Q&A: Jami Willingham of Southern Co. and Atlanta RIMS

Jami Willingham is risk manager at Southern Co., an electric and gas utility in Atlanta, and president of the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s Atlanta chapter, which is hosting the 2023 RIMS conference and exhibition. She recently spoke with Business Insurance Deputy Editor Claire Wilkinson about the highlights of this year’s event and the strength of the risk management community. Edited excerpts follow.

Riskworld is in your hometown. What can risk professionals expect?

The last time RIMS’ annual conference was in Atlanta was in 2001. For people who’ve been here and maybe only visited that one time it’s going to be exciting to see the change in Atlanta because there’s been so much development. It’s going to be a great opportunity to learn about the industry and connect with people, all while exploring the changes that have occurred in the city. We have a new football stadium. We have the Georgia Aquarium, where the opening night reception will be held. There’s the College Football Hall of Fame, the World of Coca-Cola, all right there near the World Congress Center, so it’ll be a lot of fun.

How does RIMS Atlanta Chapter support the risk management community?

We try to offer educational opportunities as well as a network, similar to what RIMS does for its members nationally. Our risk managers-only luncheons give our community an opportunity to come together to share ideas and to talk about the things that are high on the risk management radar. In February, we hold an annual educational conference. We offer classes, and we allow students the opportunity to come and meet risk professionals because we want to make sure we’re doing our part to continue to develop the next generation of industry talent. We have strong partnerships with the University of Georgia and Georgia State University and with the Spencer Educational Foundation, which was founded by the Atlanta chapter of RIMS in 1979. A lot of our efforts are around raising funds that we donate to those schools and to the Spencer Educational Foundation.

What are some of the top risks that risk professionals are facing?

For most risk professionals, cyber is probably one of the biggest challenges right now. We continue to see an increase in cyber activity, and wrapping your hands around that is a challenge. Technology is advancing, so how do you mitigate the risks that inherently come along with that, and then what do you do about it from the standpoint of your insurance program? The cyber and technology sessions at Riskworld will probably get a lot of traction from attendees because the environment is changing so much and cyber risks are such a challenge. The risk manager of Colonial Pipeline Inc. is due to participate in one of the sessions.

How are risk professionals navigating increased catastrophe risks?

It’s a challenge because you don’t know when it’s going to happen. One of the things we’ve been thinking about lately is how do we continue to do business in an environment where these things occur. You have to balance that with what insurers are doing, how the markets are changing, and get a handle on the terms and conditions of policies.  It’s a tough time, but this is the fun stuff, too, because if you just sit there and everything stays the same, it could be very boring. As much as I complain when I see changes on our policies, it keeps me on my toes.

What strategies are helping in the challenging insurance market?

Establishing good relationships with your insurers helps. Southern Co. is a little bit unique in the energy space because we have industry mutual companies that we rely on and utilize. The one thing that I’ve learned is that by building those relationships with carriers and brokers you have a partner when things are tough. It speaks to the importance of partnerships and making sure you establish good relationships because those underwriters are going to go to bat for you and help you out as things change, to the extent that they can.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *