Why this Web Site?
Many of you may know that
I was a practicing Risk Manager for the 9 years immediately before the
founding of Harvard Aimes Group.
Since 1984, I've earned my living helping companies
find good people to manage their Risk Management programs. I consciously
chose to operate in a very narrow niche. I believe we are the ONLY Executive
Search firm in the world that accepts assignment ONLY in the area of
CORPORATE risk management (including the sub-specialties of Safety and Claims
management). We do not accept assignments Brokers, Carriers, or Vendors to
the buyer community. And we work ONLY on an Employer-retained basis.
I developed this site
because of an abiding (self-) interest in Risk Management as a career / a
craft / and a profession.
Your comments (and your
contributions) are greatly appreciated.
Jim Gunther, Principal
Harvard Aimes Group
What have you done for me lately?
Over the years, we've
always tried to be accessible to people who have a personal interest in Risk
Management as a career. Many times folks ask about the general subject of
career management. More often, however, the caller wants advice or help in
making an immediate job change. The biggest recurring frustration I've had in
the years since founding Harvard Aimes Group is my inability to do anything
more than to give good advice to good people when what they really need is 'a
new job'. The following is some of the "free advice" I've dispensed
over the years - you may take it for what it's worth.
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Career Risk Management
At the risk of sounding
cryptic, it is painfully obvious that the days of corporate
"cradle-to-grave" (if they ever existed) are certainly over.
Furthermore, the pace of change shows no sign of slowing down. That in mind,
it should be obvious that today's middle manager needs to take a more
proactive approach to career management.
You are totally responsible for
The headhunter's role
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
A good friend observed some time ago, that "you 'headhunters' are a lot
like bankers". While business was pretty good at the time, I didn't
quite understand the characterization. He continued, only partly in jest,
that his banker "was always happy to lend money when I didn't need
it". I got it - and (unfortunately) there's more than a bit of truth to
Like your banker, the
time to develop a "relationship"
with a recruiter/headhunter/executive search consultant (which moniker is
applied doesn't matter to ME) is when you don't NEED one.
It is never a
bad idea to be plugged in.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
All search firms (whether an employment agency working on a contingency fee
basis or an employer-retained practice - such as ours) are paid by the CLIENT
and -- YOU aren't the client!
Our charter is to help the firms we represent (they pay our fee) find the
near perfect combination of background, experience, and chemistry or
"fit" which matches their needs at the given moment. When
considered against a background of budget/salary/industry and location
considerations, the likelihood that 'all the stars can perfectly align' for
your benefit at the exact moment that you have a 'need' is, frankly, remote.
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The Five-Year Chunk Outlook
I've long advocated that
folks look at their career in five-year "chunks". Beyond your first
couple job assignments (which should be looked at as post-graduate
education), the middle manager needs to form a mindset in which a job is
undertaken on the basis of a Five-Year option.
Such an approach will
require that one:
- Get your ticket punched - that is - acquire the
degrees and professional designations appropriate to your chosen field.
- Keep current on state-of-the-art in
- Stay active and networked in your field
- Each of these points is
The investment in your
own human capital will benefit your present employer making you more valuable
Knowledge of the marketplace will keep you abreast of your own value in the
If, at the end of your
five year "option" period, you still find yourself excited, fairly
compensated, and your employer continues to provide a thriving environment -
GREAT! But it is naive to expect it.
Should, however, you
find your, then current, assignment less than stimulating you may consider to
exercising your "option" elsewhere. Certainly, the angst often
associated with making a change should be somewhat reduced because it was -
"part of the plan".
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I had a discussion with
a colleague some years ago, regarding a scandal that had been exposed in the
Wall Street Journal. This was a front-page general business item that was
eventually discussed by all the business magazines and, in fact, directly
effected his specific industry. Clearly, my friend had NO knowledge of the
subject. He volunteered that he hadn't read anything about it because,
"if his company wouldn't get him the Journal he wasn't going to pay for
it" - What a stupid, self-destructive attitude!
While my friend might
have considered his company's educational reimbursement policy cheap and
shortsighted - such a policy should have been the most compelling reason for
him to invest in himself. He spitefully chose not to invest in advanced
academics, professional designations or targeted networking of any type. (He
was also an ant-computer Luddite.) Alas, he is out of the Risk Management
business today -- Sadly, the market passed him by.
WHAT ARE YOU READING?
There are so many general
business related resources available that you could spend your every waking
hour reading. Obviously, one has to pick one's spots. At a minimum, you
should be reading:
- Business Week also provides a
good reflective perspective
- Fortune frequent entertaining
articles - certainly a wonderful way to keep abreast of
"flavor-of-the-month" management theories and trends
- Business Insurance -
- The Journal of your
(I.e. Restaurant News for the restaurant industry) Make sure you get the
most respected one in your business. You need to be able to speak the
language spoken in your industry (and that isn't insurance-ese!)
GETTING YOUR TICKET
GET THE A.R.M.
There are a number of
practical (cynical?) reasons to get your ARM (Associate in Risk Management)
sooner than later.
While it does not teach
you how to be a Risk Manager, it does give a nice overview. You might
actually learn something.
It will separate you
from more than 60% of the folks you may compete with in the job market;
especially at the near-entry level.
classes are excellent networking opportunities.
It is a relatively easy
professional designation to obtain. Only three exams.
It is tangible evidence
of a commitment to professional development.
CPCU vs. MBA
Some things to think about
when you plan your continuing formal education. The CPCU is the "gold
standard" professional/technical designation for the insurance
professional. Anyone holding the key ought to be proud of his or her
accomplishment. Nonetheless, those planning a career in the corporate world
(and not already committed to the 10-exam CPCU process) ought to consider:
- CPCU is, in fact, an
- MBA is a general business
designation and is likely to have more credibility and currency within
the corporate organization.
- In the real world, where
the Risk Manager is seldom seen as a mainstream manager (because of the
language he/she speaks), why not stack the cards in your favor by having
the same ticket your peer level managers have?
When considering the
pantheon of professional educational opportunities, many (Risk) Managers
would be better served by the Dale Carnegie or Toastmasters regimen than by
the 10 CPCU classes.
There are only so many hours
in the day. Few employers relish the thought of their managers participating
in every possible industry group.
I've always been an
advocate of professional involvement with RIMS. For most practitioners, it's the
only opportunity to network with peers on a regular basis. It's accessible.
The ability to pick up the phone and "brainstorm" with a colleague
you've met through RIMS, who doesn't have an ax to grind, is incalculable.
All things considered, if you're depending exclusively on your broker for
risk management advice and counsel you run a serious "lack of
INDUSTRY SPECIFIC RISK
Most industries have
formal or informal focus groups. While one needs to be somewhat circumspect
regarding anti-trust issues, these can be some of the most worthwhile
organizations to be involved with. The likes of the National Restaurant
Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the American Bankers
Association do a fine and focused job with their risk management sub-groups.
MAPI vs. RIMS
One wonderful organization
I discovered some time ago is Manufacturers
Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI).
This Washington DC based group has a very broad
charter to affect legislation and enhance the environment for business. They
educate government but they also have a mission to enhance the skills their
members. They have a CEO group, a General Counsel's group, Treasurer's, Human
Resources, and a Risk Manager's group. Typically, these specialty focus
groups meet twice yearly (at pretty nice digs). The unique MAPI twist is a requirement on individual
members to participate by and delivering a paper every 3 years. The work
product delivered at the meeting is mostly practical and excellent.
From my conversations
over the years with top executives, I can report that involvement with MAPI has enormous currency in the corporate
hierarchy. Because your boss and his/her boss have been exposed to MAPI, they know that when you go to a MAPI meeting that you're going to work and
you're going to learn. That is not always the perception held of the annual
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The ONE decision you
can make to improve your career opportunities by a factor of 10
Life certainly offers a
series of trade-offs. You should consider that you might be creating your own
glass ceiling by refusing to consider opportunities outside your present
geographic comfort zone. Immutable laws of supply and demand prove that those
willing to relocate (at some point) during their career are usually able to
CHOOSE from a greater selection of opportunities.
Why Risk Managers DON'T
There was a very
thoughtful article in Institutional Investor some years ago entitled
"Why Risk Managers Get Fired" (by Neil Osborne). It reported
several technically related snafus that contributed to the ouster of the Risk
Manager. It mentioned the RM's failure to place separate insurance on the
corporate jet for a flight to Mexico (resulting in a temporary
impoundment to the exquisite irritation of the CEO/passenger). It further
detailed other screw-ups relating to co-insurance shortfalls, gaps and lapses
and failure to understand/anticipate how the insuring agreement would apply
(too late) after the loss.
The common thread was a
failure to execute the technical fundamentals of the job.
In the last 15 years
I've often been cast in the role of the Undertaker (NOT the executioner). I
can't recall one case where the incumbent has been ousted solely because of
shortcomings in the technical aspects of one's Insurance/Excess Insurance
program. People DON'T get fired because of they are not good insurance
I've yet to hear of a
CFO comparing manuscript policies with his peers or competitors resulting in
anyone's demise. Similarly, I've never heard of a Risk Manager being fired
because his loss conversion factor was a point above a similar company down
the block. It just doesn't happen!
Does this mean that you
don't have to watch the details? Of course not - That's your job! Just don't
expect a lot of appreciation for the nuance of your craft. You are expected
demonstrate "seamless competence" in the routine execution of your
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The one book I always
The ONE book I
recommend for ANY middle or upper management aspirant or purchaser of search
of Passage at $100,000 -- by John Lucht. This book is loaded with insider
information about career leverage and how the entire job changing process
works. If I can't do anything for you other than recommend this book, I may
have done you an enormous favor.
Why Risk Managers do get fired
to Cool Hand Luke - "What we have here is a failure to communicate"
- It's (almost) always a failure to communicate. That's the short answer. ...
Stay tuned for the longer answer.
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Proactive Career Management - Prospective Client Information
About Harvard Aimes Group - Articles and Links
Essentials - Mistakes - Rules 101
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