When a company has been in business since 1883, it’s doing something right. CLM Fellow Renee Yozzi describes her two-coat approach to risk and the importance of staying positive and disciplined.
Q. How has your career in risk evolved over the years?
A. My first risk management position more than 25 years ago was at CIT Group, which is where I acquired a deep understanding of the importance of strong insurance and indemnification contract language in the context of very large, complex deals. I then moved to the complete opposite end of the spectrum working at the Archdiocese of Newark, where the diversity of exposures and projects was enormous and extremely challenging. I switched gears and moved over to the broker side, but quickly learned that I much preferred being the client. I also felt the momentum was shifting toward a more holistic approach to managing risk and that learning how to practice enterprise risk management (ERM) would be the next evolution in the risk management professional. As the director of ERM at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, I learned the discipline within a mature program, which proved invaluable to my growth as a risk manager. I took the position at Benjamin Moore as it provided me an opportunity to develop and implement an ERM program where none had existed, which has been very exciting and rewarding.
Q. Can you describe the ERM implementation process?
A. We identify organizational top risks, document what is currently being done to address those risks, and look at where gaps may exist. When we identify a gap, we create action plans with owners and dates for completion. I report quarterly on the status of the program to our senior leadership team, where we discuss next steps. When a new initiative or program is being considered, we bring those same elements into the discussion to ensure the engagement will be a success and appropriate consideration has been given to what might impede that success.
Q. What is your overall approach to risk management?
A. I am an inherently practical person, and I approach my role at Benjamin Moore through that same lens. I try to understand the goal and what we are trying to accomplish and help consider the best way to achieve the objective while considering all of the risks or challenges and ways to mitigate the exposure. I do not like to say that things can’t or shouldn’t be done; I believe that a thoughtful approach should be taken so that it can be done.
Q. Describe some of the risks you manage.
A. Since we are a paint manufacturer and distributor, our biggest exposures are, unsurprisingly, workers’ compensation and auto liability claims. We have a fleet of sales vehicles as well as many contract carriers and drivers who move our product. We have a very active and engaged environmental health and safety team that is continuously looking for opportunities to improve our safety culture.
Q. Have you ever taken a risk and turned it into an opportunity?
A. I am a positive person by nature, so I view every risk as an opportunity to make a program or process better or to educate stakeholders on the importance of following a more disciplined approach to risk assessment and treatment. The solution might be as simple as entering into a contract with a vendor with stronger, more protective language, or it may involve ruling out a particular vendor and, ultimately, finding a better fit. Another example might involve identifying a risk and deciding that a new process and a written control document would not only serve to mitigate the risk, but also clarify the process, ownership, and accountability. There are so many opportunities every day.
Q. How are claims managed in your company?
A. I am the only one in my department, so I handle all things risk management or ERM-related. Of course I rely on my broker and TPA a great deal to help me manage the program, and we have a great in-house legal team that I work with to manage claims. We have a regular cadence of claims meetings to make sure that we are on top of them and that strategies to closure are developed, which helps move the claims forward effectively.
Q. What’s your most unique claims experience?
A. One of our workers’ compensation claims involved an individual who claimed that he was injured and was out on a lost-time claim, yet we found a YouTube video of him participating in a competitive tennis match. Needless to say, there was a successful outcome for us on that one.