Sara Girard, President for CNB Examines Risk in Banking

By Julia Maddock, Junior in Agricultural Economics

On February 13th, Sara Girard, President of Central National Bank (CNB), gave a talk to Student Fellows regarding risks in today’s banking industry, and how her bank is managing them. Sara, a Kansas State graduate, has been with Central National Bank since 2005, when she started as a marketing officer. She has served as the bank’s president since 2016.

Central National Bank is one of the oldest bank’s in the state, chartered in 1884. With just under a billion dollars in assets, Sara discussed the strategies the bank used to survive the financial crisis and grow the company to thirty-four communities in Kansas and Nebraska. Central National Bank’s services range from retail banking, to farm management, to mortgage servicing.

Sara_GirardSara spoke candidly about the many challenges facing today’s banking industry. An important aspect of the banking industry today is creating a competitive advantage to differentiate their products to consumers. She also discussed the rapid rate of consolidation within the banking industry – a trend that is causing many of the smallest banks to disappear quickly. This has given CNB some acquisition opportunities to continue to grow their business.

There are many risk factors that affect the banking industry today, and being actively engaged in assessing and mitigating those risks is a large part of Sara’s job. Some of the risks she highlighted were credit, interest, liquidity, price, compliance, and reputation risks. She highlighted situations where she experienced these risks, and how those factors impacted her company. She provided an interesting and real-life perspective on how CNB has faced risk, and the strategies they have developed to help manage it. Currently, CNB employs a full time Vice President of Risk Management, dedicated to proactively managing risks the bank may face. Additionally, they conduct monthly and quarterly risk assessments, to ensure that they are making progress towards their short and long-term strategic goals.

Sara ended her talk with a quote from professional football player Drew Brees, “you can accomplish anything in life if you are willing to work for it.” She provided a great talk full of real-life insight into her life and role at Central National Bank. The Student Fellows enjoyed hearing from a K-State grad with so much knowledge to share.

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Sara Menker- Founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence Provides Demo of Data Platform to Student Fellows

Sara Menker, Founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence spent a morning with CRMER Student Fellows and faculty members to discuss her technology company’s proprietary database. Gro Intelligence is a global agricultural data and analytics software platform that compiles data on agricultural production, weather, climate, etc. for regions across the world.

As a former commodities trader on Wall Street, Sara discussed the challenge of finding reliable global agricultural data. To address that challenge, Gro Intelligence was founded in 2014, with the goal of providing organized and extensive agricultural data to help drive effective decision making in the industry. Sara explained that the data is obtained from various public and private entities. The data is displayed to users based on a ranking algorithm that matches the quality and type of data to the users’ needs. Gro Intelligence has the objective of remaining completely transparent. The methods Gro Intelligence uses for yield forecasts and predictive models are made public so platform users can evaluate how the values are derived.

Sara walked us through a demo of the Gro Web App. After entering desired search parameters, the app instantly pulls up a dashboard of data, analytical tools and visualizations. As Sara explained, the platform is highly intuitive. It increases user productivity by optimizing the visualization types based on the selected data. In almost seconds, we searched amount of rainfall in India over a period of decades and were instantly provided with bar plots and maps summarizing the data.

A key factor in understanding and managing risk is informed decision making. The data harvested by Gro Intelligence empowers risk managers across all sectors to better understand the global food industry. We were fascinated to meet with Sara Menker and learn how Gro Intelligence is changing how we understand and utilize agricultural data to mitigate risk and maximize investment and productivity.

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CRMER Returns to Chicago with Visits to Aon and CME Group

By Allison Pitts

October 3rd thru 5th, a group of 29 Student Fellows participated in the CRMER’s annual trip to Chicago, Illinois.

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On Thursday, October 4, the Fellows visited Aon, a leading global business consulting firm with a focus on risk, retirement and health. Aon utilizes data and analytics to find solutions for clients seeking help with managing their risk exposure. We heard from several employees across different sectors of the company who discussed the varieties of commercial risks that Aon and its clients face. Speakers discussed trending topics including blockchain, cyber security, and big data ethics. The Fellows also heard about internship and career opportunities from Aon’s campus recruiting and learned about the Aon Difference, what makes them a step above when it comes to employees. Afterward, we broke up into small groups to participate in “speed dating” to learn more about employees from various parts of the company, including reinsurance solutions, health & benefits, marketing and global infrastructure. This was especially fun because we were able to ask questions about how the employees ended up at Aon, their favorite part of working at Aon and visit about topics such as catastrophe insurance and benchmarking. Each speed dating session we were reminded of valuable career advice: be honest, inquisitive, ask questions, and be a sponge. We closed with lunch and more time to network with some of Aon’s employees.

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The Fellows spent Thursday afternoon sight-seeing and enjoying the windy city.


On Friday morning, CME Group welcomed the Fellows for a day of learning how the world’s largest derivative marketplace and exchange deals with risk management. The fellows heard an overview of CME Group from CRMER advisory council member Tim Andriesen, Managing Director for Agricultural Products. Tim highlighted the importance the CME Group provides to users, including: price discovery, risk transfer, and clearing services. We also learned about the various types of risk that CME Group manages from experts in each arm (Agriculture, Energy, Metals, Interest Rates, Foreign Exchange, and Equity) of the company. One of the most interesting parts was learning about CME Group‘s enterprise risk management framework. To build a holistic view of all its operations CME Group’s ERM works with various risk committees for each arm and the process for setting goals for ranking and managing those risks. The Fellows also took a tour of the CME Group Global Command Center, the home of the CME Globex electronic trading platform. We ended the day with lunch and learning about the responsibilities of CME’s clearing house which ensures the safety and performance of the markets.

We returned to campus with a new understanding of how companies manage risk within their business and what opportunities each company have for students in the form of internships or future careers. We really thank the individuals at Aon and CME Group for their time and hospitality.

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CRMER Trip to Security Benefit: Everyone on Our Team is Managing Risk

Student Fellows began the 2018 fall semester with a trip to Security Benefit in Topeka, KS. Security Benefit offers savings solutions for individuals and employers; the company manages approximately 37 billion dollars in assets.
We first heard from Joseph Wittrock, Security Benefit’s chief investment officer. Joseph provided an overview of the company and how his career with Security Benefit started with rebuilding the entire investment team after his predecessors grossly underestimated the risks resulting from the 2008 housing market crash. Joseph outlined the investment team structure, highlighting that everyone on the team is managing risk. We walked through Security Benefit’s asset allocation, understanding that they don’t look at risk in isolation, but recognize the return and the risk of individual assets alone versus the entire portfolio. We learned how Security Benefit manages exposure risk by capping lending to both individual companies and industry areas. 
Next, we heard from the derivatives team, led by Phon Vilayoune. The derivatives team utilizes hedging strategies to reduce equity, currency and interest rate risk. For the derivatives team, good risk management starts with staffing the right people, having an effective and agile process and keeping strategic systems in place. Security Benefit builds their systems internally which allows new applications to easily connect to their network and saves on development and maintenance costs from a third party developer. We looked at a few chart examples including the impact on the markets leading up to Brexit. We learned keeping common sense while understanding how the model works helps avoid risk of loss in chaotic market events.
 Security Benefit
Following the derivatives team we heard from Roger Offermann, Security Benefit’s chief actuary. Roger joked that actuaries are part fortunetellers, he and his team are responsible for evaluating the likelihood of future events. Actuaries develop products to help reduce the likelihood of undesirable events or decrease their impact. Using large amounts of data, Roger and his team analyze these undesirable events and are most interested in the worst possible outcomes. Roger explained that to measure risk he looks at the CTE or Conditional Tail Expectation to understand worst case losses.
The final speaker was John Bocher, director of enterprise risk management at Security Benefit. John explained that ERM provides a big picture view of the company including the opportunities and challenges. ERM is a process cycle that involves identifying and quantifying risks, making decisions, and communicating reports. Every risk that Security Benefit faces has a risk owner. John meets individually and in groups with the risk owners and Security Benefit maintains a dashboard of risks that they use to report to the company’s stakeholders how they are tracking, monitoring, and addressing risks. John highlighted that being a good communicator is key to helping integrate a successful ERM model into a company’s decision making process.
We wrapped up our visit with a networking reception where we met with additional members of the Security Benefit team. We really enjoyed talking with individuals at the company who shared their career experiences and advice for many of us who are about to graduate.
Thank you to Security Benefit for hosting us and providing an outstanding lineup of speakers to explain how each segment of the company manages risk. A special thank you also goes to Thomas Einck, CRMER advisory council member who helped organize the trip. Thomas is a derivative operations analyst for Security Benefit; he graduated from K-State and is a former CRMER Student Fellow. Before we returned to Manhattan, Thomas shared some personal and career advice that we truly appreciated especially since he was in our place as a Student Fellow at K-State only a few years ago!
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2018 Washington DC Trip

The Kansas State University Center for Risk Management Education and Research traveled to Washington, DC this May with a group of 29 Student Fellows. Our itinerary was packed with a diverse group of risk managers who shared their time and extensive industry expertise. We left DC full of new knowledge about how successful organizations identify and manage risk.


CRMER Fellows on Pennsylvania Ave.

The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers

We started our trip at the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers with a presentation from Alycia Kiley, Senior Vice President of Membership for the Council. Alycia shared an overview of the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers and discussed how there is a lot going on in the insurance space, as risk evolves how companies cover and manage risk changes. Alycia closed with a very important message, “you can keep pace or you can set it.” The Student Fellows thank Alycia and the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers for hosting our group at their DC office.


Alycia Kiley, Senior Vice President of Membership for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers

Risk Cooperative

Miguel Tavera with Risk Cooperative spoke about how data capture and processing has evolved with technology and the need for companies, especially those in the insurance industry, to adapt with this evolution. In doing so companies will be better suited to serve their customers. Miguel went on to state that Blockchain may be a technology that companies might find useful as they update their data capture and processing. Another item Miguel spoke about is how Risk Cooperative has developed insurance solutions to minimize risk that immigrants face when sending remittances back to their families in other countries. When it came to a close Miguel left us with the following advice; be innovators and do not be afraid to voice ideas that you have.


Miguel Tavera, Associate for Risk Cooperative


CRMER Student Fellows were very excited to meet with Forensic Accountant Rashi Khangura and Special Agent Sylvia Hilgeman of the FBI Counter-terrorism Division. They put the catchphrase, “Follow the money” to work everyday. One of the big takeaways from our conversation was how small amounts of money has led to large amounts of devastation in previous attacks. In today’s fast paced and changing world, their job of finding clues and preventing attacks has become more difficult and they are continually adapting to stay ahead of the modern day evils. We had a very stimulating conversation with Rashi and Sylvia and are glad they took time to visit with us.


Forensic Accountant Rashi Khangura and Special Agent Sylvia Hilgeman from the FBI

Booz Allen Hamilton

Chris Kellenbarger, fellow K-Stater and Senior Strategy Consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton gave great advice on both cyberattacks and our time remaining at K-State. Chris mentioned that 80% of cyberattacks happen from phishing and attackers focus major company attacks towards the supply chain. A few suggestions he made for our remaining time at K-state was to rely on the various advisors we have, be open to critical feedback, and learn how to tell a story through a presentation.


Chris Kellenbarger, Senior Strategy Consultant Booz Allen Hamilton


The CRMER Fellows visited with two representatives from National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA). Randy Gordon, President, and Max Fisher, Director of Economics and Government Relations, shared with fellows the work and mission of NGFA as well as how risk management plays a big role in their work alongside policy makers. They explained to Fellows their most recent crisis where incorrect verbiage in the Dodd-Frank Act would have negatively affected grain cooperatives. They worked alongside legislatures and their cooperative members to achieve rewording of the legislation that would favor their patrons. It was evident that NGFA is not only committed to serving their cooperative members, but also the K-State Center for Risk Management Education and Research.  NGFA hosted a networking reception for all K-State alums in the D.C area and CRMER fellows On Tuesday, May 15th at their corporate offices in Arlington, VA.


Randy Gordon, President and Max Fisher, Director of Economics and Government Relations for the National Grain and Feed Association

Michael Torrey Associates

We wrapped up our first day with a presentation from Michael Torrey, a fellow K-Stater and Principal for Michael Torrey Associates. Michael talked to our group about how he has successfully lobbied for food and agricultural companies for over ten years. Michael gave us great insights on CIRB, or the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, and the impact that the group has on protecting farmers. Even more interesting may have been Michael’s story of his own success. Michael was very sure to elaborate on the risk he took later in his life in starting Michael Torrey and Associates and learning about how Michael has accomplished so much was extremely insightful for everyone in CRMER. We thank Michael for his time and support of the K-State Center for Risk Management Education and Research.


Michael Torrey, Principal for Michael Torrey Associates

Congressman Roger Marshall, Dalton Henry and Paul Balzano

The start of our second morning was spent in the Longworth House Office Building with Dalton Henry, the Legislative Director for Congressman Roger Marshall. Henry, a K-State alum spoke about his job with the Congressman and how K-State prepared him to succeed in Washington D.C. We also had the opportunity to chat with Congressman Marshall and he shared about the many experiences that he has had with managing risk whether it was as a doctor, a hospital board member, a bank owner or even as a Congressman. He expressed that no matter how many jobs or career paths you follow, you can always learn so much from each one. We also heard from Paul Balzano, a member of the House Agriculture Committee Staff, who spoke about various pieces of his job – with a key takeaway of thinking about how you regulate a commodity on a global scale, and how blockchain technology may be able to help. Along with the great speakers, it was awesome to see the House Ag Committee hearing room and spend time in a place that holds so much history.


United States Congressman Roger Marshall and CRMER Student Fellows on the Hill


Dalton Henry, Legislative Director for Congressman Roger Marshall

U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission

At the CFTC we experienced an afternoon filled with learning and fun experiences throughout the commission’s facilities in Washington, DC. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission works to avoid systemic risk and protect market users. We were educated about the interaction between the CFTC and their customers, and how they can  protect themselves against fraud and other violations. Also, we learned what are the main sources of fraud and who is more likely to be affected by them… a different answer from the one we were expecting! While visiting the CFTC’s facilities we saw how decision making is done and the factors that influence market risk. The CFTC has evolved along with the digital transformation of capital, markets, and the entire landscape. The very friendly staff welcomed our group with excitement in a quick journey through how the CFTC operates every day. In addition to hearing from an impressive lineup of speakers from the CFTC, we also had the special treat of meeting and listening to CFTC Chairman, J. Christopher Giancarlo. The Student Fellows are thankful for the great afternoon at the CFTC!


CRMER Student Fellows at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission


Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo. U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission

We ended our trip with a networking reception for K-State DC area alumni and friends of the Center for Risk Management Education and Research. It was exciting to socialize with successful K-Stater’s and risk managers working in the DC area. Thank you to everyone who attended and provided us with excellent career and personal advice! A very special thank you to CRMER Advisory Council Member Todd Kemp, Senior VP of Marketing and Treasurer for NGFA for organizing the event and the National Grain and Feed Association for hosting our group at their office. We look forward to starting our summer internships and returning to K-State in August for another eventful year in the Center for Risk Management Education and Research.


CRMER Student Fellows at DC networking reception hosted by the National Grain and Feed Association

Special thanks to sponsors who helped make this trip a success!

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Sara Girard, President Central National Bank Discusses Risk in Banking

By Alana McLain

Sara Girard, President of Central National Bank and a Kansas State University graduate, stopped by campus on November 8 to talk to Student Fellows about the risks facing banks today. Sara is the president of CNB, but has been with the bank since she started in 2005 as a marketing officer.

Central National Bank is one of the oldest banks in Kansas, chartered in 1884. They are also one of the top 10 largest banks in Kansas, with over $950 million in assets. Their conservative approach to banking has helped protect them through many financial crises, while their innovative thinking has allowed them to expand to 22 communities and implement leading technology. Sara mentioned many of the successes, and blunders, that the bank has seen during her time as an employee, including the launch of several Interactive Teller machines.

Banks must rely on their competitive advantages to set them apart. Some of the competitive advantages that CNB has are service excellence, product selection and quality, and service after the sale. These advantages have allowed CNB to grow and acquire smaller banks that cannot compete in today’s banking environment.


Sara highlighted several risk factors of banking including credit, interest rates, liquidity, price, operations, compliance, strategy, and reputation. Sara walked us through the many risk management strategies for these factors, the main ones being: effective policies and procedures, adherence to policies, portfolio diversification, stress testing, and research on customers. Some of the major blunders that CNB has faced are due to fraud, an underlying aspect of every risk factor mentioned, and not adhering to bank policies. However, due to their conservative approach, CNB was sheltered from large losses and didn’t suffer massive consequences from these mistakes.

Much of Sara’s daily work is devoted to assessing, managing, and evaluating risk, although CNB also has an Executive Vice President of Risk Management. The bank has quarterly and monthly risk management committee meetings that focus on setting short and long term goals for the bank and assessing their current risk positions. The riskiest factor facing the bank today is credit risk, which encompasses most of their liabilities. They are also working on making the bank chain more efficient, especially branches located in rural communities.

Sara provided great insight into Central National Bank’s risk management strategies and the risks facing the banking industry today. The Student Fellows enjoyed hearing from a former Kansas State graduate who holds such an influential position in managing risk.

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Koch Industries Guest Lecture: Risk Optimization

By Alex Reed

On September 27th, the Center for Risk Management Education and Research Student Fellows welcomed employees of Koch Industries, Inc. to discuss risk management for Koch Ag and Energy Solutions (KAES), a Koch Company. Joining the center was Kurt Kolbeck, a 1987 Graduate from the K-State College of Business, and president of Koch Energy Services. We were also able to listen to Allen Burkhart, a recent K-State grad and manager of Business Development and Strategy at KAES.

Kurt and Allen opened by discussing what Koch does and the many industries they are currently in, as well as the management philosophy at Koch. They described Market Based Management, and the 10 MBM Guiding principles by which the company abides. We also learned that Koch Industries and its shareholders (Koch Industries is a privately held company) are committed to reinvesting 90% of earnings back into the company, with the goal aggressive growth for the future.


The two discussed with us that Koch Industries uses the term “Risk Optimization” rather than “Risk Management”, with the belief that not all risks can be managed and must be situated to put the company in the best position, even if that means not taking certain risks. One interesting note that Kurt pointed out was the fact that even though certain employees entire job is focused around risk, every single employee is managing risk every single day. Even the employees simply answering a phone are handling customer retention risk every time they talk to a customer.

The student fellows were able to hear specific examples of risk optimization within Koch from the specific employees handling the situations, which was a unique experience. Kurt and Allen talked about an example dealing with UREA trading. They highlighted the major risks including navigating tough international market situations while creating value for its customers. Another case that we discussed dealt with fertilizer gas price management. Allen detailed that major risks include price risk, operations risk, and credit risk. When addressing risks in any scenario, Koch applies risk-adjusted thinking and option thinking to create long-term value and avoid catastrophic risks.

Kurt and Allen had lots of experience and knowledge around risk management to share with the center, and we were lucky to have them come speak. CRMER is also very thankful to Koch Industries for their support of the center, and the relationship that has formed between the company and the center, with many former fellows continuing on to work at Koch Industries following college.

Thank you to Allen and Kurt for taking the time to visit with us!

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