Hinsdale executive keeps life in balance
Liz Smith at the Assurance company office in Schaumburg. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 6, 2013 2:08AM
HINSDALE — In 2005, officials at Schaumburg-based Assurance determined it was necessary for the long-term success of the company to develop a strategy that would keep increases in health insurance costs to no more than 3 percent a year. Hinsdale resident Liz Smith, 36, has been instrumental in the effort to increase returns 924 percent, and keeping medical costs for employees rising from $7,810 in 2004 to just $8,865 in 2009. She recently was promoted from executive vice president to president, employee benefits.
Q. You’re a frequently requested speaker on the topic of Using Benefits to Engage Employees and Drive Value Back to the Bottom Line. How can this help small- to medium-sized businesses in Hinsdale?
A. The service platform we offer for our employees and our clients drives the overall approach to business we’ve cultivated here at Assurance. It helps encourage a culture of engagement for our employees. Our approach is to credibly calculate value we bring to each client through compliance reviews, communications strategies, wellness programs and HR support. We really bring a culture of support to our clients and employees. We bring that culture of engagement throughout the various levels of our organization.
Q. How have earning a degree in communication and serving as captain of the Northwestern Women’s Volleyball Team your junior and senior years helped you prepare for the position you have now?
A. I’m a Wildcat, and you’ll often see the flag hanging outside my house on game days. Both from an educational and an athletic standpoint, a lot of what I learned at Northwestern is transferable to my position here at Assurance, especially when it comes to dealing with people. This insurance industry is an evolving industry that requires a structured and strategic approach. Contact and competition are an important part of the insurance industry, and experience through sports helps me relate to several different kinds of people and helps me drive results.
Q. How do you personally take advantage of the wellness program and what difference has it made for you?
A. The wellness program we have here at Assurance is one of the best in the country. I take advantage of all the fine programs we have to offer. I plan to participate in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, and our training starts in April. Being an athlete and being involved in sports, that team camaraderie is something I really enjoy at Assurance.
Q. How do you like to relax with your husband, Neal, and two daughters in Hinsdale?
A. I don’t. “Relax” isn’t really in my vocabulary since I have a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old. We take advantage of a lot of downtown Hinsdale, the walks in the parks and around town. We also like to go out to dinners to Hinsdale. We also have a lot of family around the country and like to travel to see them.
Q. Having a demanding executive position, how do you balance the requirements of your job with the needs of your family?
A. I think any working mother struggles with balance. I think I’m very, very, very fortunate to work for a company where work life balance is important. There’s a lot of flexibility for working parents at Assurance. I’m usually in the office at 7 so I can get out of here early enough to be home by 5 every night. I do a lot of traveling, but our CEO is very good at saying when you’ve been traveling, take half a day off to be home with the family. I also feel like I’m setting a pretty good example being that I have two girls, too.