Between our Advisers of the Year, Rising Stars in Advising and Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising, EBA highlighted five dozen individuals in 2015 who are bringing meaningful advancements to the field of benefit advising and elevating expectations of what it means to be an exceptional broker.

Advisers of the Year

At a time when many brokerages are still struggling to find their post-health reform footing, Tim Olson — EBA’s 2015 Adviser of the Year — has grown his firm more than 55% in the last two years. Olson credits the growth to differentiating himself and his staff from the competition by having a deep level of knowledge and expertise in all areas of employee benefits, including retirement, wellness and the latest technology. Olson’s focus on next-level thinking has led to a significant investment in growing the company and bringing the right people on board to keep it strong. “I recruited three key positions for what I consider to be people with ownership potential,” he says. “I wanted to get somebody that is that solid, is that forward-thinking and can bring the company to not only this level, but our next level after that.”

Also see:Who is EBA’s 2015 Adviser of the Year?

As EBA’s Technology Adviser of the Year, Chris Costello, principal and founder of CBG Benefits, is always looking for the best technology to provide effective solutions for clients’ pain points.  “We see a lot of people purchase certain suites of technology and they might only implement 20% of it,” Costello says. “They need to stay the course and educate themselves and do the training that’s required to get them fully up to speed.”

Also see:Benefits technology: “Provide the best tools possible.”

That type of 100% commitment has made Heather Garbers, EBA’s Voluntary Adviser of the Year, a standout in her field as well.  “I consider myself a sponge … I just try to soak up as much as I can and see how I can apply that to what I’m doing and bring new solutions to our clients as well,” says Garbers, vice president, voluntary benefits and technology, HUB International Insurance.

Also see:Voluntary: Find a partner.”

Such client advocacy made Kathleen Kelly, managing partner at Compass Financial Partners, EBA’s Retirement Adviser of the Year. “When I think about what’s important for advisers moving forward, it really is the ability to specialize,” she says. “And recognize how you build out your service model to be able to address all of the needs of a plan sponsor. We look at that from a very holistic perspective.”

Also see:The one thing that can throw off a solid retirement plan.”

Michelle Spehr, EBA’s Wellness Adviser of the Year, gets that sense of balance from helping clients work toward healthier lives. “I look at my role as somebody who teaches and guides and creates the conditions so the employer can work independently at developing a program that’s right for their organization and aligned with their business objective,” Spehr, director of wellness consulting at The Benefit Services Group Inc., says of working with clients.

Also see:Announcing EBA’s 2015 Advisers of the Year.

Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising

EBA’s second annual listing of the Most Influential Women in Benefits includes leaders who have taken monumental steps to bring the field to unprecedented heights. From securing eight patents for unique benefit funding solutions to testifying before Congress and federal agencies, these advisers are incredibly active in national and community organizations. They have initiated legislation to protect the role of benefit advisers in the distribution process, established successful co-ops, medical assistance programs and million-dollar employee benefit agencies.

These 25 women are working to ensure a successful future for all women in the industry by encouraging each other in the purchase of their brokerages, hiring more than 100 women to follow in their footsteps, and much more.

Also see:Key Insights from EBA’s 2015 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising.”

Rising Stars in Advising

Many of EBA’s Rising Stars in Advising have followed in the footsteps of trailblazing advisers before them as well, be it by transforming a firm run by a parent, or taking the advice of a mentor and forming new paths toward success.  These leaders age 35 and younger are teaching the generations that came before them where the field is headed, be it by adopting social media marketing, embracing new forms of technology to ease benefit administration or promoting new educational tools for clients and their employees.

Also see:A brave new world: How EBA’s Rising Stars in Advising are transforming the profession.

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