Canadian Underwriter
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In Good Company

Mark Day, recipient of the Donald M. Stuart Award, sees risk professionals increasingly becoming part of conversations early on.


December 1, 2016   by Angela Stelmakowich, Editor


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Mark Day

Ah, the early 1980s – a thriving time in Alberta when employers scouted university and polytechnic campuses to find prospects with desirable education and skills.

Mark Day had some of those. “Alberta was booming, so a business education was sought after,” says Day, a graduate of the business school at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

He interviewed with several employers “and the insurance company was the first one that offered me a position,” Day reports.

“So, suddenly I was in the insurance industry.”

Mark Day

Mark Day, executive director, risk management and insurance Alberta Treasury Board; recipient, Donald M. Stuart Award

It may not have been charted, but it proved the right course, serving as the start of what has become a 25-plus-year career in insurance and risk management.

It is a career that was recently recognized with what is widely regarded as Canada’s highest risk management honour, the Donald M. Stuart Award, given each year by the Ontario chapter of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS).

Calling the experience humbling and special, “I’ve been fortunate to work with or discuss risk management issues with many of the other recipients,” says Day, now the executive director of risk management and insurance for the Alberta government’s Treasury Board and Finance.

“It sort of validates all the efforts and all the other extra-curricular things that you’ve been doing,” Day says.

His list of volunteering for, promoting and supporting risk management is long.

Among other things, Day has served as president of the Northern Alberta chapter of RIMS (NARIMS) twice; was NARIMS representative on the National Education Sub-Committee of the Canadian Risk Management Council; served on the RIMS Canada Council; was instrumental in initiating the Canadian Risk Management (CRM) courses taught through the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta in Edmonton; was an instructor for the Insurance Institute of Canada; and

was a member of the Grant MacEwan College Insurance and Risk Management Advisory Committee.

It is good to give, especially young students in university programs, “some exposure to the risk management field and not have them fall into it later on in their career,” Day believes. “It’s so critical to businesses to manage their risks properly and I think giving (students) opportunities in a post-secondary (setting), gives them one more option.”

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Mark Day, executive director, risk management and insurance Alberta Treasury Board; recipient, Donald M. Stuart Award

In his current role with the Alberta government, Day’s responsibilities are again long: the overall delivery of risk management, risk control, risk financing and risk identification to all departments of government, most provincial corporations, all provincial committees, public and elected officials, and thousands of volunteers.

That variety may be one reason why risk management continues to be his career of choice. With services ranging from prisons to museums, parks and social agencies, the job is “trying to allow the government departments to achieve their business plan, knowing that they’ve got the backing of the risk management program,” he suggests.

“I think it’s the variety of what the provincial government does, but also the opportunities to volunteer on other projects,” Day says, adding he has benefited from a dedicated team and management support that allows for creativity and innovation.

“We can really dig into what’s going on in the province. We’re not just reactive; we can put in programs to make a difference,” he says.

“Our risk management vision is actually a government where all employees are risk-aware and smart risk-taking is encouraged and enabled,” Day reports.

One way his office is trying to achieve that is through the new risk management champions program. It is a “way to reach out to all of our representatives, give them more support, enhance their roles internally so they can then become eyes and ears on the ground,” he says.

ROAD TO NOW

A wider view is something Day believes he has cultivated over his career in risk management, which began in Alberta, travelled west to British Columbia for a time and then returned home.

Day worked at an insurer, where he was exposed, on the underwriting side, to auto, farm, commercial and personal lines; at the British Columbia government where he took part in further developing a risk management program; at the Alberta Liquor Control Board, where a risk management program was implemented from scratch; and two stints at the Alberta government, early on in his career and currently.

Day knew nothing about risk management during his first stint at the Alberta government; he also did not know he was joining one of the first dedicated risk management offices within a large organization, dating back to the early 1970s.

There for seven or eight years, “I was fortunate enough to learn risk management from some pretty senior and well-developed and innovative risk managers,” he says.

Over the years, Day has seen things change. Noting that enterprise risk management was adopted by the Alberta government years ago, he suggests the resulting benefits are evident when his group now interacts with ministries and departments.

Three or four decades ago, the risks on C-suite radars were operational. But “operational risk management has been so well-handled over the past number of years by professional risk managers, those risks are now way down on the list,” he says.

“There’s an acceptance within the government that risks – like liability claims, property claims, automobile claims, those kinds of things – are being properly managed and they can turn their attention to the larger corporate risk these days,” Day notes.

That is good news given how quickly the risk landscape is changing. Cyber risks, for example, are clearly now more prevalent. Citizens are not longer willing “to accept lapses, data breaches and that sort of thing,” he says.

“I think risk managers will be bringing perspective to (cyber liability) in addition to the corporate policies and the information technology area,” Day says, calling it “a widening area” in which risk professionals can get involved.

Cloud computing is another issue on which risk managers can provide input on risk allocation, risk-sharing and risk management, he says. “Risk management is evolving to the point where (risk professionals) are being considered for input and thoughts when these new programs are developed rather than reacting after the fact when something goes wrong.”

Of course, being in Alberta, severe weather is an ongoing concern. But even with losses like Slave Lake, Fort McMurray and the 2013 floods, those experiences could, ultimately, prove significant gains.

The government, especially after the floods, “has really turned its eye, even more so, to mitigation,” says Day.

“We’re crossing our fingers that 2017 will be boring, but I think the frequency of the natural disasters is something we need to keep on top of in order to do what we can and learn from how we responded in the past,” he points out.

As part of Alberta’s Assistant Deputy Minister Recovery Task Force, Day’s involvement following Slave Lake and the 2013 flooding,

has “probably been the most rewarding work that I’ve done – to see how the Government of Alberta was able to come together and assist not only the citizens, but the affected municipalities, towns and cities,” he says.

Also gratifying, though, has been how risk management is increasingly being involved.

During the floods, right from start, “the government decided they wanted risk management at the table and I think that demonstrates how far risk managers, the perception within their organizations, has come,” Day says.

Most large organizations have formal risk management programs. “I think they are increasingly going to be tapped in the future on some of the more emerging risk issues.”