Risk management is too important to be the sole responsibility of risk managers. So says Deborah M. Luthi, the new president of the Risk and Insurance Management Society, who is leading RIMS’ efforts to extend its reach beyond its risk manager membership to all those involved with risk management.
“RIMS is redefining that term risk manager and broadening it to become risk practitioner because there are many in the organization who help to manage risk beyond the traditional risk managers,” Luthi says, pointing to employees in treasury, compliance, security, audit and human resources.
RIMS’ inaugural enterprise risk management conference in November is the type of offering that appeals to that expanded universe of those involved in managing risk, she says, adding that “RIMS will continue to provide cutting-edge publications, thought leadership and tools that apply to this broader spectrum of risk practitioners.”
RIMS, which currently has chapters in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Japan, is also considering expanding its geographic reach to the emerging BRIC nations—Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Luthi takes the helm at RIMS after a year in which catastrophe losses piled up in an alarming fashion. “In 2011, we saw what I call some of the unknown unknowns happen,” she says. “Things we would have never expected occurred.”
She notes that some of the risks that concern top executives the most are those that can’t be offset with insurance products. Risk managers’ relationships with brokers and underwriters can play a role there, Luthi says, as they work with those parties to see if there are ways to cover additional types of risk.
Risk managers can also make the somewhat theoretical concepts of enterprise risk management and strategic risk management come to life by explaining “what that looks like in the real world,” Luthi says. “We call on our members, if they can, to share those stories of successes—the upside, the opportunities their organizations have been able to take, and the difference that it has made.”
Luthi, who is currently risk manager for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, has divided her career between the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. Before joining the Public Utilities Commission last year, she headed enterprise risk management at Matheson, a trucking company, and served as director of risk management at the University of California at Davis.
“In the private sector, it’s much more bottom-line driven,” Luthi says, while in the public sector, “there are a lot of winds that are blowing.
“In a public setting, it requires a risk manager to take and craft the message so it really will resonate with rate payers or stakeholders,” she adds. “It’s not always the bottom line, the dollars and cents, that will win the day.”