Interview: Peggy Accordino, Winner of the 2007 Ron Judd "Heart of RIMS" Award

Ron Judd, during his 22-year tenure as RIMS executive director, proved himself to be a man of vision and leadership by facilitating the spread of risk management overseas and assisting risk managers abroad to establish similar organizations. He also understood that RIMS chapters, totaling at 80 today, and the volunteers who run them are the lifeblood of the Society.

At RIMS Annual Conference & Exhibition, the Society pays homage to his legacy by presenting the Ron Judd "Heart of RIMS" Award to a deserving chapter volunteer. The award is given to a member for outstanding performance in furthering risk management at the chapter level. This year's winner is Peggy Accordino, ARM, vice president and director of risk management at National Financial Partners Corporation, and vice president and director of RIMS New York Chapter.

RIMS recently spoke with Peggy about her career as a risk manager and how opportunities at the Society and RIMS New York Chapter have benefited her professionally.

RIMS: Describe your career as a risk manager.
Peggy: My risk management career has always been in financial institutions-banking, brokerage and insurance. I have been in the field for more than 30 years. My current position at National Financial Partners--because of its size--has given me one of the greatest opportunities to get involved in the different areas of the company. And, this position is the fourth time I have had the opportunity to start a risk management program from scratch!

RIMS: Why did you become a risk manager?
Peggy: Like a lot of risk managers who have been in the business a long time, I fell into it. I started out with a small broker, pushing paper for personal lines insurance in Rochester, N.Y. When I moved back to New York City that experience helped me get a job in the "insurance department" at JP Morgan, handling personal lines insurance for trust clients. From there, I began to get involved with corporate insurance programs. This is where I first learned about financial institution risk management.

RIMS: How has your career as a risk manager been fulfilling?
Peggy: On a personal level, I have made a lot of friends in the business, some of whom I have been on vacation with, attended their birthday bashes and retirement parties, and even their childrens' events. On a professional level, I feel that I have been very fulfilled by my involvement in a number of activities and organizations that relate to the insurance and risk management field. I've met great people and I feel like I have had the opportunity to contribute directly to the industry through my involvement with RIMS.

RIMS: How has your involvement with RIMS New York Chapter helped you as a risk management professional?
Peggy: Since RIMS New York Chapter is one of the largest chapters in the Society--and having served three times on the board over the past 25 years--my involvement has given me some degree of visibility in the industry and, perhaps, even added a credibility factor. It has allowed me to meet risk managers in other organizations, work with them, learn from them and those bonds have lead to involvement in other risk-management related organizations.

RIMS: The Ron Judd "Heart of RIMS" Award criteria requires that a candidate for this award demonstrate expertise in the following areas: positive public image, team player, conflict resolution, leadership, creativity, promoting the health and success of a local chapter(s) and advancing the risk management profession. How would you encourage other risk management practitioners to pursue greatness in these areas?
Peggy: Get involved and stay involved. Over the years, I was involved in RIMS Anita Benedetti Student Involvement Program. I would tell the students at the Sunday brunch during RIMS Annual Conference & Exhibition that one of the best and most fun investments they could make in their career is to get involved with their local RIMS chapter or volunteer for a committee at the Society level.

I always relate to them a story about how I got involved with RIMS. I was drafted to join the Host Chapter Committee when the conference was in New York City in the early 1980s. I was in charge of the spouse breakfast, for which they had prize drawings every morning. I was put in charge of buying the prizes. The committee gave me $3,000 and told me to go to the stores on Fifth Avenue. As I told the students: how bad could an organization be that would give you $3,000 and tell you to go shopping!

To a large extent, the activities that were listed for me in the criteria for the "Heart of RIMS" Award flowed one from another. From the Host Chapter Committee, I was drafted on to the Board of RIMS New York Chapter, and from there to various committees at the Society level. Everything I learned at RIMS on the Society level I was able to bring back and help RIMS New York Chapter continue to be one of the great chapters in the Society. Generally, the more involved you are, the more you want to be involved.

RIMS: What does the Ron Judd "Heart of RIMS" Award mean to you?
Peggy: The most gratifying aspect of the "Heart of RIMS" Award is being nominated by your peers, particularly by your fellow board members. It's wonderful to know that the things you really enjoy doing with this talented group of people is thought of as worthy enough for a Society award. Plus, winning an award named for Ron Judd means a great deal. I knew Ron. He was RIMS executive director when I first became involved with the Society and I worked on a couple of international related projects with him over the years--one for which he asked me directly because of my involvement in RIMS New York Chapter.