential, but there is another more localized and customized approach that should be explored: internal risk champions. While not every organization can afford a chief risk officer as a sole role, every organization needs a risk champion who can engage executives and get them to recognize the vital need to be cognizant of potential disrupters.
A proliferation of competent risk champions will greatly increase the amount of time leaders can discuss issues, and it will drive conversations that lead to meaningful results and innovations to impact everyone. Resiliency is a must. While we know that we will never be able to fully mitigate every risk, organizations and governments must be able to respond as effectively to as many different ones as possible.
Importance of allies
At the end of the day, we are “risk managers.” This is a very different distinction from “risk champions.” With rare exceptions, you are not a part of the everyday life of the organizations you serve in your role as agent or broker. How much easier would your life be, however, if you had an ally who was? How valuable would it be to have someone feeding you knowledge and insight that would help you consistently provide leading-edge services and resources and prepare, in advance, for what your client may want to do in the short- and long-term to grow or remain viable?
Naturally, if your client has a dedicated chief risk officer, you’re ahead of the game. Well, you should be. If you haven’t already formed an established working relationship with them, it’s past time. Whether you have a designated individual to confer with or want to help someone take on the role, here are five top tips for developing risk champions:
Make sure they aren’t alone. In smaller organizations especially, being the risk champion can feel overwhelming. Help your identified risk champion develop an internal network of coordinators and allies. Having multiple sets of eyes and ears is critical for them, and ultimately you, as you work to remain abreast of any changes that could affect the company in any way related to coverage. Obviously, the more influential members of the organization you have providing you with information, even indirectly, the better.
Ensure that they get employer recognition. When your risk champion does something—even something small—that increases your capacity to do your job, let their C-Suite know about it. Highlight them in a quarterly report; point out their expertise in a renewal meeting; pick up the phone and call a member of their executive team that you have met before without anything else to talk about except complimenting their risk champion for information you know it’s okay that they provided that will actually help you save them money in some way.
Offer them training. Even if your client has a chief risk officer, they may not necessarily have the full commitment of their organization. You may have access to loss control resources that can benefit them. You may be able to offer them webinars, seminars, or even in-house specialists that they have access to as part of their policy with you that would be very helpful. Your risk champion may not be aware of certain certifications that could accelerate their careers. If they are wise, they are looking to strengthen their professional network with mutually beneficial relationships. Act on that.
Don’t rely on a single risk champion. Remember to spread your personal risk around when it comes to risk champions. You may put a lot of time and effort into building someone up only to have them hired away from your client’s organization. Even worse, they may be fired for some nefarious act and the only thing that upper management knows about its insurance policies is that they are placed with someone who is well acquainted with the person they just had security escort out of the building. Make sure you foster relationships with other decision makers. You have to show that you care about the business as a whole and the industry that they are a part of as well.
Thank them for their commitment. This may seem like something small in the grand scheme, but it goes a long way. The close cousin here is rewarding the risk champions you have aligned yourself with. But you have to make the determination of how far that should go before crossing over into rebating. That said, expressions of gratitude don’t always need to take on the form of a tangible or costly gift. Sincere appreciation is, well, appreciated.
Michael Wayne is a freelance insurance writer.