As president of brokerage Assurance Agency in Schaumburg, Ill., Liz Smith is responsible for the overall vision and strategy of the employee benefits department, in charge of not only growth and development of the firm’s culture and benefits, but also consulting with clients so they can feel empowered to create their own wellness and benefits programs.
It’s a role Smith has taken very seriously for the firm’s 450 employees and one that has been honored with numerous awards, including being named to EBA’s 2017 list of Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising.
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.
Through Smith’s dedication to the job, Assurance’s employee benefits department has grown 600% over the past 10 years, including 23% growth in 2016, according to the company’s chairman and CEO, Tony Chimino.
Under Smith’s leadership, the firm has seen substantial growth. It is in the 90th percentile in new commissions compared to other brokerages of the same size and has brought $126 million in measurable value to benefits clients this year, Chimino says. Smith is also responsible for launching three departments at Assurance.
Additionally, in 2016, Crain’s Chicago Business named Assurance as the No. 1 Workplace for Women over the age of 35.
“Liz started as a young, female adviser in heavily male dominated industry,” Chimino says. “Through determination and hard work she has certainly made a name for herself.”
Alan Becker, attorney for Litchfield Cavo LLP and a client of Smith’s says he was “impressed from the start with Liz’s professional presentations and cogent response to questions.”
Smith is driven by the fast pace of the benefit advising industry, she says. “It’s ever-changing, and to stay engaged with clients you need to bring new thoughts and ideas to the table.” She is also motivated by her firm’s people. “Our people are the best of the best, so complacency isn’t an option,” she says.
Although her title is president, Smith unofficially serves as a mentor and role model to Assurance’s 35% Gen Y population, Chimino says. “Her accomplishments, wit and ability to garner results internally and externally are a true motivator for other women striving to become leaders,” he says. On average, Smith has mentored two-to-three women at various points during her eight years as Assurance.
Smith’s mentorship has helped other females advance their careers. She assisted two female producers in opening an Illinois chapter of Women in Manufacturing and has spoken on numerous panels, including The Executive Club of Chicago, on creating a winning workplace for women.
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