In this article by Kathryn Z. West, RIMS president Mark DeLillo discusses an industry and a profession that continues to present new challenges to its practitioners and to RIMS.

The new RIMS president has been a longtime member of the Society. Mark DeLillo, vice president of risk management for Celotex Corporation based in Tampa, Florida, recalls that his involvement dates back to the early 1980s, when he first moved from the insurance side of the business into risk management. At that time, he remembers his boss suggested he get to know RIMS, that it was the best resource for risk managers. "To maximize the potential of RIMS, personally and professionally, my boss said I would have to be an active participant. I have never strayed from that," says Mr DeLillo. He has been active since the very beginning of his tenure with RIMS. "The first thing I did was to help my boss put together the Florida regional conference within days of joining the Society. It was exposure to educational aspects and the people I met and networked with at that first conference that set the tone for me."

Mark DeLillo never set out to be president of the organization. "When I started in RIMS locally, I wasn't even thinking about RIMS outside the Southeastern United States. When I served on my first committee, I did not have the goal to sit on the Executive Council. And when I joined the Executive Council, I did not have the goal to be president. All I wanted to do was in some small way contribute to the continuing success of the organization," he says. "I have always been in awe of the president. I just want to live up to the position."

The following comments have been excerpted from a conversation that appeared in its entirety in the April issue of Risk Management, the magazine of the Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. At the time, then president-elect Mark DeLillo discussed issues of importance to RIMS and risk management with the Society's outgoing president, Stephen M. Wilder. Below, Mr DeLillo shares his thoughts about the presidency of the world's leading organization devoted to risk management and reflects about an industry and a profession that continues to present new challenges to its practitioners and to RIMS.

In your view, what have been and will be the significant issues challenging risk management?

MD: Being able to deal and cope with change is the challenge. From the standpoint of individual risk managers, I think the issue is job security. Is my company going to outsource me? Does it even see a value in my contribution to the organization? Does it see risk management as a value to the organization? How can I grow within the organization?

There has been a blurring of the lines between what is currently being referred to as financial risk management and traditional property/casualty risk management - and that is also a concern. But the cure for these issues is education. The FRM, by design, should give participants a broader business perspective and an awareness of how risk management can be used as a tool to support the organization's goals.

As challenges present themselves, they offer opportunities for the profession to grow in importance within the organization and in the business community in general. We should seize the challenge not run from it.

You embrace the notion of professional development and education. Please articulate some of the recent initiatives.

MD: I think one of the major successes of the past year is the ability to respond more quickly than we ever have to issues and I hope over the next 12 to 18 months we will get even better at that. We have talked about the development of programs like the FRM, which takes time. But the ability to put on timely topical sessions in half day seminars for a broad audience, which are making their debut across the United States and Canada this spring as well as the ability to put together the deep array of educational sessions at the conference and through other regional and chapter channels is important. We have been able to respond quickly. Through the use of technology, I hope we can continue to shorten that span of time between need and response.

The establishment of our Technology Advisory Council will bring together a cross-section of industry experts to address applications and innovations for risk management. In just the last 12 months, we have seen such developments as RIMS online distance learning initiative and the expansion of the RIMS home page on the internet. These are significant in that this is just the foundation of where the Society can go in terms of putting on the desktop the tools that can make risk managers more accurate, more efficient, in their everyday dealings within their organizations. The tools are there: it is the refinement, the delivery, the education and instruction of how best to utilize them that will be our challenge over the next several years.

For members who do not have access to the internet or do not think there is a need, how do you respond? Does your company have protocols that prohibit or limit use of the internet?

MD: We have not had an information technology philosophy at our company until very recently. As a result, I have had access to the internet for almost three years. I needed it and I did it. As our company philosophy develops, we are prepared to make the leap to wire everyone. There was a time when management believed that access to the internet would detract from work time. We do not have that concern any longer.

He continued, by discussing the benefits that a company can derive from internet access.

MD: My company does not have a comparable industry peer group. We manufacture five separate products and there is no other company that manufactures those same five products. We do have a major competitor in each of those product lines, however; so management wants to know how our safety and loss prevention and loss history compare. Through the internet and access to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other resources, we have been able to collect separate data for our roofing business, our gypsum business, our foam business. The only way we could reach this significant statistical level was to utilize the internet and extract the data that are meaningful to our operations. Otherwise, we would have spent years researching old data. That one instance alone allowed us to provide management with valuable information that also demonstrated the successes risk management has had in controlling losses.

For those who say my company will not allow me access to the internet, it is up to you to sell its value. It is like the RIMS conference - you need to show the educational value and how it will enhance you professionally.

The past year has been rife with change, with regard to industry consolidation in particular. How would you characterize the role/responsibilities of RIMS in this broad context?

MD: The membership wants us to be engaged in this discussion. RIMS is being vocal on several issues because risk managers are concerned. RIMS' ability to quickly respond to issues and the needs of member companies is what members have been looking to RIMS to do. Regarding industry consolidation, it is premature to conclude whether it will be positive or have a less than positive effect on service, cost and efficiency. RIMS has no position on industry consolidation at this time. The role of RIMS is to educate members on the issues involved. Members then can use this information and education to make their own assessments.

You have talked about RIMS' ability to respond to issues quickly. Have there been any changes to the organization to facilitate response time?

MD: In addition to the benefits of technology, we recently announced a new committee structure, which combines the numerous stand-alone committees we have had into fewer standing committees. RIMS will be able to marshal the appropriate task forces and resources to respond to specific issues. Members will benefit from the targeted and quick responses, and volunteers will be gratified and satisfied, being able to see a tangible outcome to their involvement. We are creating a delivery system for future innovations.

This past year, quality became a key initiative. Do you think RIMS raised awareness of quality or succeeded in actually raising the bar?

MD: I think our industry is a quality industry, but I do not think we practice quality. RIMS has hopefully created a path for continuous improvement going forward and the significance of that should not get lost. The Quern Award is not going to be bestowed in only one year. As for the Quality Scorecard, it offers risk managers a critical tool that makes objective measurements and assessments possible, which forms the basis for continued improvement toward quality. We are not going to change the industry overnight, but we have succeeded in providing the tools necessary to push the industry in that direction. Risk managers should not have had to accept something less from this industry than they would accept from anyone else.

Why is it up to risk managers to bring about change in our industry?

MD: The customer collectively is the only force that can change the level of quality in our industry.

How will you like to be remembered?

MD: If 10 years from now, someone says DeLillo helped make even one program possible, that I made some structural change that made RIMS stronger or more responsive, then I will feel that the effort and time I put into RIMS has all been worthwhile.

Katherine Z. West is editor and publisher of Risk Management magazine.