Golden Bear Insuance Company

The 2016 Risk All Stars: Michael Brown, Looking at the Upside

Insurance and risk management is an industry where people contemplate worst-case scenarios.

Michael Brown, vice president and property department manager at Golden Bear Insurance Co. in Stockton, Calif., said for too long, he and his firm focused on the downside of risk while neglecting the “upside.”

“Modern risk management theory demands a 360-degree, holistic view of risk — both the upside and the downside,” he said.

He brought that upside theory of risk management to Golden Bear after exploring the concept as part of his ongoing leadership development, enrolling in The Institutes’ Associates in Enterprise Risk Management program in 2011.

Back in the office, he trained managers to incorporate upside risk into everyday leadership decisions, so now, all meetings include consideration of emerging risks from the perspective of each department head.

The organization has a top-down open door policy that encourages all employees to bring attention to possible opportunities.

“We try to encourage people to look for big risks and opportunities. We borrow from the Department of Homeland Security, and tell our employees, ‘If you see something, say something,’ ” Brown said.

Golden Bear Vice President Ken King said Brown has made a “big difference” and “opened many eyes” by bringing the ERM program to the firm. He said Brown is very good at sparking new ideas among members.

“There were things we already knew but weren’t thinking about. He has really helped us to look at things in a new manner,” King said.

Brown also focused on the industry’s emerging talent gap risk.

“Modern risk management theory demands a 360-degree, holistic view of risk — both the upside and the downside.” — Michael Brown, vice president and property department manager, Golden Bear Insurance Co.

“This paucity of talented, qualified leaders for the future not only poses a threat for our organization, but for the industry as a whole. To combat the potential downside risk of this situation, we developed a robust internship program to groom the next generation of insurance professionals and change perceptions of the industry among young people,” he said.

That program includes hands-on experience within Golden Bear, professional certification opportunities, and externships at prominent organizations within the industry.

Brown also helped create a product line at Golden Bear that helps lower the 15 percent earthquake insurance deductible for high-priced California homes. It has proven to be profitable.

“We had seen requests from many brokers for a way to do earthquake insurance with a lower deductible and I saw an opportunity to create little mini-policies that would bring the deductible down to 5 percent,” Brown said.

What Brown most likes about the insurance industry is that “there’s always something new.”

“At least once a week, I see a type of business or a type of risk that I’ve never even seen or thought about. The variety of risks that cross my desk on any given day is phenomenal.”

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