Canadian Underwriter

Strategic Thinking

August 1, 2016   by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor

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Julie Pemberton has seen some major changes in the risk management role over the past 20 years.

“Risk leaders in the past had been very focused on risk insurance transfer and managing hazard risk,” notes Pemberton, president of RIMS, the risk management society, for the 2016 term.

“The world has most definitely evolved over the years to be closer to strategy.

Julie Pemberton, President, RIMS; and director of enterprise risk and insurance management, Outerwall Inc.

Julie Pemberton, President, RIMS; and director of enterprise risk and insurance management, Outerwall Inc.

The enterprise risk and strategic risk processes that have evolved over the past 10 years have become more prominent, I would say, in our industry, and have certainly challenged risk leaders to think bigger about the business, the risks that are impacting the business and strategy,” she suggests.

Pemberton, whose full-time job is director of enterprise risk and insurance management for Outerwall Inc. near Chicago, leads the company’s enterprise risk, insurance and safety functions. As of the end of 2015, Outerwall had US$2.1 billion in revenues and 2,670 employees.

Like so many others who have made risk management a career, however, Pemberton did not always want to be a risk manager.

“I was kind of thrown into risk management,” she recalls of her days working for Cincinnati Bell, the phone company serving her hometown, during the 1980s.

Her first job out of high school was in reception for a small insurance agency, and she later joined Cincinnati Bell in an administrative role. Within a year, though, there was a corporate reorganization.

“They said, ‘Next week you will be reporting to this person in the risk management department,'” Pemberton remembers being informed.

“I said, ‘What?’ I went in kicking and screaming because I didn’t want to be in insurance, quite frankly.”

Pemberton’s clear reluctance to risk and insurance quickly waned. “As I dug my teeth into the work, I developed a passion for it and decided I wanted to move forward with it,” she recounts.

Since 2000, Pemberton has been an active member of New York City-based RIMS, a global body with approximately 11,000 members working for more than 3,500 organizations in 60 countries.

A RIMS board member since 2010, she has also been the board liaison for RIMS Canada Council, whose annual conference is scheduled for September in Calgary, treasurer from 2006 through 2009 and a member of the society’s enterprise risk development committee.

“I met a lot of leaders in that role and became a lot more engaged in volunteering for the organization,” she says of her work on the committee.


Pointing out that RIMS’ mission statement is to educate, engage and advocate for the global risk community, Pemberton further notes the society’s strategic goal is to “enhance the way we engage the broader risk management community.” That broader community, she says, could include professionals in internal audit, strategy and compliance.

“The board (RIMS Board of Directors) has become more and more strategic over the years that I have been engaged, and I want to build on that great work that staff and the organization have been doing,” Pemberton reports.

It may be that her past work experience, and the perspective it gave her, can help to meet that goal.

Some of Pemberton’s experience in risk management was on the other side of the desk, including working in Cincinnati as an account manager for Aon Risk Services Inc. from 1995 through 2000. Over that time, she learned plenty both on and off the job.

“I learned a tremendous amount at Aon,” Pemberton says. “I worked on a portfolio of accounts that gave me a broader view of risk management functions.”

Off the job, Pemberton attended Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky during that time, eventually earning a business degree.

At Aon Risk Services, one of Pemberton’s clients was Chiquita Brands International Inc., a North Carolina-based firm she joined in 2000. As well as distributing bananas from Central America, Chiquita also makes the Fresh Express brand of bagged salad.

“Chiquita’s insurance program and risk management program was huge,” Pemberton relays, noting that the company was exposed to risks in agriculture, property, food processing and manufacturing.

A couple of years into her tenure at the company, Pemberton earned her Associate in Risk Management (ARM) designation from the Insurance Institute of America in 2002.

She left Chiquita in 2011 to join Coinstar Inc. as director of enterprise risk and insurance management, initially working near Seattle.

Coinstar, which operates self-service kiosks that allow people to convert coins to cash or stored value products,

changed its name to Outerwall in 2013.

In addition to Coinstar, Outerwall operates ecoATM, which provides self-service kiosks and an online service where consumers can sell electronic devices. A third Outerwall unit, Redbox, provides self-service kiosks from which people can rent or buy movies and video games.

Currently working out of the Redbox head office in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, Pemberton notes that her role at Outerwall is similar to the one she held when she was with Chiquita.

“I am responsible for the enterprise risk role, along with the insurance and claims management functions, and have been heavily involved in safety initiatives, as well as crisis management work.”

As Outerwall grew, “there was a lot of work to do to transition what I would identify as a middle market-type account to a larger risk management account,” Pemberton says.

“My challenges have been refining their model to be more in line with a business of its size and type,” she adds.

While some things with risk management are similar today, there is plenty that has changed. Since Pemberton’s first job as a receptionist for an agency, she has seen risk management and insurance evolve. Today, one of the most high-profile changes and needs relates to the demand for coverage for cyber security risk.

“It’s not a new risk for businesses,” Pemberton points out. “But there is an evolving landscape going on around it, as well as insurance products are continuing to evolve as well. Just having the insurance companies continue to listen to what the insureds need, to evolve the coverage where it’s appropriate, to make available insurance products that work for the evolving landscape – I think that is important.”

Beyond specific risks and developments, risk professionals are clearly facing more strategic challenges now than ever before, she contends.

“We are not just buying the most insurance for the least premium, the lowest deductible and the broadest terms like we were in years past,” Pemberton says. “We are customizing our programs to truly meet the risk that we want to transfer to ensure the company is focused on mitigation and responding to risk in other ways.”

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