A Mis­sion to Mod­ern­ize

Digital Insurance - - COVER STORY - By Danni San­tana

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

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