Inside Risk: Lance J. Ewing, Leader, IPG/AIG
AIG's Lance Ewing shares thoughts on establishing a University of Mississippi endowment for risk education and how the world is getting riskier.
By Eric Gilkey
CLM Fellow Lance J. Ewing recently established an endowment for University of Mississippi students majoring in risk management and insurance. Find out how he “sells” the industry and his thoughts on the world becoming riskier.
Q. Your passion for the industry is obvious, as evidenced by the creation of this endowment. What are you hoping to accomplish?
A. First of all, I’m hoping to demonstrate the leadership opportunities to give back within the insurance community. There are a lot of organizations and individuals who give back to their professions, and I’d like us to continue to do that. Secondly, I wanted to create an opportunity for students at the University of Mississippi who might be majoring in finance, law, business, or even health care and who are asking themselves, “What do I want to do with my life?” I thought the endowment would help put risk management and insurance on their radar screens and encourage them to explore our industry a little more because, as we all know, once someone gets hooked on insurance and the risk side of things, it’s hard to let go.
Q. How will you judge the endowment a success?
A. The measurability will be based on how many students we bring in and how many successfully graduate to positions within the future leadership of the insurance, risk management, or even the claims side of things. One of the things that I certainly try to emphasize to students in risk management programs is to learn underwriting or claims, because it’s a touchpoint in so many areas in this industry. I know that, for me, those two experiences boded well for my career because I wouldn’t have been as successful both in risk management and insurance if I didn’t have a good grasp of how to settle claims.
Q. How difficult is it to recruit for the industry?
A. To be honest, I think it’s difficult but it is getting easier. There are many universities that have full-fledged risk management programs in which students can graduate with a diploma that says, “risk management” somewhere on it. That is a testimony to the industry trying to ensure that we are doing the best we can from our recruiting standpoint, especially at the university level. Given that the industry expects a lot of retirements in the next 10 years or so, now is the time for us to get millennials moving in the direction of risk management and insurance. We are doing our part in developing those next industry leaders by recruiting and making funds available to students in the hopes that they will give a career in risk management and insurance consideration.
Q. How do you “sell” the industry to students?
A. I tell students all of the time that insurance is not glamorous on the surface, but it is stimulating and interesting once you get involved, roll up your sleeves, and understand the world. Insurance and claims are the fabric of what decides the risk tolerance of corporations and individuals. I like to ask, “How many of you have read your auto insurance policies from beginning to end?” Most of them give me that deer-in-the-headlights look. It may not be exciting to them, but it’s interesting reading when you need to know what your deductible is, whether medical is covered for the occupants in your car, and what your limits are—preferably before an accident occurs.
Q. You served as president of RIMS during the years 2003 and 2004. What did you take away from that experience?
A. It’s almost its own MBA crash course on how to balance budgets, deal with competing opportunities, work as a team, and grow an association. Certainly it’s one of my proudest risk management accomplishments because it provides such a dynamic business opportunity that many folks will never get the chance to have. The best thing it taught me was how to understand that competing viewpoints are really important because you can get set in your ways in how you look at risk, based on your own experiences and education, whereas someone else might look at it completely differently based on their own knowledge. That collaborative spirit and ability to listen to others’ viewpoints is paramount in any leader.
Q. Do you think the world becoming more or less risky?
A. I think the world is becoming more strategically risky. I think that emerging risks like terrorism, driverless cars, 3D printing, drones, e-cigarettes, and the “Internet of things,” show that we live in a changing world. I think that risk managers are starting to understand that they cannot just look backward at risks and prepare for those; we also need to look forward and get our arms around emerging risks.