Inside Risk: Ebru Craft, Lafarge North America
Director of Risk Management Ebru Craft, CRM, ARM, AIC, knows the importance of setting a solid foundation.
By Eric Gilkey
As one of the largest diversified suppliers of construction materials in the U.S. and Canada, Lafarge North America’s concrete, cement, and aggregate are used in residential, commercial, and public works constructions projects all over the continent. As such, CLM Fellow Ebru Craft knows the importance of setting up a solid foundation when it comes to helping manage the company’s risks and claims.
Q. You have a background in chemistry. How did you end up in risk management?
A. Like a lot of people in risk management, I didn’t plan on it. I began at Lafarge 17 years ago in the environment and safety department thinking that environment was going to be my specialty. I fell in love with safety and investigating incidents, and eventually moved to claims management before settling on risk management.
Q. Did your backgrounds in chemistry and risk management help prepare you?
A. It’s been a very different path than most. My analytical mindset in chemistry is something that has helped me succeed in risk management. Chemistry is something that requires you to see the big picture. There can be many different outcomes, and you have to be able to consider that through equations and experiments. In risk management, you have to have the same analytical capabilities to be able to look at events and claims from many different perspectives so that you can understand what other people may have issues with and what future problems might be encountered.
While I had never handled claims directly or worked at a TPA or insurer, my background in safety meant I was helping prevent accidents or investigating them. I moved from there into claims management, which is essentially the other side of the equation: The accident happened, so now what? I’ve always been on the corporate and client side, and so managing defense counsel, the TPA, and the claims professionals to me means having and implementing a sound philosophy of claims and litigation management.
Q. On your website, it states that safety comes first. How does your department contribute to that?
A. Employee safety is a core value, not a duty at Lafarge. It’s very important, and we want everyone to go home safe and healthy at the end of their workday and take these safety values into their home. Safety is the beginning of preventing accidents and claims from happening, while risk management is mitigating the losses that we have.
Q. Describe a typical day.
A. When I leave my home, I go right to drive to the office or I go left to head to the airport—and these are the two places where much of my life is spent. I travel to conduct training in the field and to attend captive board meetings, mediations, and trials, amongst other meetings. In the office, we have a captive, so there are captive management and internal control activities that take up a lot of time. I like to lead others in reaching their highest potential, so I spend time making sure that we have a good team in place. We outsource our claims handling to a TPA, so our risk management department consists of four people for the North American operations. This includes a vice president of risk management; a director of risk management (me); a claims manager who oversees the TPA; and an assistant who keeps us all in line.
Q. What qualities do you look for in a TPA?
They obviously need educated and experienced people. If I don’t have the best claims professional, I will by the time we’re done with the claim. We like to group our claims as much as possible so the claims professionals understand our business and risks better. We also have partnership meetings once a year where we bring together the claims professionals from our TPA so that they know who we are—and we know who they are. It’s a good chance to remind them of our philosophy and claims management guidelines and expectations, and we throw in some training, too. Having this face-to-face time helps ensure our claims remain a priority for them.
Q. Every risk manager has a good claims story. Give us your best?
A. Risk managers are never short a story because they just come out of reality. Many years ago, we had a nonowned, chartered aircraft claim in which the airplane went down off the Florida coast. The pilot saved the only passenger—whose back had been broken—by swimming him to a secluded island where they waited to be rescued for 24 hours. It was all over the news and definitely made for an interesting claim.