2018 Powered by Women

From reader nominations, DBusiness selected eight professional women who are driving growth in Michigan, the nation, and the world.


(page 8 of 8)

Terri Harwood // Katie Bowman Coleman // Amy B. Robinson // Monica Martinez
Lilly Epstein Stotland // Christine Sitek // Tricia Ruby // Sara Blackmer

Tricia Keith

Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff, Corporate Secretary • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Detroit 
Employees: 9,000 • Revenue: $26.9B

As executive vice president, chief of staff, and corporate secretary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in Detroit, Tricia Keith oversees 300 employees and a $110 million budget for the $26.9 billion company.

“My primary role is chief of staff, working on behalf of the CEO to ensure that the management strategies of the company are benefiting our members,” she says. “The corporate secretary role is governance, so working with our board of directors is also a big part of what I do with my team.”

Keith is in her 13th year with the organization, and readily concedes her path to a high-profile corporate career was unplanned, never mind unlikely. “I grew up in Scottville, outside of Ludington,” she says. “It’s a wonderful community. Still, today, there’s just one stoplight there. My parents have a 127-year centennial farm, and I would have been the fourth generation (to farm).”

But early on, Keith decided life in agriculture wasn’t for her.

“I grew up thinking I was going to be a teacher because I knew that’s what professional women could do,” she says, “and when you want to be a teacher, you go to Central Michigan University. Once I got there I quickly decided teaching is a wonderful profession, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

That led to Keith’s curious double major at CMU — political science and German. “I know,” she says, laughing. “But the German major meant I could have a study abroad experience, which I think is critical to inform the world view. It also exposed me to a lot of different things I didn’t experience growing up, (although) my parents did instill in us kids community involvement and the civic side of the world.”

That part explains Keith’s keen focus on getting a political science degree. She earned the last 12 credits toward it with an inspired idea. “I worked with CMU to create an internship in the state senate,” she says, “and I worked for a Traverse City cherry farmer who’d been elected to the senate. Shortly before I graduated, I got my first job as a legislative assistant in the
Michigan House of Representatives.”

More jobs and opportunities in the political arena quickly followed, and multiple contacts and connections were made along the way, including one that now seems almost fated.
“I was the lowliest of the low interns,” Keith says, “and the highest staff job you could have in state government is chief of staff to one of the two speakers of the House. That chief of staff was a gentleman by the name of Dan Loepp. We became acquainted with each other as we moved through our careers.”

They stayed in touch, despite what might have been a deal-breaking conflict of interest in these current times of political acrimony. “In politics, everyone has their side of the aisle — they’re either right or left,” Keith says. “What’s remarkable is he and I were on opposite sides of the aisle.”

In 2000, Loepp left state government for an executive job at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “And as he moved up through the ranks,” Keith says, “we started talking about opportunities for me to join the company.”

Soon after Loepp became president and CEO in 2005, Keith joined the leadership team, earned an MBA from Michigan State University, and was the lead executive in consolidating several suburban office locations into a three-block urban campus in downtown Detroit.

“I’m actually leading our effort (now) in building out our capability in advanced analytics,” she says. “If you look at what happened in the retail or financial banking industries, I think they’ve been a little bit ahead of the health care and insurance industry in their use of predictive modeling. We want to harness the power of the data we have and fulfill our mission around affordability, in particular, but also improved quality.” — Tom Murray

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