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Each year, RIMS, the risk management society®, recognizes outstanding performance in the practice of risk management by bestowing the Risk Manager of the Year award. This year’s recipient is Theresa Severson, SVP, Insurance & Risk Management at Kite Realty Group (KRG). We recently had the opportunity to ask Theresa questions about her career journey, the risk management profession, and some of the initiatives that contributed to her being named the 2023 Risk Manager of the Year.

You began your career on the insurance broker side and then worked as a quality control consultant before becoming a risk manager in 2008. What was it that drew you to becoming a risk manager?

As a risk manager, I love the interaction and collaboration with different parts of the organization. Building strong relationships with other insurance and risk professionals is also something I value. The dynamic nature of the job keeps you on your toes and prepared for any unexpected events or situations that may arise. Being able to adapt and respond effectively is key in the field of risk management. I enjoy helping my organization thrive by identifying and mitigating potential risks. The field of risk management is constantly evolving and new risks emerging. It requires continuous learning and keeping up with industry trends, regulations, and technological advances.

How did your experience on the insurance brokerage side (and, later, in consulting) most inform the early stages of your career as a risk manager?

The experience I gained in the insurance brokerage, and later in consulting roles, has been invaluable in shaping my career as a risk manager. Starting my career on the brokerage side provided me with deep insight into the dynamics between insured individuals or organizations, brokers, and insurance carriers. It helped me understand the importance of building strong relationships in our industry.

Having worked closely with brokers, I have a realistic understanding of what their role is and should be. This knowledge allows me to collaborate effectively with my brokers and appreciate the hard work they put into serving their clients. Furthermore, my experience in brokerage has helped me establish relationships with insurance carriers and connect directly with underwriters. By sharing the KRG story, I can effectively communicate our organization’s risk profile and needs, thereby ensuring we receive tailored insurance solutions.

Since becoming a risk manager, what’s the most significant, positive change you’ve seen in the profession?

The most significant positive change I’ve seen in the risk management profession since becoming a risk manager is the expansion of the role. Organizations have recognized the importance of having a risk manager in senior leadership positions, as they require enterprise-wide visibility and understanding of risk to be effective. Industries that previously relied solely on their insurance brokers for risk management have now grown to understand the benefits of having an internal risk manager who can play an active role in everyday processes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this need even more. Many companies realized the importance of proactive risk management and the value of having a risk manager who can assess and mitigate various risks, including those that may not have been considered before the pandemic. This shift has led to risk managers being involved in strategic decision-making, operational planning, and implementing risk mitigation strategies throughout the organization.

An article in the RIMS Awards edition of Risk Management magazine outlines the many ways you’re involved in ensuring a positive future for the profession — including serving as a member of the RIMS Student Advisory Council. Are there specific pieces of advice you tend to give those considering a career in the risk profession?

Yes, definitely! I would advise individuals considering a career in the risk profession to explore various fields and industries where risk management and insurance play a crucial role. The insurance industry is dynamic and has opportunities for professionals from diverse industry backgrounds such as finance, accounting, marketing, communications, and the sciences.

If you have a specific interests like sports, technology, entertainment, real estate, or engineering, there are roles within these fields that require risk management expertise. These industries, as well as insurance carriers and brokers, have job opportunities that focus on the unique risks associated with these industries and require specialization in their specific needs.

As highlighted in the same article, you are being honored as the RIMS Risk Manager of the Year (at least in part) because of the work you’ve done since joining KRG in October 2021 FOLLOWING the acquisition of Retail Properties of America (RPAI). You mention in the article that you and your team received the full support and engagement of the KRG C-suite. What advice do you have for risk managers who aren’t so fortunate and must take steps to foster that type of engagement and support with their leadership teams?

For risk managers who may not have the same level of engagement and support from their leadership teams, it's important to take proactive steps to foster it. Here are a few pieces of advice:

• Communicate the value: Clearly articulate the importance of risk management and how it contributes to the overall success of the organization. Show how effective risk management can help mitigate potential risks, protect assets, and improve decision-making.

• Build relationships: Develop strong relationships with key stakeholders within the organization. This includes engaging with senior leaders, department heads, and other decision-makers. Demonstrate your expertise, reliability, and the positive impact of risk management on their areas of responsibility.

• Provide regular updates: Keep the leadership team informed about the latest risk trends, emerging threats, and impact on the organization. Regularly provide concise and relevant updates to demonstrate your knowledge and keep risk management top of mind.

• Offer solutions: Instead of simply presenting problems or risks, be proactive in offering solutions. Present actionable recommendations that align with the organization’s goals and objectives. This shows your ability to think strategically and contribute to the organization’s success.

• Continuous education: Joining professional risk organizations such as RIMS (Risk and Insurance Management Society) CICA (Captive Insurance Companies Association) and RRP (Rising Risk Professionals) can provide valuable resources for continuing education in risk management. These organizations offer various training programs, webinars, conferences, and networking opportunities that can enhance your knowledge and skills in the field. Being part of these organizations also allows you to connect with other risk professionals, share insights, and stay updated on the latest trends and best practices.

As you put together a combined program for the two organizations in the period between the merger transition in the fall of 2021 and the commencement of the combined insurance program at the beginning of December 2022, what was the biggest challenge that you and your team faced? How did you go about addressing it?

The biggest challenge my team faced when combining the insurance programs for two organizations was handling the significant increase in KRG’s portfolio by 60% and the exposure to catastrophic events. The two legacy programs had different risk appetites and profiles, and each had its own captive insurance company. To address this challenge, our strategy was to allocate sufficient time to review each program's primary and contingent liability exposures, as well as establish a defensible total insured value cost for underwriters who were closely scrutinizing valuations in the market. We decided to maintain both legacy programs until we could update our statement of values and conduct accurate modeling. Collaboration with third-party partners, particularly our NFP brokers, and internal stakeholders was crucial in delivering the new KRG risk tolerance model. Ultimately, we successfully implemented a combined insurance program that not only added value but also resulted in cost savings for the company.

Among the many initiatives you’ve led over the past two years is the implementation of a risk management information system (RMIS). What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a peer that you think would help them make their implementation go as smoothly as possible?

My key piece of advice is to ensure that you have a clear understanding of your data requirements and how your RMIS platform aligns with those requirements. Integration with your main system of records is crucial for ensuring that you have the most updated information. By exporting updated insurance information back into your system of records, you are ensuring that everyone has access to the most accurate and necessary information to effectively utilize your RMIS platform. This integration helps streamline processes and reduces the chances of errors. It’s important to have regular communication and collaboration with all stakeholders involved to ensure the smooth functioning and optimization of your RMIS platform.

Congratulations to Theresa Severson, RIMS 2023 Risk Manager of the Year

We are proud to work with Theresa and we congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.

To read more, we encourage you to visit the RIMS website to read more about Teresa and other RIMS award winners. There you’ll also find more information about RIMS awards, applications, and guidelines. More information about Kite Realty Group can be found at

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