Ian Ascher was born in NJ, following primary school he attended the University of Hartford in CT. After completing his undergraduate degree, he began his career in the insurance industry holding various claim and underwriting roles with large commercial insurance companies. Ian went back to school while working to obtain an MS in Management of Risk from St. John’s University. Shortly after he took a role leading the Risk Management Function for the H.J Heinz Company in Pittsburgh PA. A few years later, the firm merged with Kraft, and Ian lead the integration efforts brining significant efficiencies to the newly formed company. Today, Ian is the Managing Director of Global Risk Management at Jones Lang LaSalle in Chicago.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I started in the Risk Management and Insurance filed as an insurance fraud investigator. The insurance sector is a multibillion dollar business that is subject to significant fraud, I wanted to be on the side of fraud prevention, protecting enterprise value. This quickly exposed me to various functions and operational areas within Insurance and Risk Management that were of great interest to me. Over time I progressed to a place where I was well rounded through claims, underwriting and management level roles at both insurers and for firms who were seeking to protect their businesses, in part through insurance purchasing.
How does your company generate revenue?
I work for a large commercial real-estate firm – revenue is driven by various services we offer – property management, facility management, asset management, valuations, brokerage (sell/lease) transactions and broader capital market positions to serve our clients.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
The firm I work for was established in 1783 and has a long history of profitable growth.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I have been very lucky to work with highly skilled professionals, with a longstanding solid reputation. I feel very fortunate to be working with the management team in place, and am honored to contribute.
What was your first paying job?
I worked at Wendy’s and Dunkin Donuts through high school to save for my first car before leaving for college.
How do you measure employee performance?
Set clear key performance indicators. These need to be developed with employee feedback and input, but must be definable and measurable. If the goal is clear, and can be tracked it reduces misalignment and sets priorities.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Our current insurance structure is a bit outdated, resulting in redundancies and inefficient costs. We consolidated programs, which resulted in some of our customers losing business. This naturally puts a strain on relationships, but in my role, I need to do what is right for the enterprise. At times this can presented challenges, and a difficult balance to meet considering all of the stakeholders.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I am extremely hard working. I am not afraid to call things out when they are wrong, while suggesting more productive or favorable solutions. I am very big on transparency and communication, I never want my team guessing what my position is on a given challenge. Clear and accurate upwards and downwards communication is critical to foster a trusted advisor level of respect.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Being recognized as the most influential leader at a company retreat for the work I did over the 2017 calendar year. The recognition of this work was unexpected and meant the world to me.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
The future for my business holds significant growth and increased margin potential. I am most excited about centralizing Risk Management operations, and truly operating a fortune 200 company as one with a unified platform. When we get there, the opportunities are endless and the Risk Management function will be utilized as a value generator.
What business books have inspired you?
Anything written by Warren Bufett, Too Big To Fail, Good to Great, and 7 Habits of highly effective people.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
This is off color, but I sponsored a team scavenger hunt in Chicago, aimed at generating trust and team building. It was a great success and I see the team crossing lines in ways they had not previously considered.
In large companies, how do we ensure direction from the top is being understood as it is cascaded through the organization?
Accountability is key. The executives need to hold their managers accountable to deliver what is most important for their teams to ingrain in the day to day transactions of the business. Town Hall’s, one on ones, play books etc…..need to be the tools in the chest to ensure company priorities are understood and effected.