7,200 Risk Management Experts Gather in Orlando

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By Lionel A. Varnadoe, Jr., MBA, Ph.D.

“Sixty percent (60%) of executives plan to lay off employees in the next year” …. somber news provided by Cathy Padalino, participating in a press briefing panel hosted by Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and quoting a recently released study by the Society of Human Resource Management. This statement also set the pace and discussion points of the Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc.

(RIMS) annual meeting in Orlando, Florida over the past week of April 19 – 23, 2009. Issues of the effect of the economic crises worldwide and associated multinational risk; crime, kidnap/ransom and extortion, and workplace violence; financial fidelity (or lack thereof, actually); real estate liability caused by vulnerability of vacancy, problems in valuation, along with issues of “greening; and, employment practices liability were leading agenda items.

RIMIS 09
Exhibition Hall RIMS 09

One of the more interesting and top of the news topics with the hijacking of ships off the cost of Africa was the coverage of Commercial Crime and Kidnap/Ransom and Extortion, provided by Greg Bangs, also of Chubb. Points made were that there are 12 times more extortions than kidnapping, including assaults on data bases and product contaminations; Mexico, Brazil, and Nigeria lead the world in kidnapping incidents; and, “U.S. companies lost 7% of 2008 annual revenue to fraud and theft, up from 5% in 2007.” Why the increase? Poor economy and personal desperation; uncovering of pilferage because of closer watching of expenses; employees facing layoff seeking to protect their families; retained staff stealing assets in retaliation for perceived mistreatment; and changes in technology which aids crime were offered as the main reasons.

How do companies and people protect themselves during this period of turmoil? Bangs suggested following the rule that the three functions of purchasing (buying, deliver, paying) be done by different individuals or departments; a confidential hot line for staff reporting of misdeeds by coworkers; background checks; and required vacations, so that paperwork could clear while the employee was away. When traveling to foreign areas, it is very important to keep a low profile, particularly not wearing flashy clothes which identify you as a traveler; i.e., “fit in, dress like the locals.”

Changes in workplace technology, record keeping requirements, and age discrimination issues as more senior employees need to stay on the job, also headlined the press briefing and the conference. Two new legislative actions pointed out by Padalino included the broadening of the definition of “disability: in the American with Disabilities Act amendment of 2008 to “major life activities (e.g.,, not just the ability to walk , but to bend). Also, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, was updated so that bias pay decisions occurs each time you are issued a paycheck, rather then requiring complaints to be filed within 120 days of the initial discrimination.

Some background of the RIMS organization is provided on their website: “The Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing the practice of risk management. Founded in 1950, RIMS represents more than 4,000 industrial, service, nonprofit, charitable and governmental entities. The Society serves more than 10,500 risk management professionals around the world,”

Insurance leads the issue with RIMS and made up most of the 120+ programs at the conference. “Hot topic” sessions offered include: Navigating the Financial Tsunami; Five Questions to Ask Before Switching Insurance Companies; Insurance Coverage for Subprime Mortgage Lawsuits; and, D & O (Directors and Officers) Insurance During the Economic Crisis.

The stated goals of the speaker, John Kotter, at the leadership keynote luncheon on Tuesday was to “share the secrets to aligning business goals and embracing effective change management.” A Harvard Business School professor, change consultant and author of Leading Change, he never really got to either subject with a somewhat rambling one hour presentation. There were several video fillers and associated discussion, but almost no coverage of the content material in his handout entitled: Leadership and Change.

The conference was held in the Orange County Convention Center, a huge behemoth of a place, requiring quite a spread of space between events and a lot of walking by the participants. However, even with four simultaneous shows going on the place still looked quite deserted. Located on International Drive, the convention center is in the heart of the entertainment district with easy access to all the tourist attractions and theme parks.

RIMIS 09 Center
Orange County Convention Center

Hit hard by the economy itself, with attendance down 20% from the previous year, the RIMS 09 conference still had more than 400 Exhibitors and 7,200 registrations. Joseph A. Restoule, president, emphasized that the organization will use the Web this week to keep its stay-at-home members up to speed using blogs and online audio and video editions of all RIMS sessions.

Lionel A. Varnadoe, Jr., writes books, articles, and reviews on a variety of topics and can be reached through NewsBlaze