Anne Kleffner, Ph.D. is a Professor and Chairholder, Insurance and Risk Management, at the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. She served as President of ARIA from 2020-2021 and previously served as president of the board for Western Risk and Insurance Association, Calgary Meals on Wheels, and Hillhurst United Church.
I recently sat down with Anne to reflect on her time as President.
Q: With ARIA’s annual meeting recently concluding, you have officially passed the mantel of leadership as President. Did anything surprise you about your time in leadership?
A: In addition to working with the board on our strategic objectives, I came in wanting to work with our executive office on clearly defining roles and accountabilities, to ensure the board could be as effective as possible, focusing more on strategic issues and less on operational issues. But it turns out this was a “be careful what you wish for” request, because right after I came in our partners at The Institutes notified us of a change in our executive director. Frank Tomasello was appointed our new ED and his first task was to become familiar with ARIA. I wasn’t thinking of a change in executive offices at that time, even though we had an RFP out; however, after a thorough search led by Martin Grace, the search committee recommended that we select Arden Solutions as our executive office. This opened up the opportunity to work with The Institutes in a new way–as strategic partners. This decision seemed to offer solutions to two challenges we had been facing: operational expertise in the management of ARIA and strategic relationships with industry to enhance awareness of ARIA and our reach.
This has been a big transition year, requiring a lot of time working with Arden, but we believe it is a great opportunity for ARIA in the long term as Arden Solutions can provide expertise in association management.
Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of in your time as ARIA’s President?
A: Three things come to mind. First, in addition to the work we have done after choosing Arden for our Executive Office and transitioning to a new ED, I also see substantial opportunities in the new partnership with The Institutes. This year we established a subcommittee to discuss how we’re going to make the partnership a win-win for both organizations and I believe there’s a lot of potential in developing that partnership.
Second, the continued development of the Risk and Insurance Teaching Society (RITS). We have a new committee chair (Lori Medders) and a new committee, and we have been working on defining the roles, responsibilities, structure, and governance for RITS. We’re making steady progress and I think the coming year will help solidify RITS as an important part of ARIA. (And thank you to Bill Rabel for being the initiator of this idea!)
Third, we continue to implement our marketing strategy, which included restarting the ARIA Newsletter. Our newsletter had lapsed for a few years, and over the past year, I worked together with Nicolette Base (former Communication Executive) and our Communications Committee to identify content ideas that Nicolette worked with to create the newsletter. I am thankful to the ARIA members who graciously accepted her invitation to be interviewed, including Cassandra Cole, Willie Reddic, Bill Rabel, David Cummins, Mary Weiss, and Richard Phillips.
Connecting with our members is vitally important and by working with Arden and implementing a new membership management system (MemberClicks) we will be able to communicate with our members more effectively and reach others who are interested in the Mission of ARIA.
Q: Where would you like to see ARIA in five years? How would we have changed or grown?
A: I’d like there to be greater awareness of ARIA as the premier scholarly risk and insurance association. I would like industry and policymakers to know that we are leading academics in this area and can help inform corporate and government decisions around risk.
In the next five years, I hope to see our membership be more diversified and have broader industry representation. This is an area we can expand and hopefully leverage our partnership with The Institutes to create valuable opportunities for industry members to be part of ARIA.
There is also an opportunity to reach out through RITS to increase our membership by reaching out to risk and insurance instructors who are adjunct or clinical professors that may be unaware of ARIA. I see opportunities for ARIA to provide teaching support and instructional ideas to this group and create a wider membership base than we currently have.
Q: What advice do you give new professionals entering this field? What about professionals in risk and insurance considering membership or involvement with ARIA?
A: Connect with people. For new members and younger faculty, it’s great to have one or two mentors to talk to, ask for advice, share ideas, and help as you begin to navigate your early career. A mentor may be your primary professor, but it doesn’t always work that way. In ARIA it’s easy to find that kind of help, even if the relationship is informal. ARIA is a community in the truest sense of the word. It’s the people. ARIA’s active membership has many outstanding academics, who I consider not only colleagues but friends. They are people that I feel privileged to know, like Patty Born, Marty Grace, Joan Schmit, and Jim Garven, who have always been willing to help and who are committed to the development of younger faculty and growth in the field of risk and insurance.
For those new to ARIA, find ways to get involved and meet people. One way to get involved is to be a discussant for a paper at the annual meeting. It can be a little intimidating, but it’s common for fourth-year Ph.D. students to present a paper and discuss a paper. If a new attendee is nervous about presenting or discussing, seek out resources and training on being a good presenter and discussant.
Q: Is there a fun fact you’d like to share?
A: I discovered when I left Philadelphia and moved to Alberta that I am an outdooraholic. I love living near the mountains. So, after ARIA’s Annual Meeting was over, I headed north and drove to Peace River Alberta, about 750 kms north of Calgary for a four-day canoe trip with nine others. We paddled 150 kms (in rain, wind, and sun) and saw beavers, moose, deer, and eagles. After the canoe trip, I headed to Jasper National Park for a two-day backcountry hike called the Skyline trail–it’s about 46 kms. Both were spectacular and a perfect way to relax and enjoy the Alberta summer.
ARIA sincerely thanks Anne for her dedicated and insightful leadership this past year.