By Claire Wilkinson
Jim Wetekamp became CEO of Atlanta-based Riskonnect Inc. in April 2018. A few months later, private-equity-backed Riskonnect acquired rival risk management information services provider Marsh ClearSight, formerly a unit of Marsh LLC. Before joining Riskonnect, Mr. Wetekamp was CEO of BravoSolution, a cloud procurement technology solution provider. Mr. Wetekamp recently spoke with Business Insurance Deputy Editor Claire Wilkinson about how the integration has gone and how the RMIS provider is supporting its customers amid COVID-19.
Q: How is Riskonnect supporting organizations and risk managers amid COVID-19?
A: We were all faced with an initial period of react and respond — a triage moment. In that triage moment we supported our customers to capture COVID-19 data elements that were essential for understanding their changing risk, communicating that to third parties, and visualizing and actualizing how the coronavirus was moving geographically. Then we moved into the middle phase where we’ve adjusted our service menu, giving them access to templates for continuity and how to maintain operations in an extended work-from-home or rolling pandemic scenario. Now we’re starting to set our eyes on this third stage of pivoting to new realities. For example, companies that didn’t used to have to worry about HIPAA compliance or controls but now are faced with needing to ask employees about their health status: Have they been immunized? Have they come down with COVID-19? How does that impact them from a data privacy, cyber protection standpoint? We’re trying to get them new tools to manage whatever the definition of new normal will be by jurisdiction, by line of business or by product area.
Q: What COVID-19 tools are proving most helpful at this time?
A: The single tool that’s been the most valuable to our customers has been the networking and ability to get into forums and discussions with their peers. Some of our highest engagement has been the webinars and informational series on dealing with the COVID-19 response, our industry forums and advisory boards. A lot of our primary tools have been non-monetized around information sharing. If they’re looking at a new process to go in and attest third-party vendors or start to think about rolling out policy changes, we’re trying to package those things effectively.
Q: How does COVID-19 and the economic downturn change Riskonnect’s business focus going forward?
A: In a certain way it doesn’t. When you think about the nature of risk in a challenging and hardening renewal market, changes may be needed to the way your particular policies might be structured. Is it going to be more important to be on top of the rising scope and change of regulatory compliance needs? Am I going to need to rely on analytics and data? Is risk increasingly at the center of corporate strategy or not? Do I need to coordinate more across silos? All those things that Riskonnect was built on are accentuated and amplified. Yes, sure it’s a tough economic market, budgets are down, IT spending is down, but those are all temporary. This ultimately provides us a greater opportunity to provide value to customers.
Q: Riskonnect acquired Marsh ClearSight in 2018. How’s the integration going?
A: In terms of growth, the acquisition gave us a great cross-industry book of longstanding experience, which we used to drive scale for Riskonnect on a global basis. That customer base gave us extended capabilities into broader integrated risk, in operational, financial and compliance risk areas. One of the hidden gems in that acquisition was the decades’ worth of data, and we’re starting to harness that data and turn it into insights for customers. In terms of the team, the cultures have come together. When you look at Riskonnect today, almost two years later, the teams are about one-third ClearSight, one-third Riskonnect, and one-third new. A lot of people think about acquisitions in terms of synergy, removing resources and combining systems. We grew our team post-acquisition by 15% and amid COVID-19 we’re going to grow our team by another 10% from 2019 and 2020. We continue to see growth in customers and team on the basis of that acquisition, so I’m very pleased.
Q: How does Riskonnect differentiate in a consolidating market?
A: There are less players, but overall the total available market is increasing. We continue to see green-field RMIS opportunities. I look back to when Riskonnect was founded in 2007, and our main differentiator remains the same and that’s to correlate all risk. We believe that the risk manager’s role should involve operational integration with the whole business and then it moves from defense to offense. How you link to corporate strategy performance and ultimately drive the growth of the business is by being connected in risk to the rest of the business and that’s the number one way in which we differentiate. The second way is we do it on an extremely agile leading application with substantial innovation investment that is easy to use and adaptative to the customer’s environment.
Q: What M&A opportunities do you see on the horizon?
A: It’s a little difficult to comment on that publicly. The segments that are changing rapidly, and I think Riskonnect sees an opportunity to invest in, are going to revolve around two primary areas. One is the bridge from risk to resilience, and we spent a lot of time here prior to COVID-19, but it’s all around operational resilience. If you think of your resilience as a radar chart in all the different points and lines of business, how do you punch out the farthest point on that radar chart that relates to resilience and what kind of tools do you need? That’s a key area of focus for us and an area of growth for Riskonnect. The other area is if risk management focuses on the core of what we do, information technology risk and a digitalization of risk is a huge transforming area. So, this brings into the frame IT risk management, which is a little bit of third-party risk management but also cyber vulnerability and information security. Every company has a digital area around risk. How do we help facilitate the protection of the organization and lower the total cost of risk?