Consultant finds passion in fast-paced benefit environment
Patricia Purdy is not afraid to shake things up. After working at The Hartford for more than two decades, Purdy took what she calls a “leap of faith” to jump ship for an opportunity at a much smaller firm.
“When I told my husband I was leaving my vice president job at The Hartford for what was then a 35-life company, he questioned my sanity,” she recalls when she joined Pacific Resources in 2013. “It took a leap of faith and felt entirely right in my gut as I weighed all the pros and cons and the opportunities.”
Pacific Resources was a good fit for the winner of EBA’s Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising. Purdy describes Pacific Resources as a consultancy that focuses on ancillary employee benefits such as dental, life and voluntary benefits.
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.
Although Pacific Resources is based in Chicago, Purdy works in Simsbury, Conn., just outside of Hartford. Her clients are large, Fortune 1000 firms with a national and global presence that average 7,000 to 8,000 employees. Being larger firms, she says they have complex challenges when choosing and delivering employee benefits.
“Because they are so large and complex, they require a lot of technical knowledge. They are in complicated situations, and those are things where we shine. We often say we specialize in the complicated and complex,” she says.
One of those complex benefits is leave management: a long-simmering challenge for employers that continues to evolve with new laws and regulations. Purdy notes that leave management started with the Family Medical Leave Act about 30 years ago and the topics has grown “more and more complex” as states and municipalities pass additional laws. For example, she points to New York, which is rolling out a paid family leave law for January 1, and the state of Washington signed a similar law that will begin in 2020. This will have a profound impact on employers who have remote workers in these states, according to Purdy.
“More and more employers are thinking about how they want to handle parental leave and caregiver leave. Some industries are trying to attract and retain the smartest and the best talent, and in some parts of the country they are offering these benefits to attract and retain talent,” she says.
But not every employer can offer employee leave like a modern technology firm — and this is where Purdy steps in. She sites industries such as auto manufacturers who on any given day might have as many as 20% to 30% of their workforce out on some kind of leave.
“You're trying to maintain a production environment so it's the full spectrum of what's the best policy for your workforce to maintain productivity, to recruit and retain employees, and to keep in line with what the growing millennial population is looking for,” she says.
When it comes to millennials and offering cutting-edge benefits, Purdy serves as the head of product practices for Pacific Resource’s Leadership Council, an in-house committee that shares data and best practices from the consultancy’s life, disability and voluntary benefit practices as well as its marketing team.
“Not only are we making sure that we are technically proficient, but also forward thinking about where the industry is going and what type of services we need to offer clients today and going forward,” says Purdy.
Purdy and her colleagues routinely perform benchmarking measurements for clients to demonstrate where the clients need to boost their benefit portfolio. “When you are in this large customer space, every company is different and so much gets driven by the culture of that company. In some parts of the country and in certain industries, they just can't get enough talented people in the door,” she says.
Even after 25 years on the carrier side, Purdy doesn’t regret her move to consulting. She calls it a great opportunity to take everything she learned on the carrier side and learn a whole different side of the business by working directly with clients.
“I have been here for four years now. We are a fast paced, get-the-job-done kind of place and that’s a great fit for me,” she says.