Making sure you’re asking the right questions of the risk owners

Author: John Watson

The beginning of a new year provides each of us the opportunity to embrace and leverage change. We each faced previously unforeseen challenges in 2020, and hopefully you are a little wiser and possibly exhausted from your institutional ordeals.

Now is the perfect time for risk managers to embrace all the change that is happening on campus, and to establish and document your 2021 risk management strategy. By doing so, you should be able to enhance your professional relationship both with campus administrators and with your insurance underwriters.

We propose you step outside your comfort and knowledge zone by having conversations with each risk owner on your campus. While you may see them as risk generators, you should help them to appreciate that they should also own their respective risks. Ask simple and probing questions, such as:

  • What risks are bothering you?
  • Is the activity consistent with the institution's mission?
  • Is it within the institution's new tolerance for risk?

If these discussions place either of you outside your comfort zone, then these are exactly the risks where more attention is needed. Your goal is not to know all the answers but rather to help the risk owner to self-identify both the unmanaged risks and potential solutions. Whether the risk is a new alternative income-generating program, or the historic elephant in the room, you should encourage the risk owner to undertake a calm forward thinking approach with a careful exploration of risk mitigation considerations.

By making note of the actions taken by you and each risk owner, you are building an impressive list of management actions taken to mitigate risks and improve the insurability of your campus. Work with your broker to refine the descriptions of the steps taken and supplement it with photos or quotes from your institution's administrators. The resulting self-reported actions will tell your story and differentiate your institution from others during the renewal underwriting process.

For more tips from our team, check out Gallagher's Higher Education Resource Library.

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