A Mission to Modernize
Elizabeth Riczko never dreamed of a career in insurance. She rst stumbled onto the actuarial world as a senior at Muhlenberg College. Majoring in math and physics, she eyed a Ph.D. in nuclear physics as her next step after school. But Riczko’s educational background presented the then newly engaged college graduate with a di erent career choice.
“Many who have ended up in the industry have a story like mine,” she says. “In the 1980s, it was not common to say ‘I want to graduate and go into insurance.’” Twenty-nine years later, Riczko is business leader of underwriting and analytics at West eld Insurance Group, where she has spent the majority of her professional career. In her current role, Riczko works directly with West eld’s enterprise leadership group; comprised of the insurer’s CEO and president, group admin leader and heads of HR and operations.
With her at the helm, the New Jersey-based out t has transformed its business intelligence program, renovated claims processing and created an analytics resource center. Riczko and her team of underwriters have also achieved annual premium growth rates of
3.7 percent for West eld’s property & casualty operations over the past ve years. The division is up to $1.8 billion in underwritten policies thanks to a shift in P&C business strate y Riczko helped initiate. That shift: To create an organization that combines the best of human intuition and technological power. “The future role of an underwriter in any organization requires data and analytics, but also needs to bring forward the human element,” says Riczko. “We spend a lot of time nding the middle ground, creating the optimal mix between man and machine.”
In 2007, Riczko spearheaded Westeld’s $60 million business intelligence project, her proudest accomplishment, she says. By 2011, the insurer built out an enterprise warehouse that provides data and analytics to employees for daily use. To support West eld’s new platform, Riczko created a team of analytics and BI experienced professionals, beginning rst by recruiting in-house through various departments—looking for anyone with tech experience before venturing out.
Riczko recently embarked on a leadership role in a transformation of West
eld’s small commercial lines underwriting capabilities. She also has a passion for mentoring the company’s potential future leaders. Riczko works with individuals in actuarial, claims, IT and underwriting on their strategic agility and business acumen.
“At the end of the day, the most value I can provide is helping other people help the company,” she said. “In leadership roles our responsibility is to support and develop talent around us. I spend a lot of time on developing leaders around me.”
She adds that mentoring is her way of giving back and following the industry’s long-standing apprenticeship model.
“This is an industry that believes in mentoring,” Riczko explains. “Underwriters are often trained by being assigned to expert underwriters. There is some formal learning done, but experimental learning is most important. I think back on my career and remember how great the person that mentored me was.”
With any project she leads, Riczko’s main goal is to modernize and change the way West eld delivers products to customers for greater value, she says. Some of the industry’s new emerging technologies t right in line with her motto.
“I am excited by the possibility to combine the Internet of Things and digital capabilities, which are more prevalent with transformative technolo y on the legacy side.”
Beth Riczko, Group Underwriting Leader, Westfield Insurance