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Career Story: Insurance Company Finance And Payroll Executive

Insurance Company Finance And Payroll Executive

Job Title: VP, Compensation & Benefits

Type of Company: I work for a property casualty insurance company

Education: BA, Psychology, Central Connecticut State University •• MBA, Finance, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Previous Experience: I worked in various human resource positions within the insurance business, including staffing, compensation, benefits

Job Tasks: I currently oversee a staff of twelve people who manage the compensation, benefits, and payroll functions for the company. "Compensation" refers, of course, to salary and incentive programs, for all employees (including executives). But one of its most important facets, from my point of view, is the need to ensure that the company's compensation programs are competitive with those at other companies, so we can continue to attract and retain employees. We also work with senior management to be sure that our incentive programs are designed to align employee's interests with those of management and shareholders.

In the same way, we design and administer the company's health, welfare and retirement benefits to ensure a responsible balance between competitiveness and expense. Each year, benefits are reviewed and updated, especially for health insurance. Medical expenses have increased at a very rapid rate over the past few years, and the funding of employee health insurance programs has grown to be an increasingly burdensome expense.

Another important aspect of managing benefits is overseeing the vendors who provide those benefits - not only the ones who provide medical, dental and life insurance, but the purveyors as well of disability coverage, eye care and 401ks. There's a great deal of benefits-related legislation that needs to be sifted, understood and complied with, and we work with both in-house and outside attorneys to be sure that we are always up-to-date.

Payroll is more of a "back shop" operation, tucked inside of Human Resources. But it is critical of course that it be accurate in every regard, including tax withholding and tax filings. And since the HR/payroll system is the record-keeping system for all employee information, any employee reporting is managed and carried out in this area.

In all these areas, however, whether payroll or benefits or compensation, there is a strong need for employee communications: for making sure that employees understand what they are getting and that they also understand how best to make use of the programs that are available to them.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I really enjoy the analytics that go into making recommendations and decisions on plan design. We assess competitiveness, expense, employee desires and perceptions of value. It is important to me that the HR function is well-regarded within the company.

I have a hard time responding to "worst" parts, since I really enjoy what I do.

Job Tips: Many people think of jobs in Human Resources as being primarily "people" oriented jobs. But there are several specializations within HR that are much more financial and technical. If you are interested, as I was, in these, I would suggest a strong grounding in accounting, finance, math, and IT (data analysis). Even in traditional HR jobs, though, strong analytic skills are important.

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