EBAs 2013 Rising Stars in Advising
Dave Fear Jr. and EBA's nine other Rising Stars in Advising have demonstrated leadership, sales talent and a keen awareness of what it takes to thrive in an industry in flux. EBA spoke with them about where they've been, how they got this far and where they think they're headed.
Dave Fear Jr., 31
Fear Insurance Services
He's not just a benefits guy. Dave Fear Jr. will sell anyone any kind of insurance. "Don't be afraid to look at the clients that others don't want," he says, adding that those who get overlooked need service, too. And the premiums add up, he says. This has been a driving philosophy for the 31-year-old past-president of the Sacramento Association of Health Underwriters, who started in the business at 18 while doing telemarketing at his father's general agency. It seems to be working.
For Fear, the key is to know all aspects of insurance. "I have a decent understanding of both sides of the business, of individual and small business," he says. One way that he's really grown clientele is looking at micro-small businesses - those with under 10 employees. He suggests that marketing to these types of companies can really pay off.
Currently serving as membership chair of the California Association of Health Underwriters, Fear says he doesn't do networking just for his business. As a member of two area chambers of commerce, board member of the alumni association for his high school, where he raises money for scholarships, and Eagle Scout leader for six varsity members of the Boy Scouts of America, Fear works in the community as a way of life. "These activities are not just for charity, but I'm also a citizen lobbying for people to better understand our business," Fear says. "I'm able to help others in many ways and I'm grateful for the chance to serve."
Fear devotes his time outside of his work and charities to his four kids ages 8, 6, 3 and 1 and his wife of eight years.
As far as the future of advising, he says he's surprised more young people aren't entering the field. "There's going to be a lot of business out there when the boomers retire," Fear says. "I'm making sure that whatever way I go ... I'm the expert."
Derek Butts, 26
While many brokers and advisers find insurance through family, friends or even Craigslist posts, Derek Butts found insurance through a young passion for math. He loved the subject so much in high school that he was trying to figure out how to make a career out of it.
At the suggestion of a teacher, he attended a summer actuarial program at Howard University. It was there that he fell in love with insurance. Butts says he learned about the industry's "broader side" and saw that it can be a great outlet for people who like numbers, problem solving and people.
Butts' awareness of his career goal paid off financially. He was the recipient of the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers' Foundation for Agency Management Excellence scholarship, known as FAME, which is awarded to college students interested in the business. He returned to Howard for college, where he majored in business and found a mentor who connected him with CIAB. Butts says having that network early on inspired him on his current path of making "sure the younger kids growing up know about these opportunities" in the insurance field. His message to them is: "Don't think it's stale or boring."
Butts shared that his love of people expands beyond his business, and he wants to help everyone in his community understand the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, even those who will go to the public exchanges. "It started at home, speaking with family members who didn't understand what's available to them and who struggle with health choices," he says. "I saw from real people that there's a need for education. Right now, it's just me politely butting into conversations in the community to provide insight. I'd like to make it a formal thing in the future."
Butts says his fiance, to whom he's getting married this month, is a huge part of his life outside of work. He loves to travel and explore other cultures. But back in the work place, he's serious about his strategy. "A lot of people [in the industry] are so tactical and I understand that, but I try to bring a more holistic approach, especially to the middle market employer," he says. "We can't just take things day by day to address the issue of cost. We all need to address the underlying issues." And that, he adds, is what's going to set him and others like him apart in the future.
Liz Gallops, 32
Optimism is definitely one of Liz Gallops' most identifiable qualities. The 32 year old is the individual sales producer for what was a family business that got sold to JBA Benefits. She has a passion for being a younger voice in the industry. "Young people are more willing to innovate," she says.
Gallops is the past president of her local chapter of NAHU and is now serving as state secretary - she's slated for president next. She says it's important that the younger demographic is represented in organizations like NAHU, not only to modernize the field, but also to "take large blocks of business." Her involvement has sparked a lot of new business, she adds. "When you work in sales, it can be so tough to get your foot in the door, it's feast or famine if you don't have help," she says.
At her core, Gallops is a connector. "They're not necessarily buying insurance from me. They're buying me as a person, too," she says. Gallops adds that sales isn't all rosy and feel-good, but there are ways to get through: "Someone I met years ago sent me a card, and I keep it on my desk. It begins by saying that 48% of sales people never follow up and 80% of sales are made on the eighth or 12th contact."
Ashley Wynkoop, 31
New Business Manager
For Ashley Wynkoop, insurance is the passion she never knew she had. "I'm the kind of nerd who spends the last hours of the night getting educated and reading up on new things," she says. "It's nice and important because I'm the resource for [brokers]."
After helping a family friend build a small agency from the ground up, something that she fell into while looking for work, Wynkoop moved over to the carrier side where she supported the small group business at Cigna. After two years, she became the new business manager at the company where she works with insurance agents who are getting and maintaining business.
The key for happiness on the carrier side for her is that she "loves the product, and it's different." Her reading and research pays off when answering the many questions that agents need help with on a daily basis - mostly about health reform. She loves arming the brokers with information. "I definitely see myself still in the industry many years down the road," she says, despite the questions surrounding PPACA. "I can see everyone thinking that there would be so many changes and it ends up being a great opportunity for everyone."
Wynkoop, a single mom and lover of foods and family, is also slated to be president of her local NAHU chapter.
Ja'Nene Kane, 32
President & COO
Transcend Technologies Group, benefitsCONNECT
By 29 years old, Ja'Nene Kane had worked her way to president and COO of Transcend Technologies Group, parent company of benefitsCONNECT, the benefits administration and enrollment system. She started at the company years before as an executive administrative assistant to the owner, Troy Underwood, and in him found a mentor and partner who opened up the doors of her career. "He's been great about letting me make mistakes here and there and move forward from them," she says, adding that he has allowed her to become the visionary behind the expansion of their business.
Since acquiring benefitsCONNECT in November 2010, which is also when Kane became president, the company has grown to 45 employees and increased revenue by more than 50%, according to Kane. But almost as important as creating software success for carriers and brokers is Kane's wellness initiative that she's pioneered in her own office. Kane says a monumental experience for her was when she lost 100 pounds after high school. "After that I really dedicated myself to being fit and being well," she says. She encourages 75-minute lunches so that employees can work out.
Efrain Arditti & Enrique Landa, both 33
Sloane & Associates
This duo of consultants' relationship stems back to when they were friends as school children. Efrain Arditti and Enrique Landa found insurance at different points in life, but work together now as a pair bringing benefits to employers in Latin America's biggest city.
Arditti's insurance story began when he was teaching at a school. It was one of his student's godfathers who was in the business and suggested that he take up selling part-time for extra cash. "I realized selling two contracts a month would be better than teaching for a year," he says.
From there his career took off. He left teaching and his job before that (as a musician) altogether. After selling a savings product at AIG for two and half years, however, he knew it was time to go smaller and "get out of the corporate rat race." He opened up his independent consultancy and has been there ever since, partnering with other small agencies for group plans and U.S. business.
Several years ago, Landa was working at a construction company and wasn't happy with it. Arditti suggested they partner up. Landa has been a helpful addition to the business, now tag-teaming their existing clients while expanding their network elsewhere.
They both describe what they do as very necessary in a country that has a government-sponsored health care system that they say is backed up and low quality. Their private insurance solution is essential for those in the country who want an alternative to what Mexicans call their social security system. "At the end of the day, we know what we're doing is good for them, we're helping to take care of them," Landa says - and that is what keeps the pair going.
Quincy Branch, 36
President & CEO
Branch Benefits Consultants
Quincy Branch always knew he wanted to run his own business - once he realized insurance was his calling. "I always tell people I was hoodwinked and bamboozled into it," he says. "My father's insurance business was old school, door-to-door, and I would go with him sometimes as a teenager doing a ride along and I always thought, 'I will never get into insurance.'" But once he finished college, he didn't know what do to next. His father convinced him to get his P&C license and work in an office capacity at the family agency.
A few years later, his father suggested he get his life and health license, too - but this time, his father had a plan. They'd won a group contract for a municipality with 900 lives, and Branch was going to run it. "I learned by jumping right from the frying pan into the fire," he says. "It forced me to immerse myself in a business, and here I am 12 years later."
He bought the benefits department from his father a little more than a year ago, and now manages a staff of four at his own company. "I can feel that weight on my shoulders now as a leader," he says. "They're believing in me, and it's now up to me to make this train work."
He sits on the national Big "I" Young Agents Committee, after helping to bring the Nevada Young Agents committee from eight members to 75 members, and is also a member of the Clark County Association of Health Underwriters. Branch says the latter group really "brings things down to a local level to make sure the community understands what we can do."
Branch Benefits is active with a charity that provides jobs for the mentally challenged. "I'm a firm believer [that] where much is given, much is required. So we make sure that as a company we give back."
As for health reform, he has an analogy to put the broker's role in perspective: "You can't go to court and not bring representation, so why would you try to navigate insurance without a trained and licensed professional?"
Outside of work, Branch is a deacon in his church and also makes sure to spend time with his son (9), daughter (5), and wife of 12 years. He says when he looks at his life he's so happy where he is.
Emily Maushardt, 27
Account Executive, Small Group Sales
Move over mature brokers, Emily Maushardt is happy to take over from here. The ambitious 27-year-old and past president of her local NAHU chapter enjoys lobbying lawmakers for client and industry interests and says she sees the most ambition in younger brokers. "I think it's time for some of the more mature brokers to retire out," she says. "A lot of the younger members of the industry are seeing health reform, and this time, as an opportunity and incentive." In other words, she says, she's ready.
After studying public health in college, Maushardt was at a bit of a loss about what to do next. She met someone in the business at a PPO network who showed her the ropes and she has been hooked on insurance ever since. She isn't shy or hesitant about what drives her, either. "I'm in sales, so my main driver every day is to make my numbers," she says. Maushardt adds that one of the best ways to do that is an age-old practice: go in person. "A lot of people aren't always comfortable and want to do emails ... but I tell them one-on-one visits are the trick."
Maushardt is married and has two young boys under the age of four, so she has her hands full outside of the office as well.
Nickelle Leist, 28
Nickelle Leist, as many in the industry can say, owes her job to an accidental circumstance. When she moved to San Francisco several years ago, she answered a job listing online and got into marketing and sales at a small financial planning company. The job surprised her. "I didn't think I'd stay there as long as I did," she says. "The more I realized that there aren't a lot of young people getting into the industry, the more advantage I had. It's vital to keep the ones that have the knowledge in the business to recruit others in."
As a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, she's met numerous mentors, friends and her current employer through the organization. After several years at her first job in California, she took an offer with Pinney Insurance, owned by Ryan and Jan Pinney, both of whom she met through NAIFA. Now she works with employee benefits advisers, helping them maximize the appropriate solutions for the small group clients to whom they provide supplemental insurance. She says in order to be successful at her job she keeps a journal of her productivity and tries to have at least one "win" a day. "It's not always big in size, but I try to think about what one thing happened that I feel good about," she says.
She's observed many younger people in the industry not taking full advantage of the generations ahead of them that are full of potential mentors. "People maybe think that we can do it on our own, probably used to the Internet for research. But it's been an inspiration and helpful tool and guide for me to have someone to talk to and look up to," she says. She adds that when talking to older people in the industry a lot more of them had mentors, and that's a very distinguishing characteristic.
Joe Childers, 34
Benefits Consultant and President
Little Rock, Ark.
From Joe Childers' perspective, the best way to balance your time between a busy work life and family is to own your own business. After years of traveling the country for his previous job at Transamerica Worksite Marketing, Childers decided the time was right to go out on his own, focusing on his hometown market of Little Rock, Ark. "The competition will have to retire soon, and that made starting my own company more appealing," he says.
This has opened up a world for him that allows flexibility. "You have to put the hours in, that goes without saying, but when the hours are going in is up to you," he says. "Being from Arkansas, I'm required to hunt and fish as much as possible and I do that with my son. If he's not in camouflage, he's not happy."
Childers says his biggest task this year is getting his clients up to speed on PPACA. "I'm still surprised at how many employers are not ready for the impact of reform," he says.
Meanwhile, his mission is to maximize his voluntary business. "There are going to be more people than estimated on the exchanges, and those people will be supplementing their coverage."