Reflections and tips from risk manager David Gresko

Reflections and tips from risk manager David Gresko | Insurance Business America

Reflections and tips from risk manager David Gresko

by Ed Cranswick

David Gresko, risk and insurance manager at Houston-based Noble Energy, brings a holistic perspective to his role.

“When you look back at my career, I’ve spent about a third of my time in engineering, about a third of my time in finance, and about a little less than a third of my time in risk management,” he said. “So – I feel like I’ve had a pretty balanced career.”

He is frequently told that he’s one of the few risk managers that has a background in engineering and finance. But that’s not the only aspect from which he sees the market from multiple angles.

“I work for an oil and gas company now,” he said. “Before this, I worked for an electric power producer. Before that, I worked for a petrochemical company. [So I’m a] risk manager who’s worked upstream, downstream, and in power purchasing. So – I kind of get the market.”

Gresko did his undergraduate studies in engineering, and bounced between various parts of the energy and related sectors, in engineering and finance, before a colleague invited him to a Deloitte seminar on property damage and business interruption insurance. This set him on a new trajectory, and not long after he decided he’d like to switch from finance to risk management. Propitious timing meant that someone in the risk management department was looking to get out just as Gresko was looking to get in.

“And we just arranged for him and me to switch jobs and I got into risk management in the beginning of 2004 and I’ve been there ever since,” he said. His passion for it is such, though, that he wished this little turning point had arrived sooner.

We asked Gresko whether he had any predictions for the future of the industry.

“The first one is that I’m going to be working with a lot more lawyers, essentially because the contracts I deal with are getting more complicated,” he said. “The counter parties are getting a lot smarter. Laws are changing and they’re not only changing for the better.”

Related to this, he notes the unfortunate and increasing propensity of people “looking for someone to blame when something bad happens.” This means companies must be ever cautious to make sure the right insurance arrangements are in place.

We also ask Gresko how technology has changed the industry over the course of his career.

Recalling the changed dynamic in the workplace when pagers were first introduced – people would say, “Oh, you must be important. The company gave you pagers” – before too long a boss was thrusting a Blackberry upon him.

Boss: “You’re gonna get a Blackberry.”

DG: “No – I don’t want a Blackberry.”

“Well, I got it anyway,” he said. “Now, everybody’s got iPhones and Samsung phones – but what these smart devices mean is you’re connected to your job 24/7. So, even when I’m on vacation I’m working.”

While probably everyone regrets this creeping intrusion of the professional into the personal, Gresko notes that technology has more threatening consequences from a workplace standpoint.

“The problem is that sometimes the technology outpaces our ability to contain it,” he said. “And that’s the bad part because that’s how you get cyber-security issues. And I think a lot of companies would tell you, cyber-security is not their top priority. In terms of risks, exposure, it’s easily in the top three.”

But he has a novel answer to the new threats facing us in the modern age.

“A lot of times, when we think about what’s going on in cyber and how they’re hacking this, that, and the other – a lot of the solutions are to go back to what the technology was in the 70s or 80s, believe it or not.

“Because they’re not impacted by the internet, not impacted by data communication. You can’t hack into a mechanical piece of equipment. So, in some instances, the way you solve problems with new technology is you use old technology.”

So what advice would he give to a younger version of himself?

“What I wish I would have done earlier in my career would be to find and identify mentors and really go out of your way to interact with key leaders, because that’s how you identify opportunities, career opportunities,” he said.

He puts an emphasis on networking, even setting up your own networking events where necessary.

“I used to set up lunches with the different business managers just so that I could talk to them and say, ‘Hey, you know, I’m interested in doing this. Do you have any thoughts? Do you have any recommendations as to what I can do? Who should I talk to, to get their thoughts?’ Because they’ve climbed that mountain already, and why create a new path when they’ve already created a path for you?” he explained.

Alongside this, Gresko relates a helpful life motto that his father inscribed upon his consciousness as a young chap.

“Work hard and get along with everybody, because you never know who’s gonna be your boss one day,” he said.