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Winning with wiki

Sitkins WikiRisk™ connects agents with powerful risk management tools to win the sale

By Elisabeth Boone, CPCU

Since it was formally launched in 2001, Wikipedia has gained worldwide renown as the online encyclopedia whose content is created almost entirely by ordinary people rather than experts.

Wiki is the Hawaiian word for "quick," and Wikipedia is nothing if not quick. You can Google just about anything, and at or near the top of the search results you'll see an entry from Wikipedia.

For Larry Linne, president and CEO of Sitkins International, the world of wiki is endlessly fascinating and rich with possibilities for creating dynamic solutions to business challenges. Galvanized by the insights he gained from reading Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams' seminal Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Linne began to explore ways in which the wiki concept could be built into new "power tools" for the agents and brokers who belong to Sitkins International.

Collaboration with Brandon White, a Sitkins Vertical Growth Advisor with a strong background in captive insurance and agency sales management, led to the creation of Sitkins WikiRisk™. Launched in January of this year, the new offering is built on a sophisticated platform that allows members to share their risk management experiences, ask and answer questions, and access a vast database of solutions and resources.

"If there was one key philosophy or concept that drove this process, it was the fact that people have been talking about total cost of risk, enterprise risk management, broadening the definition of risk—but salespeople are just not getting it," Linne says. "As we've dealt with agents in our classes, from entry level to experienced, we've found that agents have a hard time making the transition from thinking about the direct and indirect costs associated with insurance to understanding the total risk. I know a lot of producers who have recognized risk management credentials. They have the knowledge about risk, but they just don't use it when working with their clients. They haven't been able to translate that knowledge into actions."

Risk has many dimensions, Linne says, and insurance is not the only way to address those risks. He notes that Lloyd's publishes an annual Risk Index that identifies these key categories of business risk: loss of customers; talent and skills shortages; reputational risk; currency fluctuation; changing legislation; political, crime, and security risks; environmental risks, and natural hazards.

"Lloyd's and other organizations are categorizing risk, labeling it, organizing it, and communicating it—but agents and other insurance professionals are struggling to turn this knowledge into action for their clients," Linne says.

Doing it our way

"Identifying and organizing risks are the most critical things a business can do to manage risk," Linne says. "Many business owners lack clarity about the risks they face and have no idea how to handle them.

"At Sitkins, we've been talking about the total cost of risk for several years, so we decided that we would organize risk our way as well. We chose three categories: strategic risk, business risk, and hazard risk. Once we've identified and organized risk, we need to think about how to manage it," Linne says. "We use five different ways to manage risk: prevent, mitigate, transfer, finance, or assume. When a producer understands the methods of managing risk, he or she can provide value to the client," he observes.

"We teach that risk assumption and risk finance, or insurance, are the two most expensive ways to manage risk," Linne explains. "Most agencies focus on these two methods and don't pay much attention to the other three. They're not as purposeful about risk prevention, mitigation, and transfer as they are about insurance and risk assumption via deductibles. We saw an opportunity to help our members differentiate themselves by providing solutions based on the three strategies that most agents don't use."

To put these concepts into action, Linne says, "We identified two priorities. First, we needed to help our agents develop business acumen. Producers have to get comfortable engaging in a discussion of a client's risks and understand that there are several ways to manage those risks. Second, we wanted to customize a sales system that would make it easier for the producer to ask questions about the client's risks, to quantify the risks, to show visuals, and to demonstrate an understanding of the facts about risk."

Wiki is the way

The inspiration to create a risk wiki, Linne explains, came one day when he Googled "risk management" and discovered that the second entry from the top was—you guessed it—a Wikipedia page.

"Then it came to me: A wiki is the fastest way to create content. Wiki is defined as a Web site that allows users to add, modify, or delete content," Linne says. "All Wikipedia pages have a common structure with a simple format. It's easy to look things up, and it's easy to learn. What if we created a Sitkins risk wiki? We could choose any risk and define it as strategic, business, or hazard. We could provide information about prevention, mitigation, transfer, financing, and assumption of the risk. We could include data to help the producer quantify the risk. We could present background information about the risk, and we could suggest questions for the producer to ask the client or prospect. So from a business acumen standpoint, Sitkins WikiRisk™ becomes a training tool. The producer can learn about a risk at an in-depth level so he or she will be comfortable discussing it with the client."

To put the producer's knowledge into action with a client, Linne says, "We wanted to develop a software format that would allow the producer to sit in front of the client and ask questions with all the relevant data at hand, and to calculate frequency and severity measurements that would help the client visualize the risk."

Sitkins already had a tool in paper format called the Risk Fact Sheet, Linne says. "Brandon White and Sitkins coach Gregg Goodmanson were working endless hours to create content for this tool and to keep the information current. We decided to open it up as a wiki and allow members to contribute content."

To ensure quality of content, Linne explains, a member submits a suggestion that is then verified to make sure it's accurate. Once it checks out, the contribution is added to the wiki.

"Within a couple of weeks, we created data for more than 130 different risks. What once took four or five days per risk could now be done in minutes. Some members took an entire risk category and built a program around that risk. We were amazed by the speed at which our members were working together to increase the volume and quality of data," Linne says with enthusiasm.

"In building our wiki, Wikipedia was the model," he says. "We undertook to build a risk database that's alive, organic, and active. If a law changes or a case is settled today, a member can input the information, and once approved, it's immediately incorporated so other users can see it. That's the power of a wiki."

Strategic partner

To bring their new wiki to life on a user-friendly platform, Sitkins partnered with ClearRisk, a software developer that creates risk management programs. "They did the complete design for Sitkins WikiRisk™, and they did a great job of organizing the data and building the infrastructure. ClearRisk has its own library, to which our members have access, that has data on more than 85 risks with 1,404 solutions to those risks," Linne explains. "Sitkins WikiRisk™ has 132 risks in the system and 141 tools to service those risks. In the Sitkins library, our members have been creating their own custom risk programs."

Sitkins WikiRisk™, on the ClearRisk platform, has a smooth, clean interface that allows members to quickly locate information on the key risks for a given class and the appropriate methods for managing each risk. Also provided are background data on the characteristics of the risk as well as appropriate questions to ask the client or prospect.

"Having access to this information in an easy-to-use, consistent format allows our members to fulfill the two objectives of Sitkins WikiRisk™: to develop business acumen and to translate that acumen into effective selling strategies," Linne explains. "From the information and resources provided in Sitkins WikiRisk™, we can build a sales system.

"Knowing what questions to ask the client or prospect allows the producer to demonstrate his or her familiarity with the risk, and being able to quantify the various aspects of the risk on an iPad screen in front of the client is a powerful selling tool," he states

Using the wiki, the producer can show the client how changing one variable for a given risk affects the relative positions of the other variables. Once the risks have been identified and quantified, the producer can present a set of risk management solutions that address the client's needs.

For example, for a client that operates a fleet of vehicles, the producer can obtain information such as the size of the fleet, the ages and conditions of vehicles, the vehicle maintenance program, and where the vehicles are driven, as well as data on drivers' experience, safety record, and training program. With the touch of a button, the producer can show the client the potential impact of an accident prevention program, then print out the document and give it to the client.

"The producer can tell the client: 'This is what we're going to do to help you manage that risk,'" Linne says. "Once the program has been implemented, the producer marks the item 'complete,' and it becomes part of the annual stewardship report that is presented to the client at renewal time. Stewardship is built into the risk management solution.

"Having all the needed information in one place, with the flexibility to change variables, introduce new data, and show the client or prospect a visual image of its risks, allows our members to meet the challenge I posed earlier: to acquire business acumen and to transfer it into action with a client," Linne asserts. "Sitkins WikiRisk™ is both a dynamic source of vital information and a 'power tool' that allows the producer to deliver on that knowledge."

(Sitkins WikiRisk™ is a proprietary offering of Sitkins International and is available only to members of the group. For more information about Sitkins International, go to


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