For advisers who have specialties in specific areas of the benefits business, such as wellness or technology, EBA’s 2017 Advisers of the Year suggest standing out in a crowded field by bringing unique benefit offerings and working well with others.

Speaking together recently during a panel discussion at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Summit conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Valeria Tivnan, director of population health strategy and well-being at EBS Insurance Brokers Inc. and 2017 Wellness Adviser of the Year, said the key to providing an impactful wellness program is to include everybody.

Each client has a unique culture and there are different employees within each client, therefore it is important to include the employees that may live a healthy lifestyle, those that have some risks and those who are already suffering.

Left-to-right: Eric Silverman, Mick Rodgers, Valeria Tivnan, Robert Judd, Manish Kumar, EBA's 2017 Advisers of the Year speak together during a panel at the Workplace Benefits Summit conference in Boca Raton, Fla.
Left-to-right: Eric Silverman, Mick Rodgers, Valeria Tivnan, Robert Judd, Manish Kumar, EBA's 2017 Advisers of the Year speak together during a panel at the Workplace Benefits Summit conference in Boca Raton, Fla. Josh Ritchie

“People in a workplace are in very different stages and readiness to change,” she said. “Wellness is trial and error. It is offering a diverse manual of things.”

She tells all her clients to focus on three key action points: Knowing their numbers, financial fitness and reducing stress.

In the retirement space, Robert Judd, managing partner at Beltz Ianni & Associates and 2017 Retirement Adviser of the Year, also believes including the entire team is key. He joined his company 30 years into an existing business model and transformed their entire retirement business by moving it from a commission-based operation to a recurring revenue structure.

His biggest struggle was getting employees to understand the difference between the two compensation models, and he made sure to keep all the firms employees informed of the changes.

Manish Kumar, vice president of engineering at Sequoia Consulting Group and the 2017 Technology Adviser of the Year, opened his remarks by saying, “Technology is crazy.” So how has he been so successful — establishing a widely popular mobile app and engineering several industry-first products? By working internally with his firm to look at technology as part of an overall strategy.

For both clients and internal brokerage operations, “figure out where the gaps are and help them develop technology for the gaps,” he said. It is all about talking to each other, he added.

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In review: EBA 2017 Advisers of the Year
The retirement, technology, voluntary, wellness and overall winners are taking charge of the future of benefits.

Eric Silverman, principal and owner of Silverman Benefits Group and the 2017 Voluntary Adviser of the Year, has also faced challenges with buy-in from others, particularly brokers.

“I just want brokers to be proactive,” he said. “That is what it comes down to.”

“Proactive is not ignoring the big elephant in the room, which is what the industry calls voluntary,” he explained. “Bring some strategy to your clients if you are a broker.”

EBA’s 2017 overall Adviser of the Year Mick Rodgers, managing partner of Axial Benefits Group, said in a follow-up interview that he doesn’t need to fight to promote adoption of his unique healthcare purchasing coalitions to clients. “Our practice is committed to our coalition process, has seen the results over and over, many of them have even personally delivered the unused premium checks to the clients,” he said. “They are the ones pushing it on their own.”

In the end, Silverman had advice for all in the room about working with others. “Take a few steps back to take a million leaps forward,” he said.

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