Adviser helps rural employers break the status quo

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Dawn Sheue, president of Summit Insurance Services in Jackson, Wyo., is a pioneer in integrating voluntary benefits into the medical plan as part of a very innovative plan design using level-funded plans and has helped her clients, mostly in the rural Rocky Mountain region, achieve something they never thought possible — better benefits at no cost increase.

It’s a strategy that has led Sheue to continually grow her brokerage. In 2016, she opened four satellite offices in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Colorado, all of which were profitable in year one. Despite the expansion, she recorded 17% growth in 2017 and crossed $1 million in annual revenue for the first time.

That rapid successful growth, paired with her innovative ideas, led her to be recently named as one of the 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising by EBA. To select this year’s honorees, EBA editors asked readers to submit the names of thought leaders who are making their mark on the benefit business through their unique approaches to client relations, benefits technology and/or mentoring other women. From the dozens of submissions received, the editors chose 30 benefit advisers to recognize for their outstanding achievements.

Profiled in a July 2016 cover story in EBA, she moved to Wyoming in 1994 from California. Upon moving to Jackson, Sheue said employers she talked with didn’t know what a Section 125 cafeteria plan was and other agents in the area called her and yelled that she was lying about pre-tax benefit contributions when she suggested employers use them.

“It struck me as so odd that people were not investigating other options,” she says. “We implemented a majority of Section 125 plans in my county [in Wyoming] and that is how we built our business.”

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She has now more clients in rural Wyoming then she ever had in Southern California. “That wasn’t the original plan, but that is how it evolved,” she says. “Most [employers] I find don’t understand what is possible, there are people constantly looking to have a conversation with.”

But, when she discusses integrating voluntary benefits into the medical plan, her small rural clients are amazed. “They all look and say, ‘We can do this?’ and I look them back and say absolutely and hear is how you do it.”

Nelson Griswold, a brokerage consultant who has worked with Sheue, says that she refuses to be limited by traditional benefits thinking.

“Trained as a nurse, her first step is to diagnose a problem … but then often reject the status quo solution for what she sees as a more logical and effective approach,” Griswold, president of Nashville-based Bottom Line Solutions and an EBA columnist, says. “Dawn refuses to embrace status-quo solutions that consistently have provided employers with year-over-year premium increases while reducing employees’ benefits and increasing their out-of-pocket costs.”

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