Risk team of the year: Talcott Resolution

The way US life insurer Talcott Resolution's risk team navigated a multitude of perils in 2020 including Covid-19, vendor outages and massive market fluctuations – all while working remotely – led the judging panel to award it the InsuranceERM Americas risk team of the year.

Chris AbreuThe firm's chief risk officer (CRO) Chris Abreu says the compounding risks from the past year meant all factors "went against companies" and made 2020 "one spicy meatball".

He explains how forward thinking was the key to addressing this environment.

"We pride ourselves in trying to think ahead of what could go wrong and we do it in terms of all risks, both operational and financial. We also pride ourselves on being able to look at our exposures on a daily basis to understand how that balance sheet could move.

"If something in one risk class goes wrong, the key for us is having very articulate playbooks of dealing with bad situations."

Rather than simply mitigating the risks, Abreu explains having these playbooks in place allowed the company to emerge "in a better economic" position.

InsuranceERM's judges concurred with Talcott's approach to risk, offering praise how all its departments collaborated to create actionable plans to benefit both the company and investors.

Abreu also notes the advantages of the insurer's close-knit risk team where questioning and self-scrutiny is encouraged.

In addition to CRO Abreu, the company's risk team includes its head of risk governance and reporting, a head of market risk, a head of model development and stress testing as well as a head of operational risk.

"We have a very small team first of all, we know each other's strengths and weaknesses and we act as a team because not one person alone is going to make the decision," says Abreu.

"You have to have a forward mindset of looking out and asking what could go wrong. Do I really believe I'm well protected? Do I really believe I have the best playbook to handle situations?

"If you can do that and have self-doubt, you'll be a really good risk officer."