“We are seeing a lot of talent starting to retire and leave the market, but there is a shortage of people in the younger generations to take over. There are certainly very talented people among them, but finding competent people who understand how risk transfer works is a problem for companies.”
Find a way to manage risk
O’Connor oversees The Walsh Group’s risk management department, managing property and casualty, surety bonds, contract underwriting and claims management across the global construction company. Five years ago, he spoke to Insurance Business about what risk management means to him.
Today, that philosophy still holds true: risk management involves not only mitigating financial risk, but also protecting property, people, and communities in the construction industry.
“The scale of our organization has grown a bit, but I think those are still the fundamentals,” said the Walsh Group vice president.
“My department and I have spent a lot of time making sure we are at the forefront of tender operations to make sure we can provide useful information from the start of a project to its final completion, to aid in decision making and provide risk advice. of the organization”.
The journey to risk management has been a bumpy one for O’Connor, who joined The Walsh Group’s legal department more than 15 years ago. Although he originally had romantic notions to pursue a career in law, he said risk management isn’t that far from where he started.
“I went to law school to be a trial attorney. I thought that was the most important and interesting thing,” O’Connor said.
“During a meeting with an attorney general, I told them, ‘Hey, do what I want to do.’ And he told me, ‘don’t over-plan your career, just try to be useful.’ It was like Bruce Lee’s idea that if you become like water, you’ll find your way.”
O’Connor believes the same journey could apply to many other people with transferable skills. Insurance and risk management can develop new talent from industries like financial services or data science honing similar skills.
“In law, all your work is just to read, understand and be able to give advice to your clients. Being in risk management is not much different,” she said.
“Insurance doesn’t look like it’s going to be the most interesting race, and it’s going to be a bit dense. But if you are sharp and able to understand complex things, this is an area where your usefulness will be endless.”
Of all the victories and successes in his career, O’Connor is most proud of his colleagues in The Walsh Group’s risk management department.
“I’ve really enjoyed the people we’ve been involved with and seeing them succeed, build up knowledge and capabilities that they didn’t have before,” he said.
“Many of them have developed and some have gone on to work in the insurance industry or elsewhere. But that has been the most rewarding part, and of that I am most proud.”
Helping a colleague overcome a crippling fear of public speaking is a memorable moment for O’Connor. She said that he helped her prepare for presentations and gave her enough exposure to overcome her anxiety, and now, not only does she regularly speak in public, but she is praised for her ability to present.
“Risk management is an interesting and complicated area of business, and I’ve seen many people in my department go from being a neophyte to an expert in their particular areas,” O’Connor said. “It’s been fun to watch and participate in that.”
After all, collaboration and interaction between people is what O’Connor loves most about interesting risk management.
“It’s about taking a situation and getting multiple opinions about it, synthesizing that information and finding the best way forward,” he said.
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