Where Have the Risk Managers Gone?
At the 2022 PRIMA Annual Conference, a session discussed how to facilitate the transition from a long-time risk manager to a new person in that role. The speakers, all past PRIMA presidents, were:
- Sarah Perry – City of Columbia (retiring soon)
- Dean Coughenour – City of Flagstaff (recently retired)
- Daniel Hurley – City of Chesapeake (recently retired)
There is currently a significant exodus of longtime public entity risk managers as a generation is reaching retirement age. These transitions are not always planned well in advance as situations arise that result in a rapid transition. Public entities tend to operate with small staffs, so a successor may not be currently on their staff, creating a challenging transition.
Retirees should document all critical tasks, regardless of how minimal it may seem, since a new hire may not be aware of even the smallest details. These tasks include mandatory state reporting, insurance contract history and renewals, and relationships with brokers, carriers and claims administrators.
The critical success factors for a new risk manager include:
- Core and technical competencies – This varies by entity as some focus more on workers’ compensation or other lines. Some are very involved with HR, while others operate in silos. Some risk managers are involved in insurance buying, and for others this is done by procurement.
- Education – A college degree is important, and advanced degrees are an added bonus. However, education alone does not make someone a good risk manager. Don’t overemphasize this.
- Institutional knowledge – Understanding why an entity operates in a certain way is critical. Identify who on staff will be able to guide a new hire and who their key contacts are within the organization.
- Work experience – Like a degree, work experience is important, but the skillset needed for the position bears more weight. This role requires great communication, teamwork, quick decision-making and the ability to handle high-pressure situations. Attitude and aptitude are more important than experience. A person with a negative attitude will not likely change.
There are a number of resources that can assist a new risk manager in their role:
- External – Professional organizations like PRIMA, including the national conference and local chapters, can be a great source of industry peers to assist.
- SOP/Cross-Training – Retiring risk managers should define their operating procedures in writing. Make note of even the smallest tasks and what a day-to-day looks like. Training other members of your staff can assist the new risk manager through onboarding.
- Internal – What contacts can assist the new risk manager? Who are your important partners within the organization?
- Mentors/Training – PRIMA has a supportive industry mentor program. New risk managers can take advantage of the wide array of risk management webinars.
The key elements of a successful risk management program are:
The interview process should include:
- At least one risk professional on the interview panel
- Key players, like the police and fire chief, HR and high-level management
- Asking more questions around cultural fit
- Using scenario-based questions
- Using a few technical questions to make sure the candidate is qualified