Top view: Jennifer Santiago, Risk and Insurance Management Society


Promoting resilience and championing risk managers in the C-suite are key themes of Jennifer Santiago’s year-long chairmanship of Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. Ms. Santiago, director, risk management and security at Wakefern Food Corp., a retailer-owned cooperative based in Keasbey, New Jersey, discussed RIMS’s support for developing federal cyber insurance support and how risk managers can navigate this. difficult market conditions with Business Insurance Associate Editor Claire Wilkinson. Edited excerpts follow.

Q: How did you get started in the industry?

A: There weren’t a lot of risk management programs when I got out of school. I interned as a medical liability representative for a medical malpractice organization and it really got me my first big job, which was at NYU Medical Center in New York. I got to entry level and within two years I was promoted to director, managing a team, reporting to the CFO and working with the captive insurance company. I was very lucky to get started and that led me down the path of risk management. I went to my first RIMS conference in 1999, and Colin Powell was the keynote speaker. And I remember thinking, wow, this is a pretty amazing organization. There were thousands of risk managers all waiting outside the auditorium to get in, and that really grabbed me. It’s the community that has always involved me.

Q: You have held brokerage and risk management positions in different sectors. How did that influence you?

A: I love the pivot, challenge and change of learning a new business model, learning the major critical risks of the operation, and then developing solutions. It really is the risk manager’s toolbox that accompanies you. That’s what’s been exciting for me, continually being out of my comfort zone and always challenging and pushing. I did the brokerage stint for a little while and then decided that risk management was really my go-to area. I have spent significant time in risk management and assurance, enterprise risk, ethics and compliance, and risk assessment at Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., Ingersoll Rand, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., and I was Chief Risk Officer at Penn State University just prior to my current role. So I really branched out from an industry perspective and that made it interesting.

Q: What are your goals for RIMS for the coming year?

A: RIMS has a long history of success and incredible leaders and risk management professionals who have been committed to the company for decades. We have been through the pandemic and the key word for me is resilience. What’s important about resilience is coming out the other side stronger and better and ready for the next challenge. My goal is to bring our community together – because COVID has changed the way people interact – and to reconnect and strengthen the community that we have. The pandemic has really put the spotlight on risk management professionals. Everyone works in their silo and the risk professional knows what’s going on across the organization, so it only made sense that they were at the table when the pandemic hit. There is momentum there, and we have to take advantage of it and move forward. We also need to advocate for the risk professional to make sure we step into the C-suite in the roles of chief risk officer, sit on boards, and contribute our expertise. The other thread is DEI, creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments for people to succeed.

Q: RIMS calls for a federal cyber backstop. Why do risk managers want the government to support cyber hedging?

A: RIMS sent a comment letter to the Federal Insurance Office last November. The dialogue focuses on creating a federal safety net to deal with large-scale cyber incidents. As risk managers, we know that when we place cyber hedge, we see an erosion of coverage, capacity and cost. This creates a very challenging environment for the risk management professional. It is feared that the coverage will evaporate, so there will be fewer markets ready to write cyber and more exclusions – a kind of Swiss cheese politics. I think it’s a real and legitimate fear. There are concerns about systemic cyber risk and infrastructure impact causing mass shutdown. That’s important, but there are also everyday cyber risks where coverage erodes. We want to talk about a government cyber safety net that is not just limited to critical infrastructure and has a broader scope. It remains to be determined if it is linked in one way or another to the TRIA, to the law on insurance against the risks of terrorism, or if it is completely autonomous. So there are a lot of pieces, but it makes sense because as more insurance companies take the reins away, the need for a federal backstop becomes more critical.

Q: What can risk managers do to make the most of a tough insurance market?

A: It’s been a tough two years, and I don’t think it’s going to get much better, and for some lines of insurance, like cyber and property, we’re going to continue to be very tough. It is therefore important to help boards understand the situation and understand the appetite and tolerance for risk at the organizational level. How much risk can we tolerate internally? How much can we transfer? What do we want to pay for this transfer of risk? There is a balance to be found between retaining and transferring. The number of captives is increasing and people are looking for ways to self-insure. It’s really the three Cs of coverage, capacity and cost, and all three are in question. There was a time when as you increased your deductible, your premium went down and you saved on premiums. So it was a strategy. Now you increase the deductible and your premiums are always 20%, 30%, 40% higher. What we hear as risk managers in the insurance industry is that it’s really led by reinsurers. It is therefore a ripple effect from the reinsurance market to the insurance market and to the risk manager.


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