Inside Risk: William McCullough
Verizon's William McCullough thrives on managing risk for over 173,000 employees and making data work for him.
By Eric Gilkey
Boasting 173,000 employees and 2015 revenues of $132 billion, Verizon is one of the biggest companies in America in almost every way. CLM Fellow Bill McCullough thrives in his position by making data work for him, even though sometimes it feels like the other way around.
Q. How did you find risk management?
A. I think it’s a case of risk management finding me. I have been on the risk management side of the house either working for brokers as a claims consultant or within a claims operation since 1993. Before I got into the brokerage side, I was in reinsurance. While I loved the experiences I had in reinsurance, I wanted to pursue something a bit more dynamic. Boasting 173,000 employees and 2015 revenues of $132 billion, Verizon is one of the biggest companies in America in almost every way. CLM Fellow Bill McCullough thrives in his position by making data work for him, even though sometimes it feels like the other way around.
Q. What makes risk management dynamic to you?
A. With risk management, you are working to create resolutions to issues that might directly impact a business. It’s about making sure that we recognize opportunities. In risk management, you must resolve or get past those opportunities so the company can continue to move forward. It also means protecting the company’s assets and its brand. I’m sure many of my colleagues will agree when I say that when you are working in an insurance or a reinsurance company, it often can feel like you are just looking at the next claim that lands in front of you and resolving it. Risk management is much broader than that, in my opinion.
With that said, my experience in claims has helped me anticipate things like sticky coverage situations and negotiation strategies. It’s given me enough confidence to know what our next options are or could be, and that experience helps ensure that I provide the right guidance while staying flexible enough to be able to move quickly in a new direction if something else shuts down for us.
Q. Given your company’s work, I imagine there is an emphasis on data utilization. How do you use data in your day-to-day work?
A. Our focus in risk management is to use data to help us develop an analytical approach to managing our claims. We really want to be able to have our data work for us, with the goal of discovering trends or tendencies. We also want to use data analytics to create solutions with our third party administrator and our claims consultants to get after claims and resolve them in an expeditious manner for reasonable dollars. We do that by looking at certain metrics like duration of litigated and non-litigated matters; our total incurred at different points in time; and comparing outcomes and resolutions to the previous year. We try to focus on the kinds of losses that we have and how we can manage the data and analytics more effectively to help make our business partners more efficient and, thus, reach our goals.
Q. With all of that data, it’s got to be tough to keep a grip on it all.
I think it has a grip on us, to be honest with you! (laughter) But seriously, we want to look at the data in a way that any strategy we develop collaboratively can be executed by a claims professional. We certainly don’t want to consider ourselves locked in an ivory tower with that data.
Q. What kinds of claims do you tend to see?
A. We have a fairly large auto fleet, thus we have auto liability claims. Because we do repairs and installations on customer’s property, there are general liability claims that can arise, too. Also, there is premises liability exposure, given our retail stores. Between auto, general liability, and property, we typically see approximately 7,500 new claims a year. We always do our best to pay the claims we owe.
Q. In your eyes, is the world becoming more or less risky?
A. I believe the risks that exist in this world are greater than they were a generation or two ago. Additionally, people are more sensitive to these risks and potential outcomes. Therefore, mitigation techniques and data analytics play prominent roles in managing risk.