BEYOND THE NUMBERS: Amica Insurance CFO James P. Loring sees the numbers as part of the whole of a business, an approach that has brought innovation and increased business to the Rhode Island-based insurer.
James P. Loring has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments over his career, culminating, at least for the moment, with being the chief financial officer for Amica Mutual Insurance Co. Perhaps equally as impressive – as well as a mind-boggling display of time management – is the fact the 47-year-old has garnered some of these accolades all at the same time.
Loring, who recently earned his second master’s degree, in actuarial science from Boston University, describes himself as a lifelong learner. The busy executive and family man made time for this second degree while in his CFO position at Amica. The inspiration for his feat hit Loring while at his previous post as the CFO of Savings Bank Life Insurance Co. of Mass., as he worked with their actuarial department. “I found it interesting,” he said, “and I looked into it a bit and thought it would be even better if I understood this right from the ground up.”
An unexpected perk of the degree, Loring said, was getting to spend some quality time crowded around the table with his son and daughter, doing their homework together as a family. “Some people go sailing. I do math,” joked Loring. “I like to learn just for learning’s sake.”
Although the Loring family now does all its homework in Hopkinton, Mass., Loring is originally from East Providence. His first set of letters (“He has more letters after his name than anyone I know,” said Amica Chairman, President and CEO Robert A. DiMuccio) came from Bryant University, where he majored in finance and accounting. After graduation, he started with one of the big-four accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers, in its Hartford office.
“I found that even while I was auditing, one of the skills I had was the ability to conceptualize solutions to problems and evaluate options, [which] led me to want to pursue an MBA. I developed a passion for solving business problems.”
Loring tried to keep that motivation as he moved through different positions, trying to add value to each company by taking measured, yet creative approaches to problems, monitoring the landscape for new ideas and best practices. With his MBA now in hand, he took on posts at Sun Financial and The Hanover Group, both in Massachusetts, always with an eye toward that same problem-solving and open-communication ethic.
“I found the most impactful thing I could do … was to communicate financial information in a way that nonaccountants could understand and help them understand the business issues that they have … and to help them make good decisions.”
Now, back home in Rhode Island at Amica, Loring tries to bring that same approach to the table.
Loring has no shortage of praise for his employer. “Everybody admires Amica … I felt like getting the job here was like getting called up to play for the Boston Red Sox,” he said.
The leadership at Amica views Loring in equally glowing terms. “One of Jim’s strengths is that he sees the business holistically. He’s not just a numbers person, he understands how the business works and is able to interpret financial data in ways that help the people who operate the business do their job better and more efficiently,” said DiMuccio.
Amica board member Barry Hittner concurred: “What sets him apart is the ability to present and explain the information. … He has a sharp focus on information needed to improve business operations.
“He makes it easier for us to understand what’s happening in the business and, just as important, looks at trends,” he said.
This insight as a forecaster no doubt helped Loring as he set about developing an Enterprise Risk Management program for Amica, an industry standard in the post-2008-meltdown world. “There are many different types of risks for an insurance company – insurance risks, investment risks, operating risks, and within those categories there are many things that impact us across the company,” Loring said. “Historically, we did a good job controlling risk, but there was never any formalized program around it that allowed us to keep our eyes on those risks.”
Loring worked with his team at Amica to develop the ERM, which allows each “risk owner” across the company to assess, report on and identify emerging risks. He said the project was a success. “Now we’re using it in our strategic planning to help make decisions.”
In addition to his work on the ERM, DiMuccio, in his nomination form, credited Loring’s efforts to grow Amica’s life-insurance division with remarkable results. “Our policies sold increased approximately 50 percent in one year, and our total coverage sold increased approximately $1 billion in 2012,” DiMuccio wrote.
Loring, for his part, sees his work as a fulfilling challenge, an opportunity to continue learning and growing.
Outside of his office, Loring still finds the time to connect with his community – both in Hopkinton and Rhode Island. He serves as the treasurer for the board of the Rhode Island Historical Society. His father, a history buff, made sure to inculcate the importance of the state’s various historical landmarks on Loring.
C. Morgan Grefe, executive director of the RIHS, said that Loring’s impact on the relatively small nonprofit has been wonderful. “He’s made the RIHS a better organization,” Grefe said.
In addition to his work for RIHS, Loring serves on the board of Project Just Because in Hopkinton, a social services organization that distributes food and meets other basic needs of families in the neighborhood.
The leadership and initiative Loring has shown in his professional career cross over into his community involvement. He and other members of his golf club in Hopkinton started a group to raise money through golf tournaments to distribute directly to local children and families, raising about $300,000 over the past three years. •