Join Julie Groves and guests Tracey Swift and Miguel Delgado as they discuss the challenges of succession planning in risk management. Employees–learn how to voice your ambitions about career aspirations to your manager. Managers–learn how to create future leaders in your team so your succession plan is set. Listen to the conversation and check out the links in the show notes for solid resources that will prepare you and your colleagues to discuss what skills it will take to get you to the next level and how to help your employees upskill!
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Core Competencies for Higher Education Risk Managers [Member login required]
The Great Resignation is a COVID-19 era term which applies to startingly widespread employee decisions to voluntarily leave, and not return to, their pre-pandemic jobs. Article by Chris Duble” [Member login required]
Steve Holland, DRM, CRM, ARM, Retired Special Risk Advisor to CFO, University of Arizona [Member login required]
Donna Pearcy, ARM, MBA, DRM, Retired Executive Director Risk Management Services and University Risk Manager, Arizona State University [Member login required]
The Risk Management Study Group
URMIA Member Directory [Member login required]
Tracey Swift–Executive Director, Risk Management Services, Arizona State University
Miguel O. Delgado–Chief Risk Officer, University of Arizona
Julie Groves–Director, Risk Services – Wake Forest University
[00:00:00] Julie: Hi, everyone. Welcome to URMIA. I'm Julie Groves, the director of risk services at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem North Carolina. And I'll be your host for today's discussion about air parents with me are Miguel Delgado, chief risk officer at the University of Arizona and URMIA Swift executive director of risk management services at Arizona State University.
Thanks for joining the podcast today, guys. Before we get started, why don't you each tell us a little bit about yourself. So URMIA, I'll start with you.
[00:00:34] Tracey: Sure. Hi Julie. Hi, Miguel. Happy to join. So my name is Tracey swift and I joined Arizona State University. About six years ago. I've been in the risk management field 20 plus years originally in the private sector. And then I decided to make a change to higher ed. And it's just been a fun ride.
[00:00:55] Julie: And it's exciting change, an exciting change.
Julie: And Miguel, what about you?
[00:01:00] Miguel: Yeah. Thank you, Julie. Tracey, it's good to be here. Both of you. Julie has done such a great job kicking us off that I felt like the rest of it's just. Going to go great. But I've been here at the University of Arizona for almost five years now. I was the assistant director, here in risk management for several years and then was able to take over the chief risk officer position, in November of last year. Prior to that, I was at another, you know, large public university. And I think I have going on, more than a decade of, commercial insurance and higher end risk management.
[00:01:31] Julie: So I always like to ask people when I'm interviewing them on the podcast. When you were growing up, did you want to be a risk manager? So is that what you all wanted, Tracey? Is that what you wanted to be when you grew up?
[00:01:43] Tracey: No. Um, I thought between president of the United States, possibly an attorney, but yeah, I kind of fell into this, like everyone else, but it's, it's I got a little bit of the law, the lawyer side of me here still, so.
[00:01:55] Julie: You had been, you would've been a good president. I think you'd have been a good president. That's a lot of pressure though. That might be more pressure than the job we actually have now. So, and Miguel, what about you? What did you want to be when you grew up?
[00:02:06] Miguel: you know, for a while, I thought I wanted to be a surgeon. So that was sort of the plan for a while. I think I ended up exactly where, where I needed to be. I love helping people and, I just think what, what we do is so important and, uh, but no, I never didn't even know it existed.
[00:02:22] Julie: I think most of us didn't, but I mean, honestly, I can say risk management is the better for both of you being involved. So we appreciate your paths that have led you led you here today. So, so Miguel, you mentioned that you were the assistant director and now you're the chief risk officer and that's what we're here to talk about, a little bit today, and we're going to just have a discussion about heir apparent and succession planning for those folks who are maybe assistant directors and risk management and, you know, steps and things they can think about, about how to move up to eventually be the director or the chief risk officer.
so, so how would you all define succession planning?
[00:03:01] Tracey: Oh, okay. So first of all, succession planning is not just about how to plan your career, but it's also a risk mitigation technique, right? So at the end of the day in risk management, it's a very niche field and we need to make sure that when you have someone leaving, whether it's retirement or just moving on to a new position, that you have someone with the requisite skills to continue moving the business forward or the university forward.
And so the first part of it…. It's part, you, you, you have to drive the succession planning. And the other is to make sure you have one for the university as a risk manager. So I look at it as a great way to find a way to build your skillsets and to, bring a wealth of knowledge. And because again, a lot of stuff in risk management is nuance. So having that succession planning and having that partnership with your manager is key to making sure the business continues in a positive direction.
[00:03:53] Julie: Miguel you have anything to add?
[00:03:55] Miguel: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I completely agree with everything. Tracey said, you know, I, to me, I think it's, it's, it's a lot, it's like a lot of other things, right? You, you hear people talk frequently about, about goals. But I think sometimes if they're being honest, they're, they're usually like wishes or, or, or dreams. To me it isn't, it doesn't become more than that until you sort of go through that, that smart process right. Of, of making it specific and then creating some type of, you know, time element. so, so I think it comes down to really creating a formal plan of identifying, you know, somebody who has those ambitions. I think they need to voice that. I think they need to sort of, you know, own that desire and then, and then work with, with their, you know, their institution and partners to kind of figure out how to get from point a to point B. I think as Tracey said, you know, there, there needs to be that process of, I, I identify qualified successors. You know, things happen, people retire, people leave. And I think, I think institutions that are smart are aware of that, especially in fields, like, like risk management and insurance.
[00:04:56] Julie: And so I think Tracey, you touched on it a little bit, you know, in the fact that, succession planning is a risk mitigation strategy. Are there other things, about succession planning that are really important?
[00:05:08] Tracey: Yes, I I'll also hit on what Miguel said is you have to own your own career. And I think that to be proactive. The world is just changing so rapidly so quickly. So I think you always have to have some backup in the office. I think in the past, a lot of times people thought they can go out it alone, but in this ever-changing world, we need to make sure that we're properly cross-trained and we identify gaps. So really kind of expressing to your manager that you want to move forward in your career and your manager being honest and transparent with you as to where you need to grow and develop is a really important step in succession planning because a lot of times, you know, we'll be asked, you know, what's your succession plan.
And it's just going to be my opinion of say my staff, but really it's a two way conversation. So I think it really is just expressing that interest, learning to develop a network. I think that networking and I have to give URMIA credit here. It was integral to my success to bounce ideas of other professionals. You don't have to go with this alone. Everybody's been through it and to really understand the core competencies to really, build upon that and, and have that engaging conversation on a regular basis. Cause you never know when it's going to happen. You could have a situation. You think it might be five years from now and it may be in 60 days from now, nothing is guaranteed.
So just be ready to, to know what you want and plan for it and, and, and capitalize on when you can.
[00:06:31] Julie: Well, and certainly COVID taught us that, you know, we thought people had certain paths that they were going to follow certain retirement dates, people had plans. And then when COVID came that sort of all went out the window. A lot of people's paths to retirement, changed really quickly, you know, and we we've had what we've heard of as the great resignation, you know, or the great retirement shift.
And so we're certainly seeing that happen, you know, and to your point, Tracey, we just, nothing is guaranteed. so that, I think that's, yeah, it's important. before now, before I move on, Miguel, did you have anything you wanted to add?
[00:07:05] Miguel: Yeah, definitely. again, I think, you know, Tracey's insights are, are spot on. you know, even before the great resignation, even, you know, pre COVID, it seems like a long, long time ago, but I, you know, I recall, you know, the, the talent gap being, you know, something that, you know, should have been on, you know, You know, ERM committees radars, because you know, again, before the great resignation, there was already this, this impending retirement of, of the baby boomers that was going to create this vacuum of, of talent and, you know, risk and insurance was one of the sectors that was going to be hit the hardest by that. So, I, you know, I think we, we talk when we talk about risks, I think it's just interesting that Tracey and I, you know, we, we think of it the same way in terms of, I mean, this is a risk but I learned to not just think of risk in terms of, you know, what's the risk if we do this, but what, what's the risk if we don't do something there's, there's that, there's that other side to it that people often don't think about. There are risks of, of not succession planning. Um, you know, there's mission critical information that can be lost, there's disruptions to workflows, institutional knowledge, all these things that can be lost. If an organization doesn't see this as, as a risk that they need to be thinking about and addressing.
[00:08:16] Julie: So Tracey, you touched on this a little bit. and you mentioned that if someone has an. And moving up that they should talk to their manager about that. And obviously it's very important to be transparent and have open dialogue with your managers. What what's, what suggestions do you have for someone who is maybe hesitant to, for instance, go to their manager and say, I want to have your job one day, you know, because you know, people have different comfort levels with those types of things. And so what, what do you all suggest if someone's in that situation?
[00:08:50] Tracey: Sure I can, I can definitely take that one. So that's definitely, at first it's an uncomfortable conversation, right? For certain people, because it is, you don't want to be like, wait, when are you going to get out of your so I can get your job. So I guess the question would be is to really talk, sit down with your manager and say, can you honestly tell me, “Here I am my career here. What kind of skills do you think it takes to get to the next level?” Not to say that you're want their job, but to say, “what do you think I really need to develop, like, let's have a two-way conversation here as to like, would it be a certification? Would it be having more visibility?” Because one of the things is it's not promotions that get you there. It's visibility, accountability, name recognition, networking, all that come into play.
So one of the things I did with my manager was expressed the need to be more involved in professional organizations like URMIA, to be on various committees to the university, so people get to know me because a lot of times risk management departments are very, very small and they're associated with one or two people. So it's kind of hard sometimes to develop your reputation, especially when you haves some people in the industry who've been there for 30, 30 plus years. I mean, they're just, they're, they're well known and it's hard, sometimes big personalities, but just kind of thing, you know, at the end of the day, it's a benefit to your organization, to your manager and to yourself. I think just having that kind of conversation. And also if you're not comfortable with your manager, maybe to leverage some of the URMIA community as well to kind of see how they handled it and just constantly look at developing your skills. I think it's always skills, being in the forefront of what's going on in the insurance market, enterprise risk, you know, there's so much going on in IT C-security, cybersecurity, all that stuff. Just keep current.
[00:10:40] Julie: And on the flip side of that, if you're a manager, how can you help your employees who report to you? How can you help them to, to so that you can be prepared for when your, you, the manager are ready to move on?
[00:10:56] Miguel: You know, what, one of my favorite quotes, and I didn't really know the conversation was going to go this direction, but it, but it works, works out perfectly. Is that probably not getting it spot on, but you know, great, great leaders don't create followers, they create leaders. Right?
So I think the goal of every leader should, should, should be, you know, within their organization to create other other leaders. I, you know, we talked a lot about, about inclusive leadership. I think that's just one of the pillars of a, of a great leader. So I think that that managers should, should understand that, you know, the success of, of their department, you know, how, how effective their, their risk management department is or could be. I mean, it's, it's connected to the opportunities they give. They give others within the departments. I think that you can, um, you know, find as many ways as possible to, you know, assign projects to people, get them interested. Like Tracey said, it's, it's not always easy to get to your manager and have those, those conversations, but I I've yet to meet a, a manager or a leader who isn't excited when someone says, Hey, can I take something off your plate? So I think those are wonderful opportunities. you know.
I had a tremendous mentor, Steve Holland, who was associated with URMIA for decades and, you know, Steve involved me in everything. I, you know, I wanted that. So it worked out well. you know, he, he threw a lot of work by direction. Some of it was probably above my skill level at the time, but I think he was, he was trying to stretch me a little bit. So I think those are, those are all things that leaders can do.
[00:12:25] Julie: Well, and it is, you know, it is a definite balancing act. You know, whether you're the manager or whether you're the, you know, assistant you, you know, you do have to kind of make sure that you have, like I said earlier, these open conversations, I have a friend who's a risk manager at a university. They shall remain unnamed and they hired their assistant risk manager and this individual's first day, he asked that his new boss, the risk manager when she was going to be retiring. And so, you know, you know, there, there is, you know, you can be eager about things, but you also have to learn how to do that in a, in a sort of respectful way. So I think, you know, your, your advice is just really spot on.
And so I think both of you individual experience with this, this whole heir apparent situation. So do you all want to take a minute to share about your experience?
[00:13:17] Tracey: sure. sure. I could, start off with, so I worked with, Donna Pearcy. For five years. And again, just like Steve, a long time risk manager. And we had very open, honest discussions. We, we regularly met. I would ask her for feedback, as to where I can improve. We shared a lot of information with each other, because from my perspective too, I came from the private sector. So I felt that some of those skills could also be used at ASU and, and she agreed with me and we would kind of complement each other. Right.
So it wasn't that I was trying to, you know, set myself up for the number one position when I came in, but we worked with each other to make sure we backed each other up at all times because we were a very busy group. We were building the organization. And so therefore it was kind of organic. We just learned to kind of learn from each other and back each other up. And we had that trust. And so it kind of worked really, pretty clean for us, you know, that, uh, I wasn't exactly sure. You know, when Donna was going to retire, but I did express to her, you know, longterm this is where I'd like to be. And I asked her, what do you suggest? How do you get there? And she was big proponent of URMIA. She's like everything is networking and look at the core competencies study that, see what that takes to the next level. And, uh, and she gave me exposure to, to Miguel's point, exposure is everything, you know, um, someone once said to me, my husband worked for a private entity and the manager said if I don't know who this person is, and I don't know if I really care about them and that was kind of eye opening for me. I was like, wow, that's kinda mean you could be the hardest working person and they don't know who you are. So it's how to work smart. How to, um, you know, it's, it's a nuance in your communication too, to your point, Julie, it's not like saying I want your job, right. That's just a really bad way to start a conversation, but Hey, I really respect your knowledge. I really respect all the things you bring. How can I leverage some of that experience? We could both be successful. So that's kind of how I went around and it was just a lot of dialogue over several years.
[00:15:19] Julie: That's great. And you probably didn't ask those questions on your first day of work.
[00:15:23] Tracey: No, never.
[00:15:26] Julie: Miguel, what about you?
[00:15:27] Miguel: Yeah. you? know, I had a similar experience to, to Tracey's and experience in some respects. you know, I, I think mine was a little bit different and that actually came to my, to the university of Arizona as, as part of a, I mean, a potential succession plan, you know, nothing was guaranteed or, or set in stone.
But I think the expectation, you know, if you know, someone who is loosely planning to retire in three to five years or whatever the case is. And that was sort of what I, what I stepped into. so we, we had a lot of discussions and, you know, I think like Tracey said, you know, there there's quite a bit that's within your, your sphere of control. You know, I tried to, you know, figure out what, what do I need to do to, to, to kind of prepare myself, um, my pursued, you know, professional designations during that. same as Tracey mentioned. one of the first things Steve told me when I got here is, um, you're, you're, you're going to be involved with URMIA.
Um, it wasn't, it wasn't optional, but I thought that was great because I, I wanted to be more involved with their URMIA. Um, so, so all of those things sort of work together and, you know, we had discussions, we, you know, just talked about the things that would benefit me, me. To, to sort of set, set myself up to where when the time came, um, you know, that there would be a good chance that I would be considered for the, for the position, which I mean, just to have the chance, right? That's, that's all, you're really, you're really asking for. So, that was sort of my experience with, with how I ended up where I'm at now.
[00:16:51] Julie: And just, I mean, this is another sort of curve ball question that we didn't discuss ahead of time, but I, you know, I think it, one of the important things is that, um, it's always great to everything you've said today for folks to go out and, you know, get training and education. And so what's what certifications would you all suggest that someone who's trying to move up?
Should try to attain because there are dozens of them out there and you can have a string of abbreviations after your name, and that looks really good, but some of them may be more critical than others. So what are your thoughts on that? And what's your experience been with that?
[00:17:30] Miguel: You know, I would say I'm, I can start off. you know, I think it's critical for risk managers to, I think specifically look to ones that I think most, most closely correlate with the work we do day in and day out. And I think it's also important that, you know, I very much take the responsibility seriously that I know that my boss looks at me as being sort of a subject matter expert when it comes to, you know, even if I'm not, it's, I think it's what she, she wants to see in me so I think, you know, the, the, you know, the associated risk management, CPCU, certified risk manager, I think the ones that, that tie very closely to risk management are certainly worth, worth pursuing. And there's plenty of data that shows that, again, it's not that they're critical to, you know, I, I know people that don't have any designations that are far better risk managers than I am, but I think it started, it sort of demonstrates your, your commitment to the profession and your commitment to maybe doing a little more than someone else is willing to.
[00:18:28] Tracey: And I'll and I'll echo, um, with Miguel, ARM, I think is the first one I would recommend. I think that. That was very helpful to me. I got it early on in my career. and that kind of gave me that foundational information I needed to be successful. I think the other ones, the, I think there's a RIMS one.
There's a couple other international ones I heard that are really good. One that I got was the cyber 301 through the institutes. I think cyber is a really, really good certification. Any type of cyber. The trouble that I had was that that's the only one I can get as a risk manager, unless I was an IT professionals.
So there's lots of really good certifications in the it ISO information security field for a lot of them are not open to risk managers. And that's where I see a gap. And that's where I wish it would open up more that people see risk management more holistically than just associated with insurance. Cause I think that's kind of where people think the arm is, and it's really not about insurance, right? So I would say again, the ARM is key.
I think developing your financial acumen and understanding financial statements and accounting speaking, the language of the board is really key. I think communication, one of the things I learned very, very quickly when communicating with leadership even prior to this role, was they love to hear how much was our spend on this premium and how many losses did we have? It's hardcore data. So if you have to be a data-driven person also to communicate with senior leadership, for some reason, if you remember a premium that happened two years ago, you sound really smart. So I would always say, just understand finance just a little bit, and it'll really help.
[00:20:07] Julie: I always carry a little premium sheet cheat sheet around with me. So just in case I get asked that kind of question, but, and to your point, for folks interested in taking the ARM, URMIA is a member of the ARM study Group, and it's, it's a very helpful thing. So if you're interested in that, you can get more information about that from the URMIA website.
[00:20:25] Miguel: I used that Julie. Hi.
[00:20:27] Julie: Yeah, I used it too. I thought it was great. And, so if you're, if you have questions about that you can ask the URMIA home office or check it out on the URMIA website. So before we wrap up today, are there any other final thoughts you want to leave? you know, leave us with any helpful suggestions or takeaways or resources.
[00:20:46] Tracey: I can say that just lead from where you are, you know, be helpful because mind, you know, it's kind of like that humble and kind, you know, make sure you respect people. But you also have to own your own career and you can't assume peoples are in your mind and know what you want. And one of the things is also to be clear in your messaging because sometimes, you know, you can have good days and bad days where you're like, wow, I want to be number one the next day you get really stressed out. Well, maybe I don't want that. You just kind of have to work through that. And that's something I've evolved in my career is to learn how to ask for more when you need it, understand where you need to grow and accept that, you know, not take it as if someone gives you, or if you want to call it constructive feedback, just, just roll with it, you know? And at the end, I think it really pays off.
So again, own your own career. Be kind lead from where you are. Network use all the URMIA resources, educate yourself, just being a constant student in the, in the area of risk. And usually things work out.
[00:21:47] Miguel: you know, Tracey pretty much covered. I think your, everything I could have even thought to say for that, for, for, for that question. I think Julie, you, I mean, the only other thing I would say is, is, you know, a lot of goes well, we call networking, but I, I would just say, you know, make an effort to build relationships. I mean, it's all about the relationships that you have. It's great when they just sort of happened, but I've also learned that sometimes you have to sort of be the one, maybe that reaches out to someone and says, Hey, can I, you know, can I take you to lunch? Can I, you know, have coffee with you? And, I mean, Use those, those opportunities to build it, build a network, both within your institution and, and within URMIA. And there's so much you can learn from others if you will have a little bit of humility and if you will listen more than you speak. So, I think listening is just a tremendous skill to have, so that, that would be the only other thing that I would add.
[00:22:38] Julie: And I would just add also, if I'm allowed to add to your content, I would say, you know, one thing for me working in a department of one person, don't be afraid to toot your own horn every once in a while, because a lot of times people don't, don't see the ins and outs of everything you do. And especially in the south, we don't like to brag, right?
We want it to be very kind and, you know, very humble, and those are important qualities. But I think sometimes if you're too humble, Then things that you do get missed by people who need to understand that you're doing them.
So I think this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate this. And you all are going to do a session on this at the annual conference. Is that correct?
[00:23:22] Tracey: Yes.
[00:23:24] Julie: Okay. So, so everybody be sure to sign up for that, unless it's against one of the ones that I'm doing, but even, I mean, if it's, I mean, we can, you know, we'll figure it, we'll figure it out. We'll figure out how to let you see both of them.
But anyway, I just, I really want to thank you both for being here today. I think this has been a very, very helpful discussion. And so thanks so much for taking time to be here. Tracey and Miguel, and I have had a great time talking to you. So I appreciate it. Thanks for letting me throw you a couple of curve balls.
So this wraps another episode of URMIA Matters.
[00:23:56] Tracey: Thank you, Julie. Thank you Miguel.
[00:23:57] Miguel: thanks, Julie.
[00:23:58] Julie: Thank you all.