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Michael Dougherty: Making Better Risk Decisions with Columbia’s “Big Picture” Approach to Insurance Management

Michael Dougherty leads risk management and insurance for the world’s largest hotel franchisor, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Risk and insurance go hand in hand, he says, which is why the Spencer Scholarship recipient is joining the very first student cohort of Columbia’s new Master’s in Insurance Management program. He recently discussed how the curriculum and Columbia’s dynamic, online asynchronous format are ideal for both his current job demands and future career goals.

Tell us about your role as the Head of Risk Management & Insurance at Wyndham.

As the Risk Management & Insurance lead for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. I primarily assess and analyze exposures facing both a hotel franchisor and a hotel manager against unexpected and expected loss that most often involves an insurance remedy of some form. On a secondary level, I am responsible for designing and monitoring the internal and external insurance claim management infrastructure that responds to guests, vendors, owners, team members and various third parties. Finance is a central focus of my role; it relies heavily on risk transfer and risk finance competencies which ultimately requires advanced insurance knowledge. I anticipate this program will help me develop more comprehensive strategies focused on the big picture, including assisting me in creating manuscript risk transfer solutions that would benefit my organization and our industry.

What drew you to apply to Columbia's Insurance Management master's program? What was the deciding factor in your decision to enroll for the fall?

Continuing to expand my knowledge and expertise in this complex area is extremely important to me. Traditionally, a professional in this area would utilize workshops, on-the-job training and other more common insurance industry training such as CPCU, CRM or ARM programs.  I think these common programs provide a good foundation; however, I often felt that the training was fragmented and limited to basics; I wanted the opportunity to learn from a comprehensive program that not only expands on insurance management fundamentals, but ties in leadership strategies for an overall insurance function as well. 

When I learned about the new Master’s in Insurance Management at Columbia, I knew it was the broader insurance education and leadership resource that I was waiting for in a graduate program at an accredited intuition. This program will also help to expand my network among other leading industry professionals. The knowledge and contacts I will make will be a unique and powerful asset throughout my career.

When I learned about the new Master’s in Insurance Management at Columbia, I knew it was the broader insurance education and leadership resource that I was waiting for in a graduate program at an accredited intuition.”

This degree is almost completely online. How do you plan to maximize the networking and learning opportunities on the virtual platform? 

One of the reasons I decided to pursue this program is that it is primarily online.  The online structure provided more flexibility to accommodate my busy career which often includes a notable amount of late hours and business travel. I plan to utilize both Columbia's proven online platform along with other mediums I have been utilizing in my career to connect with my fellow graduate students.  I recognize that since a large portion of this program is online, I may have to personally initiate a lot of interactions with my peers to help ensure we all gain the most from this program which includes learning from not only the facility but my peers and their experiences. With the experience, knowledge and contacts gained through this industry specific graduate program, I plan to initially make a larger impact at my current employer to expand the risk transfer operations, and I would like to continue to prepare myself so I may one day obtain a board level position at a respected company in the insurance industry.

 

What are some of the most complex challenges in risk management and insurance today? Is there a specific area(s) of which you plan to gain a deeper understanding? How do you plan to apply that knowledge to your career?  

Today, the most complex challenges in risk management and insurance includes operating a business and leading teams in a COVID-19 environment, contending with a stressed financial marketplace, an insurance hard market and the continued rise of both attritional and catastrophic claims. The presidential election year also adds a layer of regulatory uncertainty. 

With the strategies learned in the Insurance Management courses, I am confident I will make better day-to-day and longer-term decisions that will drive efficiency and effective approaches for handling complex ever-changing challenges.”

The insurance management program at Columbia has a number of courses to help expand my toolkit to better contend with these complex challenges. This includes Emerging Risk and Insurance Topics, The Role of Finance in the Insurance Industry and Product, Pricing, and Distribution. With the strategies learned in the Insurance Management courses, I am confident I will make better day-to-day and longer-term decisions that will drive efficiency and effective approaches for handling complex ever-changing challenges.

Learn more about Columbia University’s Master’s in Insurance Management.