Relationships have always mattered to Beth Mercier, VP, Personal Lines at Travelers. She realized this early in her career as an internal auditor at a bank. "One of the things about being an internal auditor, you're obtaining great foundational skills for interacting with more senior people and developing your analytical skills," she says. "Invariably that leads to a job somewhere with someone like you are auditing."
And it did. In 1987 Mercier took a position at Aetna as manager of corporate audit. While moving through the ranks at Aetna, Mercier obtained her MBA, Insurance and Information Systems, from the University of Hartford.
Mercier was ready for a change in 1998 and followed her Aetna boss to SS&C Technologies, a software and services provider to the financial services industry. "That was a much different opportunity than I'd had in the past. I learned a lot about vendor relationships, vendor management and sales and marketing."
In 2003, after serving as Director of Operations and then VP, sales and marketing at SS&C, Mercier returned to the insurer side, joining CIGNA for four years. There she established even more beneficial connections and eventually followed a colleague to Travelers, where she became second VP of the portfolio management center in 2006.
While all of these moves presented themselves as opportunities, Mercier was actively seeking them out. "I never really had a plan, I just always said 'yes.' I was very blessed to be in a position where I could always say 'yes' and maybe take on some riskier kinds of opportunities. I'm very appreciative of people who have a career plan and career goals and what they do to achieve them, but I really don't have that."
What she does have is a strong work ethic. In her current position, Mercier is in charge of strategy and execution for Travelers' personal lines division and has 14 direct reports, which impressed the WIL judges.
Prior to transitioning to her current position, Mercier served as VP in charge of the portfolio management office. In this position, she and her group consolidated more than 50 professionals into an integrated business and technology PMO while concurrently executing more than 75 projects that ranged from $100,000 to multi-year, multi-million dollar programs.
Her current group has created a detailed governance structure for all investment decisions and collaborates with internal business and technology leaders to ensure corporate investments and initiatives match strategic goals, and that those investments looked past budgets to resources, objectives, capabilities, metrics and desired business capabilities.
Beth's work with her Strategy and Execution team has facilitated the prioritization of $100 million in strategic investments while putting in place comprehensive execution oversight processes, including portfolio feasibility, portfolio financial trending analysis, and aggregation of risks/issues for executive reporting.
"There have been many different aspects of my career, but the consistent theme throughout has been really around execution and delivery," she says. "What I do now really has a longer-term horizon, and I do more around the organization's strategic goals and objectives and determine what projects need to be done to achieve that strategy, which is different than executing the projects."
These opportunities and the nature of Mercier's responsibilities have led her to work in a variety of areas with a variety of people. "I've worked for the CIO here, for the CFO, for the head of strategy, and because the job that I have has components of all those things: technology, business strategy, financial management, it's great because I've gotten exposure to and learned and worked with people in all different disciplines."
Mercier's relationships with her colleagues, mentors and mentees over the years also mean a lot to her. "I'm proud of the great relationships I've built," and the part they play in her work/life balance success, she says. "There aren't many people that could say they've mastered work/life balance. It's so cliché, but it really is a challenge and I'm really proud of mine."
Her trick? Beth has volunteered for The Insurance Accounting & Systems Association (IASA) for many years where she has served on the management team and in various leadership capacities that have required her to interact with new volunteers and professionals just entering the industry. "IASA has given me the opportunity to learn from leaders in many different organizations over the course of my career, and have fun doing it."
She is also on tap to serve as president of the association for the 2013-2014 year "I think it helps to stay connected, even outside of your company-like my involvement in IASA-that helps you to sort of stay balanced."
Number of years in the industry: 25
Number of direct reports: 14
Travelers' 2011 gross written premium: $25 billion
Nominated by: IASA
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