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It may be time for students to think about a job in risk management

USC Marshall takes the lead in training next-gen insurance professionals

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Every company needs risk management, making this a good time for students to enter the field. (Photo/iStock)

So you want a job that’s fast-paced and interesting, with duties and challenges that change with the day. You want a job with great mentors and plenty of potential for career growth.  Of course you want decent pay. Most of all, you want to feel like what you do is useful, maybe even world-changing.

You’re probably not thinking about insurance or risk management. But you should be.

Risk management is the forecasting and evaluation of financial risks together with the identification of procedures to avoid or minimize their impact.

“For every three people leaving our industry, only one person is entering,” Steve Wilder, vice president of risk management for The Walt Disney Co., told a group of USC Marshall School of Business students April 6.

“There is a lot of opportunity. Every company needs risk management. You’ll have opportunities that will never be dull and,” he said with a smile, “you can tell great stories at cocktail parties.”

Added Wilder: “Every time we film a movie or TV show or build a new attraction or land, like Star Wars Land at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, risk management is an integral part of the project.”

Be careful out there

The Southern California insurance and risk community is teaming up with USC Marshall to create a series of classes that will introduce students to the field of risk management. A group of senior level risk management professionals from an array of companies, including Disney, Fox Entertainment, Marsh, AON, Chubb and Mattel, along with USC Marshall, hosted a reception at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies for students interested in learning more about the field. There was food and networking and a lot of explaining.

People may think insurance is boring, and it is anything but.

John Barrett

“People may think insurance is boring, and it is anything but,” said John Barrett, resident managing director at AON who helped develop the partnership between USC Marshall and local risk professionals. “You can work in whatever industry you want — construction, entertainment, politics, energy, technology — every industry needs risk management and insurance professionals.”

Lindsay Moore ’13, a risk professional at Worldwide Facilities, told students about new areas requiring risk professionals.

“Cyber-liability is emerging,” she said. “You read a lot about what happened to Target and Sony in those hacks. The ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft and others. None of them existed five years ago, but there is so much risk involved. We have to create systems from scratch. All of this helps my job stay really exciting.”

Pipeline to a profession

The first class, “Introduction to Enterprise Risk Management,” will be offered through the USC Leventhal School of Accounting in the fall, and a formal minor is in the works for the future, according to Gene Miller, professor of clinical entrepreneurship and academic director of the program.

Andrew Tinseth ’94, MBA ’05, assistant professor of clinical accounting, will teach the class. With more than 20 years of experience in accounting, governance, risk and compliance, he was the chief audit executive for Western Digital Corp. before joining USC.

“There are very few programs like this in the nation, and it is exciting that USC is seizing the opportunity,” Tinseth said. “Additionally, the support we are getting for this program from the Los Angeles risk management community is tremendous and the ultimate beneficiaries will be our students.”

The partnership is a win-win for USC Marshall and an industry that needs to fill its professional pipeline.

“We have 52 community partners who are engaged with this program who want to meet you,” Barrett said. “Some of them are here in this room. Meet them. Talk with them. They will offer you mentorships and internships.”

The pitch sold some students in attendance.

“They made it sound very appealing,” said Eve Cantu, who plans to graduate in two years. “I didn’t really know a whole lot about the insurance industry before this, but I am definitely interested in taking the first class next year. A job that is versatile and also volatile is a good combination.”

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