EDITOR'S NOTE: Lizabeth "Libby" Christman is vice president of risk management for Ahold USA, where she is responsible for claims and insurance management, safety, property protection, corporate and operational crisis management, and business continuity. Christman was named to Progressive Grocer magazine's 2010 Top Women in Grocery and Business Insurance magazine's Women to Watch in 2011 lists.
EDITOR: For those in our readership who are not familiar with the name, tell us about Ahold.
CHRISTMAN: Ahold is an international group of quality supermarkets based in the United States and Europe. Ahold USA supports four regional Divisions—Stop & Shop New England, Stop & Shop New York Metro, Giant Landover, and Giant Carlisle—that together operate more than 750 supermarkets in thirteen states and the District of Columbia. In addition, we operate Peapod, the nation's leading e-commerce grocery shopping/delivery service.
EDITOR: Congratulations on your recent promotion to vice president of risk management. Summarize your responsibilities.
CHRISTMAN: Thank you. I have a number of responsibilities. One is safety, which includes occupational safety and health as well as customer and vendor safety. Another is property protection, which includes fire protection and other systems for protecting physical assets. In addition, I oversee claims management, litigation management, business continuity, and crisis management.
EDITOR: What type of background do you have that would allow you to assume this type of position?
CHRISTMAN: My undergraduate degree is in finance and economics, and I later earned an MBA degree. My first position out of college was with an insurance company. I worked in a variety of different types of claims roles for a number of insurance companies, handling workers' compensation, general liability, and auto liability claims for large, commercial accounts. I also have experience with underwriting as well as safety training. About fifteen years ago I transitioned to Giant Food Stores in Carlisle to manage the workers' comp program, and my responsibilities have expanded since to include assuming this corporate role in July 2010.
EDITOR: As a corporate executive, describe your working relationship to the multiple operating divisions.
CHRISTMAN: Ultimately my responsibilities are the identification of occupational risks, physical site and operational risks, and application of programs and technologies to reduce those risks. All of the employees who work in the risk management department are corporate support, but we have safety specialists physically located within all of the geographies of stores. One of the things that we've been working on since I took this position has been to work with each division independently and identify specific opportunities to make our operations a safer environment for associates and customers. To achieve that we have to apply different types of policies, programs, and methodologies within stores, sometimes targeting specific departments, to put reductions within those risk factors. Reducing risks and changing management and associate behavior ultimately manifests itself by reducing the number of claims we have, which reduces the cost of insurance and, in turn, improves the bottom line.