Risk Management is a constant at Haskell, a ubiquitous presence in every Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) project that protects the interests of the company, its clients and its contractor partners.
Not coincidentally, Haskell’s Risk Management Department was a constant for nearly two decades under Director Vanessa McMillan, and when McMillan decided to retire after 27 years with the company, it was crucial that there be absolute continuity in coverage and confidence.
Enter Jeff Caudill, who in Fall 2020 became Haskell’s new Risk Management Director.
Like his predecessor, Caudill has nearly two decades’ experience in risk management leadership, the first half with an American subsidiary of Toyota and the second with a major international engineering firm and a large nationwide general contractor.
“Jeff is a very seasoned guy,” Haskell CFO Brad Slappey said. “He’s very laid back. He's worked with operations for dozens of years. He brings a very seasoned, well-rounded approach to Haskell, both from an insurance background and a general risk management background. He's a good fit with the team.”
Construction projects face risk on numerous fronts, including cost, time, disputes and litigation, safety and occupational health challenges, and intense competition. Risk management in construction is designed to identify and assess risks, then plan, monitor and control the measures needed to mitigate them. The personable Caudill brings a collaborative and supportive style, which he has developed over years of working with operations and project leadership.
“There's no black and white. Insurance is very gray,” Caudill said. “My philosophy is to assist the projects. My role is to inform and to assist. I'll never tell them how to run a project -- I don’t know how to build anything. I’m here to tell you what the risks are. You decide if you want to go down that path or not. And if you choose to go down that path, I'm behind you 100 percent. But I just want to educate so they can make informed decisions. That's really what risk management is all about.”
Ten years back, Caudill was at home in a suburb of his native Cincinnati and happily building a career with Toyota Tsusho America when he and his wife, Ronnie, took one of what were frequent trips to the Colorado mountains.
"My wife is an avid skier,” he said. “One time, about 2011, we looked at each other when we were out there and said, kind of jokingly, ‘We keep coming out of here on vacation. Why don't we move out here?’ And so, we kind of chuckled. Well, six months later, we were living in Castle Rock, CO., just outside Denver.”
Denver not only is the gateway to the Rockies, but it was also home to the large architectural and engineering form CH2M (now Jacobs), where Jeff became corporate insurance manager. Initially, it was no mountain vacation; Caudill immediately faced the challenge of taking over with no insight from the former longtime leader, who had already departed.
His welcome at Haskell was the opposite.
“When I came here, Vanessa was kind enough to stay on through my first couple of months,” he said. “They kind of, as she called it, Haskell-ized me. But I do have the opportunity to make it my own. I have my own way.”
Haskell’s Risk Management department is the liaison between insurance carriers and the company’s surety companies – brokers and carriers that guarantee Haskell’s performance and obligations to the project owners. Thanks to its strong reputation and robust balance sheet, Haskell has a strong relationship with its sureties, which ensures its ability to pursue large projects and offer clients the assurance that their investment will be safe.
Caudill knows that this can be dense subject matter, but he also knows that it is vital to business operations, and he relishes explaining it in a way that serves team members and clients. And if anyone says that risk management and insurance are dull, he says don’t believe it. The management of risk allows involvement in every aspect of the company’s work, from the $7,000 design contract to the $400 million Consumer Packaged Goods proposal.
For example, he encountered a novel opportunity soon after his arrival. Haskell has a strong relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and an upcoming project encompasses building temples on small islands in the South Pacific using an innovative new delivery model.
"I’m challenged every day,” he said. “I've never placed insurance on the island of Vanuatu. I didn't even know that island existed. I have to reach out and get the details and then call my broker and ask, ‘Are there concerns? Can I get a bond and place insurance there?’ It's a challenge, and I enjoy it.”
Whether it’s a temple on a tiny island or the largest of integrated infrastructure projects, Caudill appreciates the opportunity and responsibility of ensuring, and insuring, Haskell’s ability to provide the best possible client experience and outcome.
“You know, this is about the big picture, and this is about Haskell as an ongoing entity from now until forever,” he said. “We carry large retentions. We carry large deductibles. It's not about exchanging dollars. It's about managing enterprise-wide risk for our clients, protecting the balance sheet and protecting the reputation of Haskell.”
Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 1,800 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.