Adviser taps her background in pharma to inform decisions for clients

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Jessica McCool, 29, isn’t afraid to climb mountains. Whether it’s scaling peaks in Colorado with her husband, or restructuring a major client’s benefits package, McCool’s supervisors say she dives head first into every challenge.

McCool was recently named to Employee Benefit Adviser’s class of 2019 Rising Stars — a recognition for up-and-coming benefit advisers. She’s a benefits consultant at NFP’s Oklahoma branch, where she’s worked for the past two years. Prior, McCool spent a year and a half working in the pharmacy benefit management sector — an experience she used to carve out a role at NFP.

“I’m always looking at cutting down pharmacy costs because it’s becoming a bigger piece of the pie for benefit plans,” McCool says. “But it’s really the easiest piece to work with if you’re educated on the industry.”

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Rachel Kanady, vice president of service and development at NFP and McCool’s direct supervisor, said it didn’t take long for McCool to hit her stride at NFP. Shortly after she was hired, McCool volunteered to redesign the benefits plan of a national account. McCool worked with the client to create a customized voluntary benefit package, in addition to a new communication campaign designed to help the company retain talent, Kanady said.

“She jumped in the deep end and helped the client launch a complete private exchange with a benefit administration technology platform that brought the client’s state office together,” Kanady says. “She always sticks her hand up for the difficult projects.”

Since then, McCool has become a sought-after consultant for creating benefit packages, and her expertise on the pharma industry. Kanady said clients specifically ask for McCool’s input on pharmacy-related issues. For this reason, NFP has McCool conducting internal trainings on the subject.

“She’s very invested in the professional development of her colleagues,” Kanady says. “Her desire is to become a trusted mentor for others.”

Before becoming the mentor she is today, McCool sought out her own adviser when she started working in the benefits industry. A mutual friend put McCool in touch with Tom Bartlett, vice president of business development at HealthSCOPE Benefits, who helped guide her transition to benefits from pharmacy.

“I was impressed by her — she was peppering me with questions and wanted to know everything I know,” Bartlett says. “If you’re going to buy stock in people, she’s a great buy.”

NFP is giving McCool the opportunity to reach even more professionals in the benefits sphere. One of McCool’s projects for the year is organizing her company’s first Innovation Symposium, where entrepreneurs and benefit experts from around the country will gather to discuss the industry’s latest advances. The symposium will take place in her home state in late April or early May.

When she’s not designing custom benefit plans, McCool works with NFP’s diversity and inclusion council and her local chamber of commerce. While she enjoys volunteering activities outside work, McCool loves her job because she’s able to help others.

“It’s a privilege to create customized solutions to make sure each employee taken care of appropriately,” McCool says.

McCool says she’s looking forward to expanding her network and meeting her fellow Rising Stars at the Workplace Benefits Renaissance conference.

“It’s been the highlight of my career,” she says. “As someone who’s relatively young in the industry, now I get to talk to people and create connections I never thought were possible before.”

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