Diane Baker | Insurance Business CA Hotlist of 2014

Diane Baker | Insurance Business CA Hotlist of 2014
Diane Baker
RiskAssist Consulting Inc.
Vancouver, B.C.

After 30 years in the business as a broker and business owner I had the good fortune to have a buyer for my company. The buyer was a business partner, so the transition was fairly seamless for them. Then I was able to engage a new set of supporting business advisors: i.e. web designer, business coach, business partner (non-financial), to launch a full-time career in risk management.

What needs to be changed in the insurance industry?

The perception of the insurance industry, we as an embarrassing profession can be corrected so easily. We must be PROUD to be in this business. The people in this business: insurers, brokers and support teams, are vital to the Canadian economy. Following disasters like Stave Lake, and more recently the Calgary and Toronto flood and the Lac Megantic train explosion; where are the insurers who are paying substantial losses? They are there to rehabilitate and restore the damaged areas. Can we not hear of the good stories where people have regained their lives over time?

Why Risk Management?

As a commercial insurance broker, it was always frustrating and disappointing to not be allowed into the “C” suite at the client.  Insurance is viewed as an annoying, time consuming although necessary element of Finance. As a business owner with different sets of partners, I appreciated the need to provide timely, specific, information to these stakeholders however was prevented from doing more than market and negotiate the best “insurance” terms for the client.
The suite of products on the insurance shelf are fairly standard and meant for a specific purpose; an “Insured Loss” must occur to trigger the policies.  Well that is never a happy point but the insurance industry has evolved as have the economies around the world. How best to make insurance  fit within the organization and are there added benefits to be gained?  Of course there are but this requires someone who is not fully engaged in their own duties and responsibilities to take advantage of this.  The insurance broker has a huge job in the renewal, negotiation and presentation of the insurance program.  The need for “transparency” demands that someone else focus on Risk Management for the entire organization.

The traditional “delivery” of insurance with  the Chief Financial Officer is lacking on so many levels.  The CFO rarely understand insurance so cannot use it to his or her advantage.  His or her valuable time is taken up by the tedious renewal process.  At the end of this period, he or she has had enough of the insurance broker so gladly returns to his or her “vital” job within the company.  A seasoned “Risk Manager” can remove this task from the CFO”s desk, draft the renewal submission and tell the broker in very clear terms, what is expected from the insurers.

In addition to the usual insurance products, the Risk Manager will make the time to invite the insurers (providers) in to display their “added value” services.  This comes at no additional cost but is so necessary 

During the past 15 years, we have seen the effects of :    
  1. Natural Disasters
  2. Economic catastrophes
  3. Changing appetites, demands of consumers, governments, compliance, trends, etc.
  4. Different trading partners.
  5. etc.
The “cost/benefit” analysis of a full time Risk Manager is difficult to justify in the face of these pressures.  However an “Independent Risk Manager” with Risk Management software, is a solution for the middle market corporation who is looking for more certainty in their future well being.

Risk Managers are the future of any successful business and for those who have a keen appreciation for insurance and its value, the more advantages for their employer.  

Owner, RiskAssist Consulting Inc. (2013)

  • 1979 began in marine insurance; commercial and private pleasure craft
  • Worked on national programs backed by associations for all members in various product lines; professional liability, d & o, property and casualty, technology, construction, bonding, etc.
  • Came to appreciate the need for a broad understanding of the nature of client’s business activities; partners, mergers and acquisitions, new partners, grandfathering of a company to family members, the “C” suite, etc.
  • Public company issues became a full time activity in the latter 10 years  of my career at WE Commercial Ins and at Axis Ins Mgrs
  • We are no where without the strong support or our partners, suppliers including insurers, and advisors.  
  • 1988 1991 Intercon Insurance Services Ltd. with Sue Waterman-managing an existing commercial book from a prior agency
  • Key INsurance Services/WE Commercial Insurance Services Ltd - a small book of commercial business was developed for a partner and then we formed a company, combining both of our books.  i was the equal partner, manager, producer, etc.  
  • 2001 joined Axis INsurance Managers Inc. (formerly Winram Insurance) with Tony Davis to provide more support for their markets and ultimately became a partner at Axis.

Risk Management
  • 15 years as a member of RIMS Canada RIMS USA (Risk Information Management Society) has taught me so much and introduced me to so many people in Canada and in the US.  Attendance at the Canadian and US conferences every year allowed me to actually communicate with all sorts of Risk Managers; institutional, corporate, public co, blue collar, “Diesel”, automotive, etc,
  • The role of a Chief Risk Officer has evolved from simply an annoyance, and a cost to that of a respected position  within any organization.  They hold the title and do their utmost to have a positive effect on operations, production, management and the success of the corporation.  They bring a wide variety of experience to the table.  
  • Re:  Target:  After the latest well publicized fiasco at Target over the credit card scam, the Chief Information Officer left.  Did they have enough insurance?  Did they anticipate their exposure and adequately prepare for it?  
  • However given the stresses of the world economy and the national pressures, the average commercial operator cannot afford the annual cost of a CRO.   We come to them with a Risk Management software that does several things:  i.e. Risk Mapping, Risk Management templates, tracking of claims, tracking of policies, issuance of reports on a quarterly basis to the C suite, etc.; on a web based platform.

Additional thoughts on Risk Management
  • Identification of exposures to loss and vulnerabilities within the organization and without
  • Design of a Risk Management program to be used as a reference for all future changes, goals and team involvement.
  • Monitoring the plan with changes implemented as time requires this.
  • Issuance of a report on a single format, compiling the information from all departments, to enable management to make plans for the future.
Years of Experience:
Over 30 years of experience in the industry
  • 2012 Who’s Who Publishers Annual roster of Top Female Executives in honour of outstanding professional excellence and education
  • 2014 Achieved the Risk Manager of the Year Award through Who’s Who Publishers
  • BC Society of Fellows
  • Professional Liability Underwriting Society
  • RIMS Society
  • Associateship of General Insurance (1987)
  • Fellowship in Insurance (1990)
  • Certified Risk Management Designation (1989)
  • RIMS Fellows (2007)
  • Bachelor of Arts- French and Italian Literature, University of British Columbia (1974-1978)
  • Sorbonne, French and Italian Literature, Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (1971-1974)
Current Town Vancouver
Other Information:
  • born in Canada to Canadian parents with English/Yugoslavian heritage
  • lived in the pacific northwest until University when I moved to Paris France to study French and Italian language and literature and also attended art school at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts.
  • lived in eastern canada to work for McLean Hunter publishing and Foote Cone & Belding Advertising
  • returned to Vancouver to work in the restaurant business and went to work for Sun Life in the life insurance industry.
  • Found my way to commercial insurance where I spent 30 years as a broker, manager, agency owner.

To read the full feature, click on the following link Insurance Business Hot List 2014.