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Must-have gadgets
Be it inventive mobile apps designed to simplify the workday or powerful client management programs that bring in new business, brokers, consultants and industry executives across the country share how technology is transforming the way they operate.
Wifi Hotspot
A hotspot is “essential for working on the road or wherever they want to charge for Internet,” says David C. Smith, vice president of EbenConcepts.
This software program and smartphone app lets Alex Assaley, managing principal of Bethesda, Md.-based AFS 401(K) Retirement Services, hold webinars with clients and their employees, and one-on-one counseling sessions. “We really like the HD faces feature, which helps build a deeper relationship with a client and one of their employees by getting to speak with them face-to-face while still across the country,” he adds.
Smartsheet and Lucidchart are cloud-based project tracking, explains Brandon Wood, Maestro Health’s president of benefit account solutions. These programs provide “get-it-done lists and workflow mapping tools that allow for ease in collaboration across multiple stakeholders,” he says.
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Doctor on Demand
This telemedicine service is the “ultimate time saver for treating minor illnesses, as you can see a physician from your home, office, or even a hotel room when traveling,” says Larry Hansard, regional managing director-healthcare practice at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. in Dallas.
This portable power outlet provides reserve smartphone battery life and is “handy for maximizing the one airport outlet I find on one out of every 10 flights,” says Jeff Oldham of Benefitfocus.
This mobile business app makes Barbara Dickson, supplemental benefits consultant at NW Benefit Advisors in Kirkland, Wash.’s life “very productive.”

Cardtap is a “great tool to give clients and potential prospects when people ask you for your card, and for whatever reason you don’t have one on hand,” she explains. “We almost always have our cell phone, so I can share my card with them electronically. They in turn can share my card with others, so it’s also a great referral tool.”
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Lifestyle Risk Calculator
Employers benefit from delivering financial wellness, says Scott Hettesheimer, principal of Cincinnati-based Hettesheimer Insurance. “The Lifestyle Risk Calculator boosts wellness, health and retirement plans performance,” he says. “The Lifestyle Risk Calculator identifies unhealthy behavior spending, then illustrates the user's financial goals that could be achieved.”

“This is the most effective approach in delivering financial wellness,” he adds.
“Slack is an app that's a solid collaboration tool for team communication, suitable since many insurance professionals collaborate with co-workers across the cubicle wall and across the country,” says Rick Morgan, senior vice president, marketing, at Work at Home Vintage Experts, an insurance staffing firm, and member of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America Agents Council for Technology. “Slack cuts down on group email. In fact, I’ve seen it used as a searchable messaging app or chat room for co-workers.”
Northumbria Community Daily Prayer app
For Sam Smith, president of Encino, Calif.-based Genesis Financial, the mobile app is a daily requirement. “As a member of the Anamchara Fellowship, a dispersed monastic community, I join others from around the world every day in prayer to remind myself why I do what I do for my clients each day,” he says. “Not as sexy as some of the new HR platforms that we use, but it makes it all worthwhile.”
For agency consultants Wendy Keneipp and Kevin Trokey of Q4intelligence, Asana is the go-to gadget. “We use it to manage all projects across all team members, whether local or remote,” Keneipp explains. “Before Asana we were managing projects via email or trying unsuccessfully to make other rigid tech solutions work. Asana is the perfect blend of structure and flexibility that fits our style."
DailyArt app
Rhonda Marcucci, principal at agency consultant Gruppo Marcucci in Chicago, “cannot live” without this app. “DailyArt reminds me every day that the successful implementation of HR and benefits technology is as much an art as it is a (technology) science, and often requires a creative approach and looking at things in a different way in order for all the players and pieces to come together into a well framed picture,” she says.
Will Glaros, managing partner of Schererville, Ind.-based Meyers Glaros Group, says, “The gadget we cannot honestly get by without is the Zywave total support platform of tools and information,” as it enables his brokerage to educate, analyze, plan, reduce cost and retain customers.
“UpWord is an app I cannot do without,” says David Contorno, president of Mooresville, N.C.-based Lake Norman Benefits. “[UpWord] allows me to easily create to-do lists, which I segregate into general to, project specific and client specific. It syncs across all my devices for quick access and easy updates. I even have the personal “honey do” list on there."
Amino provides “great information on providers, what they charge … and how to book an appointment,” says David Reid, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based EaseCentral. “I like it for the combination of simplicity and benefit it provides. You just enter a zip code, type of doctor you need, name of health plan, then you get providers that are part of your plan.”
Jack Kwicien, managing partner of Baltimore-based Daymark Advisors, conducts 2-3 webinars and 10-12 conference calls per week using the tool. “Ten years ago that meant time and money spent on travel for initial in-person meetings,” he says. “Today, we introduce third parties, share information and consummate transactions using this Internet software.
If Jerry Deatherage, principal at Fort Mitchell, Ky.-based Nest benefits, lost his iPad, he would have a “tough time functioning.”

“I have one entire page of folders specifically for work,” he says. “These links/apps include operational apps, marketing, news, reading, music, travel, storage, print/scan functions, Office 365, training programs, provider directories, Rx links, ACA reference, and the list goes on.”
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Employee Navigator
“Our ability to communicate to employees is enhanced significantly with our partnership with the most broker-friendly online benefits management tool and mobile-ready platform in the industry,” says Tom Harte, president of Hampstead, N.H.-based Landmark Benefits Inc.
This program keeps Mitchell Andrews, partner at Deer Park, Ill.-based The Plexus Groupe, on track and allows his company to distribute important updates to prospects and clients, he says.
Reverse auction tools
These tools provide an opportunity for Mitchell Andrews, partner at The Plexus Groupe and his company to “conduct an on-line bidding process where our client and insurance carrier partners can watch the entire bidding process,” he says.
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Microsoft Surface Pro tablet
Susan Combs, of New York City-based Combs & Company, has given her entire staff Microsoft Surface Pro tablets. “These have been awesome for having a lighter machine, doing computer presentations, recording videos for our website and even in terms of tech support, since our IT guys only have to worry about one type of machine,” she explains.