2017 Risk All Star: Zach Finn

Unbridled Passion

Butler University’s Zach Finn isn’t afraid to call out the risk management and insurance industry for what he feels is a less than stellar approach to talent recruitment.

Zach Finn, director, Davey Risk Management and Insurance program, Butler University

This country’s university-level risk management programs graduate 4,000 students per year “if we’re lucky” Finn said, for an industry that, due to retirement, will soon need 100 times that many professionals.

So when he got the chance to run a university risk management program, Finn, a former risk manager for the J.M. Smucker Co., saw an opportunity to tackle the talent problem head on.

The result is the first student-run captive, the MJ Student-Run Insurance Company Ltd. The captive, formed by Butler University students under Finn’s guidance, was established in Bermuda in April and began operations last month.

For Finn, the work on the captive was a way to give university-level risk management students the real-world experience that would guarantee them employment once they graduated.

“One of the reasons I wanted to set up a student-run captive at Butler was to not only show students what they could do with a risk management degree, but show the industry what students could do with an insurance and risk management degree,” Finn said.

Finn’s drive and determination reflect a trait that many of this year’s Risk All Star winners share; they weren’t afraid to stand up to their own organizations and tell them they needed to go in a different direction or risk losses.


“I spent a lot of time in my career sitting down with people and saying, ‘This is what this means, this is how this could be a benefit,’” Finn said.

Don Ortegel, the Aon resident managing director who serves in an advisory role on the Davey Risk Management and Insurance Program board at Butler, said that Finn’s passion and perseverance are self-evident.

“He’s very driven in everything that he does. If he gets it into his mind that he wants to do something, he’s going to do it,” said Ortegel, who served as Finn’s broker when Finn was the risk manager at J.M. Smucker.

Ortegel also praised Finn’s collaborative approach, that works in harmony with his passion and drive.

“He surrounds himself with advisors,” Ortegel said.

“The captive gives students experience with the moving parts of insurance, and at the same time gives them a tangible accomplishment that they can point to.” — Zach Finn, director, Davey Risk Management and Insurance program, Butler University

“He’s open to anyone’s input or counsel. I think that adds to his creativity. He’s always looking for new ideas and to make an impact for the industry,” Ortegel said.

In addition to housing some of the risks of Butler University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including its rare book and fine arts collections, the MJ Student-Run captive has also served another intended purpose.

Butler graduates who worked with Finn to form the captive found jobs right out of college, instead of having to wait two or three years to gain additional experience.

“The captive gives students experience with the moving parts of insurance, and at the same time gives them a tangible accomplishment that they can point to,” Finn said. &


Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.


Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.


Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &


More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.


Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.


Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.


Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.


Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.


Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.


Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]