Diane Fandrich always wanted to be an engineer. She liked the challenge of solving problems and building solutions. When she enrolled as an engineering major at the University of New Hampshire, she thought her future was set.
But upon completing her freshman year and spending the summer working with engineers at GTE Sylvania, she began to have second thoughts.
"I was preparing samples for and running spectronomy and X-ray diffraction tests when I realized that maybe I wasn't quite cut out to be an engineer," says Fandrich. There wasn't much of a challenge in the work.
Upon returning to school in the fall, she changed her major to business administration and Spanish.
At a friend's suggestion, she decided to interview for a computer engineering training program at Liberty Mutual insurance in Portsmouth, N.H., following her graduation in 1983. If she got the job, thought Fandrich, she'd probably stay there a few years, and then move on to find a job where she could use her business administration degree.
Twenty-two years later, she's still there, currently serving as general manager of Liberty Mutual's Risk Management Information Services organization, which develops, sells and supports RiskTrac, the insurer's risk management information system.
"As it turns out, I wound up being an engineer after all. I just became a software engineer, rather than a mechanical engineer," says Fandrich.
Following a 15-week intensive training program, she began working in the insurer's information technology department, still expecting it to be just a two- or three-year stint. "As soon as I got out of training and into programming, there were constant challenges. Every time I'd solve one problem, I'd ask for another, and I kept getting new opportunities. Sure enough, 20 years went by, and I'm still here."
Fandrich spent 16 years in IT at Liberty Mutual--the first six as a software engineer and the last 10 in management--before moving on to the RMIS department. "My background has largely been in developing systems that provide information, data and analysis, and determining how we can help our customers drive down their costs," she says.
In October 2000, Fandrich was offered the opportunity to take over the operations of RiskTrac, following a merger with Wausau insurance. "It seemed like a perfect fit, and I jumped at the opportunity."
RiskTrac, which has been developing risk management information systems for Liberty Mutual since 1983, has more than 1,000 clients, including customers and brokers, and more than 3,100 users. The program provides custom reporting, data conversion and extraction, and real-time access to data via the Internet. "Our customers span multiple industries and include clients from our national markets, business markets and Wausau accounts," says Fandrich. "Despite crossing various market segments and industries, our customers have similar goals. They want to manage their claims, reduce their losses and reduce lost time, and they want active participation with Liberty Mutual in helping to manage their expenses and get their employees back to work as soon as possible.
"RiskTrac supports those goals by providing a tool to help customers manage their claims, access information directly, in real time, contact case managers directly, and use reporting and analysis tools to slice and dice their data and find trends and places where they can have an impact on their operations," she says.
In 2001, RiskTrac became Web-enabled, allowing users to access their claims data from anywhere they have access to the Internet. "Clients no longer have to be sitting in their office or waiting for a download of data to their computer systems," says Fandrich. "We're providing them with the tools to analyze data based on their specific needs, and turn that data into actionable information. By having instant access this information, clients' goals and objectives can be met much faster, which allows them to be much more responsive, thus getting employees back to work in a more timely manner.
"In the last five years," she says, "the RMIS market has become much more hands-on. Clients are interested in being able to understand and drill into data themselves. And risk managers and risk management departments are interested in identifying claims early on and seeing their employees return to work and remain productive in the workplace. They want to understand where their losses are coming from so they can put safety measures in place or take other loss-prevention measures to reduce losses or prevent them from occurring in the first place."
Customization is a large part of making information more useful to clients. "Through customized 'dashboards,' we're now able to provide clients with a quick view of their key indicators that they want to review on a regular basis. We present the information in a graphical format, which allows them to drill down into the data and lets them benchmark their own organization on certain key performance indicators," she explains.
A major challenge that Fandrich is constantly addressing is the need to serve as a bridge between the risk manager/users and business groups at Liberty Mutual. "We're providing one of the tools that serve as a bridge between our customers and our service teams at Liberty Mutual," she says.
"Diane has worked tirelessly to build a state of the art product," says Mike Richardson, vice president and manager of Liberty Mutual's national account services in Boston. "She constantly has her eye on the horizon and is at the forefront of any changes that need to take place within the RiskTrac product.
"As the leader of RiskTrac, she has a responsibility to build a product that serves the needs of both our national markets and our customers. Through the RiskTrac advisory board and our annual user's group conference, she works hard to identify what customers want and to fulfill those needs," says Richardson.
When she's not busy overseeing RiskTrac's operations or working with customers, Fandrich serves as a "soccer mom," shuttling her son Matt, 10, and stepson Dylan, also 10, to various sports events, including hockey, soccer and baseball. "I spend a lot of time traveling back and forth between practices and games," she says, in addition to spending time with her 16-year-old stepdaughter, Ashley, and her husband, Bill, who works as a senior executive for a national health insurance company.
"We try not to talk about insurance outside of the office, which is sometimes difficult," she laughs. When the family does get a little free time, they enjoy traveling together and especially skiing. They recently moved into a new home on the coast of New Hampshire, just a half-mile from the beach, which Fandrich looks forward to furnishing in her "spare time."
"Right now, RiskTrac is taking up much of my time," she says. "We have some significant developments in the works, and getting through those developments is a priority for the moment. As long at the challenges keep coming, I see myself continuing to do what I'm doing for the foreseeable future," she says. "Even after 20 years, I find it easy to go to work because I know I can continue to solve problems, and have an impact on the day-to-day business of my company and its customers."
MINDY W. TORAN
lives in Pennsylvania.
May 1, 2006
Copyright 2006© LRP Publications