March 1, 2017 by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor
Technological advances, such as autonomous vehicles, provide both challenges and opportunities for risk managers, but the “basic tenets” of risk management have not changed over the years, suggests Rieneke (Ren) Lips, chair of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) Canada Council.
“If you talk to most risk managers, they would probably say that drones, autonomous vehicles and cyber liability are some of the challenges that they face,” says Lips, a Mississauga, Ontario-based insurance risk manager for PCL Constructors Canada Inc.
“There are lots of articles being written about those, which is great, but until something gets tried and tested in court, it is difficult to assess how things are going to get adjusted when there is a loss,” she explains.
“For cyber, there have been some high-profile cyber hacking attempts and that’s the sort of thing that certainly keeps you on your toes,” she says.
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Lips moved to Calgary when she was 15. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Calgary and began working towards a bachelor of science in math, with the intent of studying actuarial science.
“About a year in, I went, ‘No this isn’t really for me,’ so I went back into general studies and ended up (studying) management,” Lips recounts.
“I didn’t want to become an accountant like everyone else, so I picked a concentration that seemed interesting, that had a tie to actuarial science and that’s where the risk and insurance management program came into play,” she adds.
Graduating in 1998 with a bachelor of commerce in risk and insurance management, Lips began working for construction engineering firm Agra Inc. in Calgary.
“They ended up moving their head office in Toronto, so my boss took me to his next job,” she says.
That next job, in Calgary, was at SC Infrastructure, later known as Aecon. After Aecon moved its risk management function to Toronto, Lips joined Aon Reed Stenhouse, in 2001, as a broker and account manager in Calgary. That was her only stint on the broker side.
“I don’t want to work crazy hours like the brokers,” she quips. “I want to go home and let them work the crazy hours for me.”
That said, working for Aon Reed Stenhouse offered some real insight.
“It was good to understand how a program gets marketed to the insurers,” she suggests. “At that point, I had a better appreciation for how much work goes into it – not just from me, as the client, but also from the broker – to how many markets they go out to and how they compare all the responses back to the client. Now I have a better appreciation for what the broker has to go through to market my program.”
In addition to her degree, Lips has also obtained the Certified Insurance Professional designation from the Insurance Institute of Canada and the Chartered Professional Accountant designation.
VALUE OF VOLUNTEERING
It was while working for the City of Calgary from 2003 through 2007 that Lips became active in the Southern Alberta Risk and Insurance Management Society (SARIMS).
“My boss at the time was involved” with SARIMS, she says. “Some of the meetings were at our office. It just made sense.”
Lips initially served as webmaster for SARIMS. She also held the position of vice president, working her way through the executive to become president from 2010 through 2012.
“The lady who was the webmaster before me also worked for the City (of Calgary) at the time, so I just took over from her,” Lips recounts. “It was a great way to run my network as someone fairly recent in the industry,” she says.
In 2007, Lips joined the University of Calgary as a risk and insurance analyst, where she worked until 2009, at which point she joined PCL Constructors, her current employer.
“As soon as I started (at PCL), I said, ‘Yeah, I like being in construction, and I think I will end up staying in construction now.’ I don’t foresee myself getting out of the construction side of risk management.”
At PCL Constructors, Lips currently has responsibility for the Toronto district.
“I do the due diligence on our subcontractors that we include under our subcontractor default insurance programs,” she reports. “Any issues where there is any type of insurance involved, I get involved,” she says.
At the national level of RIMS, Lips previously served as treasurer and vice chair of the RIMS Canada Council, before taking on the role of chair this past January.
“For me, the volunteering has been a real big part of my success in the community, so I do urge others to volunteer at a local, national or international level,” she points out.
Some RIMS Canada volunteers are currently busy preparing for the RIMS Canada Conference, to be held September 24 through 27 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“The theme is community,” Lips says. “We all interact with people at different levels,” she points out, adding that disaster risk and emerging risks will be among the areas of focus on the conference agenda.
“Besides the educational piece is the networking,” Lips says of the benefits of attending the conference. “A lot of our clients and our subcontractors are members of RIMS and sometimes when we meet at conferences, we can often hash out a few issues that have been kind of lingering that are just easier dealt with face-to-face. I wouldn’t have had those connections if it weren’t for RIMS.”
There is a wide variety of opportunities out there for risk professionals, Lips suggests. For example, autonomous vehicles bring in “different ways of managing transportation risks,” she points out.
“If there are fewer accidents, you don’t need to worry about it as much. I would imagine that’s going to change the look and feel of some of the insurance programs in place, including captives and self-insured retentions, potentially,” Lips expects.
With 17 years of experience in risk management, Lips suggests that changes in technology and the emergence of business models – such as the sharing economy – have not fundamentally changed the job of a risk professional.
“To me, risk management is really applying common sense,” she offers. “The basic tenets of risk management don’t change. It’s just that the risks change,” she goes on to say.