Two years into her role as Cummins China risk and insurance manager, Maggie Sun spoke to StrategicRISK about how she made the move to an in-house role and where she believes the future of the profession lies in China.
“I’m too young to be a risk manager.”
That was Maggie Sun’s first thought had when she was asked to become the sole risk and insurance manager for Cummins in China.
At 30, Sun was at least a decade younger than most of her risk management peers. But the hiring managers of the global power manufacturing group clearly thought she was wise beyond her years.
“When I was a broker I wished someday I would become a client. And even though the opportunity came very early for me, I decided to give it a try, even though I thought I was too young,” she says.
In the course of our hour-long interview, her self- deprecating nature shines through. She is quick to praise the support of others, and the opportunities – and, at times, luck – that she has enjoyed.
Sun is one of a select group of risk managers who chose a career in insurance.
She majored in insurance at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and was one of only two in her class to pass the American Insurance Institution’s Chartered Casualty and Property Underwriter examinations.
“When I filled in the university application, I knew nothing about insurance. But I thought that everybody needs insurance cover – not only the personal but also the company. At that time in China, [insurance] was in the early stages of development, so I thought there would be many opportunities for me in my career.”
On that score, she wasn’t wrong.
Upon graduation, AIG in Shanghai snapped her up for an account executive role. After just a year on the underwriting side of the fence, however, she moved to Beijing and to broking – first with Aon and then with Marsh.
“In the beginning, most of my clients were multinational clients which had local operations in China,” Sun says.
Targeting local organic growth, brokers in China turned their attention to Chinese domestic companies that were beginning to realise the value of insurance broking firms.
“More and more domestic clients came to my desk,” says Sun, who was enjoying the challenge.
“It’s even more creative than servicing a multinational client because local domestic companies know less about insurance and don’t have the awareness or the knowledge of the cover or what type of insurance they can have.
“So, as an insurance broker for a domestic company, I feel it’s more interesting than just servicing a multinational client in China. It’s more challenging.”
One of Sun’s favourite clients during her time at Aon was Cummins. “I [always] liked the company, the company culture and the way they put risk management as one of their important philosophies is very attractive to me,” she says.
The feeling was clearly mutual and in February 2015, she joined the team.
She’s now part of the group risk and insurance team of 16 people, with 10 of those based out of the group’s head o ice in America and the rest responsible for various regions around the world.
Sun’s remit includes China, Mongolia and Hong Kong. In her role, she’s responsible for insurance coverage consistency, claims management, and risk mitigation and loss prevention. The last of these is the most important and interesting part of her work, she says. And also why she took the job.
“I’d never done risk mitigation and loss prevention before as a broker, so it’s a totally new area for me and that’s very attractive,” she says.
“The most important responsibility as a risk and insurance manager in Cummins is the risk mitigation and loss prevention work. This is also a fundamental of our business operations.”
When asked what a typical day looks like, she breaks her workload into quarters. Q1 is research.
“We travel around China, including to our JVs and our consolidated entities, to do the risk surveys to evaluate their loss prevention work,” she explains.
“In the second quarter, we consolidate the research and give a comprehensive report to our China leadership about the work.” Q3 and Q4 is renewal season.
When pressed on what the risk surveys involve, Sun focuses on the key operational risks of the business and its sites. But it goes beyond this, she says: “We want to embed the risk management philosophy into the DNA of the business.
“As a diesel engine manufacturer, it’s crucial to make sure our operation is safe – the machine safety, the fire protection, the employee safety. It’s our number-one priority and focus with regards to business continuity and business resilience.”
Recent crises have also caused her to refocus and reassess her risk management processes, she says.
The 2015 Tianjin Port explosion “set an alarm” to the industry, she says.
“One of the lessons learned from this incident,” she says, “is we need to monitor the supply chain risk, we need to look at how we managed our warehouse protection and warehouse safety, and review whether our insurance coverage was sufficient.”
The Hanjin shipping bankruptcy had a similar effect. “It makes every multinational company feel unsafe or uncertain about their supply chain stability,” she says.
Looking forward, she expects cyber risk to become more prevalent for her locally.