When Laura Langone, head of insurance operations at Airbnb, Inc., accepted the presidency of RIMS, the risk management society, for the 2020 term, she didn’t anticipate that the post would be primarily virtual or that she would be representing the society through one of the most challenging years ever for risk and insurance professionals.
“2020 has certainly been a year of firsts,” she reflected at the RIMS Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) 2020 virtual conference. “Some have described 2020 as an adventure, never knowing what would happen next. In the blink of an eye, our organizations – and really the world as we knew it – turned upside down. As we continue to untangle the chaos that this global pandemic has caused, let’s take a moment to stop and think about 2020 as an opportunity for our profession.”
The theme of the RIMS ERM 2020 virtual event was ‘Catalyzing Your (and Our) World’. Langone, who has held multiple prominent risk management positions through her 20+ year career with corporate giants like PayPal, Juniper Networks, Marsh and more, honed in on the appropriateness of the word “catalyst” during her opening address.
She said: “In science, catalysts either speed up or slow down a reaction without being consumed in the process. Isn’t that what we do as risk professionals? Now, more than ever, risk management professionals […] are acting as catalysts within their organizations to inspire and motivate action. Whether that’s in developing a resilient organization, or in supporting a business model pivot, every response and every pivot is an opportunity to catalyze the entire world.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown both the risk and insurance industries to be proactive. Within days, huge organizations shifted to almost completely remote operating models, setting employees up with the tools and the knowledge necessary to work from home while the pandemic persists.
Technology has been a huge part of the industry’s success in the COVID period, according to Langone. Not only have organizations fast-tracked their digital roadmaps to ensure efficient operability and maintain, if not improve, customer service, but they’ve also used technology to harvest and study data relating to the coronavirus crisis and to build models and solutions that will aid recovery and boost innovation as the world moves beyond the pandemic.
Langone commented: “When disaster strikes or a crisis hits, risk professionals are part of the team that initiates and mobilizes resiliency plans. We’ve had to show that we’re nimble. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Creating solutions and bringing them up quickly enables organizations to succeed and even survive. We’ve seen how the competencies and skillsets we continue to acquire come into play in dealing with big issues.”
While some countries are now rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, giving some hope that the “end” is in sight, the pandemic will have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on both the risk and insurance industries. In such an uncertain environment, risk and insurance professionals will be more important than ever, especially in their role of building more resilient communities.
“We need to be engaged,” Langone stressed. “The risk professionals I admire most recognize that they don’t always have all the answers. We rely on a community of professionals [who are] committed to continual learning and engagement.” She said it’s key to connect with industry peers to hear about other people’s journeys, to share challenges experienced and best practice remedies, and perhaps most importantly, to see how others “became catalysts and helped open doors to value-creating initiatives”.