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

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

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