BCS Financial’s Mehb Khoja Shares the Importance of Mentorship in a Rapidly Changing Industry

Mehb Khoja of BCS Financial shares why joining a new company and team during the pandemic was the biggest challenge of his more-than-20-year career. 
By: | September 2, 2023

What was your first job? I was an actuarial analyst in the retirement practice Mercer. At the time, it was known as William M. Mercer. 

How did you come to your current position? Mercer would regularly come to the University of Illinois for various recruiting events. I went to those recruiting events as a freshman and sophomore so that I could establish personal relationships. When the time came to interview, I already had a good foundation of knowledge about the company and the individuals whom I would be interviewing with.  

What has been the biggest change in risk management and the insurance industry since you have been in it? Making go/no-go decisions. Risk management professionals by nature tend to be risk averse and could spend a lot of time in the decision-making process. Getting to decisions quickly, whether it’s to move forward or not or even to adjust is a necessary part of the job at all levels. 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career? Joining/integrating onto a new team at a leadership position via acquisition and during the pandemic.  

Coming into a new environment is always challenging but doing so during the pandemic added another layer of complexity. Coming in via acquisition made it even more difficult.  

Every business is a people business but learning about people during a pandemic over Zoom meetings and calls proved to be very difficult. I am still learning today; a few years post the pandemic. But that process could have been faster if there was no virus! 

Who has been your mentor(s) and why? I have had several mentors in my career, with prior bosses and owners serving as mentors. Mentorship is a big part of the job and today, I look to pay it forward as much as I can. I still enjoy the times I lean on my mentors for support. They’ve seen more, reacted more, made more decisions than I have – and I have much to learn. 

What is your risk management philosophy, and how do you incorporate that into your work each day? My risk management philosophy is, “Does assuming this risk make sense for us?” with “us” being BCS Financial as a whole.  I try to bring everyone together to row in the same direction.  Many times, its sales versus underwriting/actuarial and at the end of the day, we need to focus on profitable top line growth. That means we need to write risk that not only allows us to pat sales on the back, but also allows us to pat the underwriters and actuaries on the back. 

What is the risk management community doing right? Three things: Solving problems, creating financial certainty, and reducing waste.  

The risk management community is doing a great job of solving problems and creating financial certainty for policyholders. It’s not enough anymore to just subsidize the risk. You must subsidize as well as help policyholders manage the costs that they retain.   

In the accident and health space, many carriers/reinsurers are learning about cost containment solutions and then sharing these solutions with their customers. This means lower premiums for customers and reduces waste — a very efficient insurance solution. 

What could the risk management community be doing better? The risk management community could do a better job of recruiting new/young talent. Insurance and risk management are not known as “sexy” fields — however, they provide a great career path and opportunity to use analytical and business/strategy skills. 

How would you say technology has impacted the risk management profession? Tools used to evaluate risk have changed/expanded as new data has emerged. Technology has also sped up underwriting times and allowed companies to scale, allowing people to shift into roles that require their people skills more than their analytical skills. 

Your 2023 Risk All Star profile covers the creation of BCS RiskNavigator to help reduce overall claim costs. What was the biggest challenge with launching this tool? The biggest challenge in launching tools or services is getting buy-in from our customers, but that added work will lead to a better outcome.   

For us, the better outcome is spending less on claims. The better outcome for our clients is also lower costs and potentially a better health care outcome/experience for the member. While it takes some work on the client’s part to help us engage these solutions for the member, the outcomes are benefit to all parties.  

What is your favorite book or movie? “Shawshank Redemption” is my favorite movie and “The Magic of Thinking Big” is my favorite book. 

What have you accomplished that you are most proud of? I’m most proud of the way I have participated in rebuilding companies/departments. I have helped two companies retool their products/teams that have now led to successful turnarounds and rejuvenated interest.  

What is the riskiest activity you have ever engaged in? I have sky-dived once, bungee jumped a handful of times, zip-lined some long and high runs, and operated a jet ski in the Pacific in very choppy waters.  But I’ve gotten less risky as I have aged; I cannot help but think about my kids/family who count on me, so I have to be a safer person today than I was prior to having a family! 

Emma Brenner is a staff writer with Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].