I don't have to tell you that the deck has been stacked against employee benefit advisers in recent years. Of course, there are the changes and resulting uncertainty brought on directly by health care reform to blame: placing brokers on the wrong side of the medical loss ratio and introducing unlicensed navigators into the business, just to name a couple.

Even so, other causes for concern have been mounting independently for quite some time: an owner-dependent growth model at a time when the industry is rapidly graying, and commission slashes and contract limiting by carriers come to mind.

When threats to your way of doing business build up over time, it is easy to brush them off one by one and rationalize your way into complacency. When this happens, many don't realize or acknowledge that they're playing with a bad hand until it's too late. Just ask the owners of hundreds of brokerages who have reluctantly sold their firms or gone out of business in the last few years alone.

With this in mind, EBA this month introduces an important series of exclusive content from some of the top analytical minds in the field. The series, Industry in Transition, lays all the cards on the table to address the greatest challenges faced by today's employee benefit adviser.

We begin with a feature highlighting the content that was the inspiration for the series, an open letter that breaks down the problems faced by today's adviser, "An open letter to independent insurance and benefits agencies" on p. 32. You are also introduced to the authors of the letter, all of whom will be participating in a series of in-depth discussions with EBA on the letter's content over the next several months.

Be sure to visit our website dedicated to the Industry in Transition series for additional content, found at eba.benefitnews.com/industryintransition.

And keeping the theme of transitions in mind, EBA honors our Retirement Adviser of the Year on p. 26, "Taking the matter into his own hands." When he found he had a knack for retirement advising, Dr. Greg Kasten left a promising career as an anesthesiologist to focus on the retirement field full time. More than 20 years later, he is a billion-dollar asset manager with a staggeringly high success rate at preparing clients for a fully funded retirement: 70% versus only 25% of the general public.

You won't find Kasten waiting for outside circumstances to force his hand. One employee of his describes the adviser as a real innovator: "Stuff that he was doing for years, you're now starting to see the industry start to do, so you know what he was thinking, and what he's thinking every day, is the right thing because it's the way the industry's starting to go - kicking and screaming."

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