AIG Executive Robert Schimek speaks at a CEO Briefing as part of the CU Denver Business School Risk Management and Insurance

Robert Schimek, an executive with American International Group (AIG), gave intriguing insights into the 2008 financial crisis and inspiring advice about the fast-changing field of Risk Management and Insurance at a Business School talk on Wednesday.

“It’s an amazing, amazing field,” Schimek said of Risk Management, which involves the analysis and treatment of risk. “The opportunities that exist globally and the opportunities that exist even in Denver are really remarkable.”

Schimek, president and CEO of the Americas for AIG’s property casualty business, and Nahua Maunakea, director of global risk management for IHS, were featured speakers in the Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) Program’s “CEO Briefing.”

CU Denver’s AACSB-accredited Business School is the only university in the Rocky Mountain West region to offer a program in Risk Management and Insurance (RMI). The program, in its third year and rapidly growing, has 100 percent job placement for graduating students. Chancellor Don Elliman introduced Schimek to a full room in Laube Commons.

Schimek explained how AIG found itself at the center of the 2008 global financial crisis when its holding conglomerate, due to the real-estate meltdown, faced massive liquidity issues. AIG went into the crisis as the world’s largest insurance company and, four years later, emerged in that same position. During the crisis, AIG received a $182 billion line of credit from the United States government. “No company has ever had a tougher commitment than to repay $182 billion of assistance, but we did,” Schimek said.

Given the current shutdown, he noted, it might be hard to “think good thoughts” of the U.S. government. “I think you should be proud of it,” Schimek said. During the 2008 crisis “they stepped up, took decisive action, averted a bigger crisis and were rewarded by an insurance company that made good on what they borrowed and left the U.S. government with a $23 billion profit.”

He said the state regulatory system for insurance can sometimes be a pain, but it effectively serves the interests of policy holders.

He left the students with an inspiring final thought: RMI is a fun, challenging and progressive field. “I think the future for this industry is one where it’s getting smarter and more effective every day,” he said. “… We’ve got to understand how to navigate a very complicated global marketplace. We’ve got to be able to understand how to anticipate the moves of the competition and to be able to understand that this business only works if we innovate and develop new products and new ideas each and every day.”

Both speakers emphasized the importance of learning the fundamentals of the risk management process, then moving toward a specialty within the industry.

Maunakea (right), president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of RIMS, encouraged students to get involved in the “wonderful resource” of the local chapter. “We are interested in helping the next generation of risk managers — that’s you folks,” he said. “It’s a dynamic, ever-changing, evolving profession. Don’t be afraid to get involved.”

(Photo at top: AIG Executive Robert Schimek talks about the Risk Management and Insurance industry at a CEO Briefing at the CU Denver Business School on Oct. 9.)

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