Q & A with NANA Employees

A Conversation with Kim Risch, Benefits Manager for NANA

This is part of a series of interviews to learn more about our diverse employees throughout the NANA family.

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Kim Risch, NANA’s benefits manager, says that benefits, such as insurance coverage, are an integral part of our employees’ compensation. Photo by Craig Billingsley.

 

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington. I’m a fifth-generation Washingtonian. My great-grandfather and grandfather, on my mother’s side, were pharmacists.

My dad’s family was from Puyallup, Washington. My parents met at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman.

Where did you study or train?

I went to WSU for my undergrad degree in English, then to Boise State for my bachelor’s degree in secondary education and teacher training.

Did you teach?

Student teaching changed my mind. There was too much emphasis on disciplinary and administrative details, and not enough on actual teaching. Another challenge, in the small agricultural community where I student taught, was the transient population.

Then what did you do?

I moved to Oregon. Since I needed a job, I worked at a car dealership in the accounting office, clearing inventory, transferring titles, calculating refunds.

It opened my eyes to a lot of real-life experiences and gave me confidence. It turns out I liked working with numbers.

What brought you to Alaska?

My first husband grew up here and he wouldn’t stop talking about it. I wanted to settle down, so we moved to Anchorage in ’97.

The timing was perfect. I worked at Alaska Sales and Service, Anchorage Chrysler/Dodge, Stanley Motors and Tony’s Chevrolet, where I was the office manager, doing everything from payroll to onboarding and benefits.

Why NANA?

At Alaska Sales and Service, I worked with April Albeza (our director of accounting). When she heard about a position opening in benefits, she gave me a call.

I started in May of ’09. Again, it was good timing. The internet really changed the auto sales business and the industry was in a downturn.

Being able to focus on one area, benefits—with a strong, stable company—was really appealing.

Tell us about your job as benefits manager.

The strategic side addresses how we can offer the best benefits to our employees while saving the company money and in keeping with the overall business strategy. It’s important that we stay competitive within the industries in which we do business. Across-the-board, we want our benefits to be appealing and affordable. We have a large, variable workforce, from executives to frontline employees.

The administrative side brings a lot of things together: negotiating with vendors, communicating program offerings to employees, internal processes, and customer service.

Now we can provide Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage.

Medical insurance is the most expensive piece of the benefits program. In the past, that took the most time to research, plan and negotiate. Now the negotiations with the insurance carriers are done by the federal government through the FEHB program.

We’re able to offer the same medical plans that the government offers their employees. The size of the group is over eight million, which keeps costs down and the quality of coverage up.

What do you like best about your job?

I like working with our employees, helping them navigate the nuances of the benefits we offer. It’s a very integral part of their compensation. Having the right benefits and health coverage can provide peace of mind—and increase overall job satisfaction, and even productivity.

They do have choices. There isn’t one stock answer that’s going to fit everybody. Everyone’s situation is different—their lifestyle, financial situation, health, and family needs. We have an outside vendor, Health Advocate Solutions, for employees to talk with, to make sure their medical concerns are addressed, and it’s strictly confidential.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Our job is not to advise, it’s to educate, which circles back to being a teacher.

What do you like best about working at NANA?

I love NANA: the family, the camaraderie, the values, and the feeling that we’re working for a greater good.

Who has inspired you?

I’m inspired by anybody who excels at their craft. Even if it’s not my go-to, I love listening to people who are really good at rap.

Rap? Do you have kids?

Yes, three. My son is a high school senior. He plays football at West (and listens to rap). I also have twin girls. One’s 10 going on 11. The other’s 10 going on 21.

Do you go to your son’s football games?

Oh yeah. I’m that mom in the bleachers screaming. (Kim pulls out her smart phone and plays a clip of her son making a touchdown.) It’s my last year as a football mom, so this has been a bittersweet season for me.

What important lessons have you learned?

Resiliency is one.

I come from a tender, humble family of emotional women. I’m naturally shy and soft-spoken, but to function in the world, you need to be heard.

I tell my daughter (the 10-year-old going on 11) that what she has to say is important. Everyone has an opinion and hers might differ. She doesn’t have to be confrontational. She can be strong and confident without losing her compassion. 

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Kim Risch was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.