ENERGY’s Meet the Team Series is meant to showcase some of the exceptional talent we have on our team. It’s also a great medium for you, our audience, to get to know us a little better and hear straight from ENERGY team members own words about what they do and why it matters.
Today we had the pleasure of interviewing James MacPherson, CRM, ENERGY’s Director of Risk & Compliance. We talk cyber security in transport and how James supercharged ENERGY’s average risk and compliance grade to a best-in-class ranking.
We also delve into best practices for transport companies so they can avoid accidents and the ever-increasing multimillion-dollar settlements that that industry is facing.
Can you tell us a little more about your background and your role here at ENERGY?
I started in insurance back in 1996 as a claims person. After 10 years at my first company, going from junior to senior, I learned the ropes of the industry—but I was ready for new opportunities.
I worked in several other companies and even accepted some risk management teaching opportunities which I found myself really enjoying.
After all that, in 2018 I took a well-deserved year off to do some volunteering and take a break.
The Director, Risk & Compliance position at ENERGY truly spoke to me because it was a fusion of two passions of mine, teaching and risk management.
The management team needed a lot of help addressing the challenges that come with such rapid growth, and with a pending expansion to Mexico, the need for a strong risk and compliance department was readily apparent.
What were your first impressions of ENERGY?
My first impression was—there’s lots to do.
We had to work diligently to define our safety goals—and equally as important—how to reward good behavior.
I also saw there was a tremendous opportunity to teach and mentor since I was developing a younger team and I wanted to have a strong succession plan for the business. And everything I know; I am trying to stuff into their heads everyday.
What are the top priorities for the risk and compliance department?
The top priority across the board is the health and safety of our employees and the public at large. I don’t think Shawn and Michael would sleep if something happened to someone that was easily preventable.
The number two priority is cyber security. This year has proved that no company is safe from cyber attacks. We are always evaluating new platforms and technologies to enhance the security of our IT systems, but we also strongly believe a core component of IT security is people. We strive to continuously educate our staff and vendors on how these attackers gain access and what we can do to prevent or minimize the damage they can do.
Therefore, we’ve put a lot of focus on risk reduction rather than risk management. IT can only do so much. Some genius 16-year-old kid with a case of red bull in his mom’s basement is constantly going to be attacking their targets.
Defending the company from cyber attacks is a bit like a whack a mole game, so you take all available precautions, but it’s really about educating all relevant parties about risk mitigation so that if they do get in, there isn’t much for them to access or find.
How well do you feel you are doing when it comes to educating the staff about the risks of cyber attacks?
Well, our cyber attack insurance premiums were raised a very modest amount, well below the industry average increase, despite our explosive growth. So, it means we are doing something right.
Where do you see ENERGY in five years?
We are going to be pretty BIG. Not in terms of employee count but in terms of what our capabilities are.
We have really positioned ourselves as a boutique provider that offers parallel or equal service to any major brokerage or trucking operation. Clearly, we are not going to be the transactional company who can move 50,000 loads because we have 10,000 trucks. That’s not who we are.
But whenever you have specialized loads, be it high value, restricted or controlled goods, ENERGY will be the industry go-to because we have the references and the experience.
Professional speaking, what keeps you up at night?
Everything. That isn’t an exaggeration.
But what really keeps me up at night is knowing that someone is behind the wheel with too much to drink and they might come across one of our trucks.
What trends are you seeing in the transport industry when it comes to safety?
People are asleep at the wheel. Other transport companies have invested historically, but they have not continued to invest in new tech, the right people, the right education for drivers and dispatchers. And the proof is everywhere, these companies are getting hammered in the courts for it all the time.
For example, in 2012, the average judgement for a motor vehicle fatality was $2.6 million. By 2017 it hit $7 million. 2018 we were at $16.9 million. Now, we are at $18 million. In less than 10 years, it has gone up eight-fold and it’s not going to go down anytime soon. People can scream all they want about Tort reform but I am not a big fan of it.
I don’t think it’s up to the government to legislate how much somebody should be able to sue for, I think it’s up to the trucking companies to be safer.
How do transport and logistics companies ensure a higher level of safety and avoid these kinds of judgements in the courts?
Compliance is everything. I do not want to be the safety and compliance person who gets on the stand and says we have this policy but it’s not very practical, so we don’t abide by it. You must walk the walk and talk the talk.
If you just fill the air with policies and procedures but you do not have any follow up or track driver habits, you’re going to get slammed and people will get hurt.
By monitoring driver behavior on a daily basis, and correcting it on a regular basis, the likelihood of you being in an at-fault accident is drastically reduced. And that is why our last at-fault accident was three years ago and there were no injuries.
If there was one thing you wished people knew about risk and compliance or your role, what would it be?
That we are not a detriment to operational excellence, we are a conduit to ensure it.
What would you say is your biggest achievement since joining ENERGY?
Bringing us to a best-in-class carrier.
Two and half years ago we were an average carrier in terms of governance, risk, compliance, and safety.
Now we are on par with companies that are much bigger than us because we allocated the resources and made risk and compliance a priority.
If you could give someone one reason to work with ENERGY, what would it be?
We are going to take care of you.