Meet Courtney Davis Curtis, RIMS Risk Manager of the Year: Risk & Insurance

Courtney Davis Curtis of the University of Chicago talks with Risk & Insurance about the resilience that comes with being a risk manager.

R&I: What was your first job?

My first professional job was as a broker at Gallagher. I did an internship at the organization the summer between my junior and senior year [of college] and received an offer shortly thereafter. And a month after graduating, I started in the education practice there as a broker and producer on the business education book.

R&I: How did you come to your current position?

I was given a life, if you will, in the insurance and risk industry, with a dedication to education. After my role at Gallagher, I became an investment specialist at Marsh, and during that time I built a network of brokers, insurers, and certainly higher education and K-12 clients, including the ‘University of Chicago.

II was very good friends with Luke Figora for a number of years, and he was leaving the institution and he said, “You know what? You should apply for this position. And I built a relationship through the University Risk Management and Insurance Association, which I currently serve as president. So, I took a leap of faith and took this opportunity and now I’ve been here for seven years.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the industry since you’ve been there?

Well, there really are a lot of things. I think we had a number of events that happened that really changed the approach to how we insure different risks. Some pretty big events have really caused a knee-jerk reaction, if you will, from insurers and felt it in an increase in the underwriting scrutiny that we have to respond to. It changes the coverage, and it really changes how we address and mitigate risk on campus.

So whether you’re talking about Title IX, sexual abuse, traumatic brain injury, now you’re adding pandemic to it and now even what happened with cyber – these are major events that happened and some of them really punching through in the last few years that we’re constantly changing things up in this kind of circular continuum.

It made things dynamic, but it would also mean the immediacy of information and the use of social media inflated claims costs, but it also increased the speed of the flow of information, let that be good or bad, so it’s an interesting dynamic.

R&I: What is the biggest challenge you have had to face in your career?

I don’t want to make a conversation about COVID, but it was definitely an incident or a storyline. When you have that once in a 100 year type event, there is no guide or path. We share information as risk managers, but there was simply no right or wrong way to do it, which created challenges in itself.

What really creates challenges is how we depend on insurance and make business decisions about the cost and value of maintaining insurance versus the cost of this potential risk. And you’re constantly having this conversation and trying to find the right balance between things, and it’s hard.

Not everyone understands insurance or risk management when making these important decisions that have long-term implications and involve many people. I come from a resource-rich institution, and I can’t imagine what others might face at times like this when there are always competing interests.

R&I: Yesou were named Risk Manager of the Year by RIMS. Could you tell us a bit about your risk management philosophy, which was highlighted in your recognition?

I really have two, but I think one is really special. I’ll start with the one that’s essential for everyone to keep in mind: everyone is a risk manager. Even if you are not responsible for risk management in your establishment, there are things we do in our professional and personal lives that we decide to do or not to do – this is risk management. . Whether or not you use this systematic approach.

But the philosophy that I preach to my team, and it’s really helped me guide, direct, and inform our approach to risk management, is that we should be the office of knowledge, KNOW, not the office no.

It is our job and our responsibility to try to help our partners on campus obtain the yes that will support the research and the academic and medical mission of the institution, department or unit, and to the extent possible, we need to find a way to facilitate this and take the right risk mitigation activity to minimize the impact or likelihood of a risk occurring.

R&I: Who has been your mentor(s) and why?

There are so many people I go to for different things, whether it’s formalized or not. I love doing it this way because it gives me an army of people behind me and it’s not always someone older than me or more experienced.

Sometimes it even comes from my own team and staff or other people I work with. It always provides a diversity of thoughts and perspectives as I make different decisions or face different challenges. And I think it’s important to have people with different experiences and expertise in the industry to make the most informed decisions. And then, my family is always the backbone of everything.

R&I: What does the risk management community do?

You know, it’s in my title, but I really think it’s up to all risk managers to be resilient. We are agile and flexible enough to deal with a changing environment and not only try to react quickly when we need to be reactive, but also try to take proactive measures.

It’s not always the glamorous things we do, but we do it with a lot of enthusiasm, and I think as a community we do some really amazing things and can take a holistic approach and purpose to not any situation and have a lot of added value.

R&I: What could the risk management community do better?

Well, I think the risk management and insurance industry could do more to make sure that we consider the next generation of talent and find ways to foster opportunities to get them interested in this field. , to see the opportunity before us.

And most importantly, keeping diversity, equity and inclusion in mind, so that the world we work and live in is reflected in our industry. This is going to be critically important as we have a talent gap of 400,000 positions that will need to be filled over the next few years given the retirements we anticipate in the industry.

R&I: How would you say technology has impacted the risk management profession?

It creates risk in a lot of different perspectives if you’re talking about cyber privacy and the IT perspective, and it’s also helped us in how we facilitate our insurance renewal processes.

Hopefully over time we will have a more streamlined and sophisticated approach to our data collection processes so that we have historical information and knowledge to go back to to identify trends and patterns and things of that nature. It’s a bit of technology, but it’s also a bit of data mining.

Everyone will tell you that the insurance and risk management industry is all about relationships, and that’s one thing I think we need to pick up the phone a little more and try to connect in person and some of those things will be interesting on time after we come out of a pandemic to see how we continue to build relationships around the world in that regard.

R&I: Higher education has been deeply affected by COVID. What other risks will impact space in the coming years?

I think there will be challenges to the overall higher education business model that could really impact our operations.

As you see from things like inflation or turmoil globally and things of that nature, and the spirit and the more entrepreneurial spirit of the younger generations, the question becomes what is the value proposition of higher education and what does this mean for institutions?

We have fewer students in the pipeline, from a business model and from an operational perspective, which will affect all institutions. People don’t always realize that tuition fees don’t cover all the expenses. So I certainly think that’s just fundamentally a concern.

I think we’re entering a phase where some of the risks that we have traditionally been able to insure, that insurance may not be an option or viable and that’s when risk mitigation becomes really critical. We also need to explore alternative risk financing solutions and new products. This is similar to how kidnappings and ransoms, fiduciary hedging or cyber hedging were created.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie should be Sister Act 2. It’s probably one of the only movies I could recite back and forth and sing along to every song and it warms my heart to watch it.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Champagne. Anything with bubbles. It’s after water of course, but when in doubt, champagne will make me happy.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?

Naturally, the 2022 RIMS Risk Manager of the Year award was a significant achievement. I was lucky enough to receive other awards, but to be the only recipient was really special. It’s something I’m very proud of. I represent many communities and I hope this will become an inspiration to others.

Even closer to home, I think it’s a feat that I have shared with my institution, my colleagues and my team, because we have achieved a lot. I hope they will share this with me as it would not have been possible without them.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you have ever done?

It must be a vacation excursion – parasailing, biking up a mountain in Hawaii. It doesn’t really get riskier than some of this stuff especially if I have to sign a waiver for it so I would say that but maybe for a while I ran a marathon so in between training for the marathon and running challenge your body. &

Courtney DuChene is Associate Editor at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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