George Lane, CLU
Principal, Mercer
Washington, D.C
31 years in the business

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

Every male member of my family worked in the insurance field, so insurance was the last thing I wanted to do when I graduated. After working a civil service job in Philadelphia, the band I was playing with part-time decided to go full-time. At 25 years old, I seized the opportunity to quit my job and hit the road. After playing with the band for five years, I started looking at the insurance field.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

It's a great opportunity to support the people who are doing the same thing. We're all in this to benefit our clients, although we are competitors. It's nice for us to be able to collaborate in a forum such as this through EBA and share whatever wisdom we have without giving away trade secrets.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

The most important asset you will ever have is your credibility. It doesn't take much to damage your credibility, but it's a long road to get it back, if you ever can get it back.

How have you seen the industry change the most?

It has gotten so much more complex than what it was when I started. The industry has become a lot more regulated; employers have had increasing amounts of compliance issues. I have seen over time issues that would affect only the largest of employers begin to work their way down the line.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

I'm really happy right here, right now, in this time and this place.

What is something no one knows about you?

For the last year, I have played the keyboard part-time in a cover band.

 

 


Ronald Leopold, MD, MBA, MPH
Vice President and National Medical Director, MetLife U.S. Business * Atlanta, Ga.
16 years in the business

 

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

I started as a physician, and what I found was that I was more interested in systems and individuals. In a series of steps, I made my way toward dealing with large populations and, in this case, large working populations.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

It's an opportunity to learn from others about some of the newer innovations and influence. Likewise, I think it's a great opportunity to contribute to the conversation by sharing some of what we [at MetLife] are finding.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

Think and learn strategically as much as you need to in order to learn effectively. Think beyond the transactions that you have to learn and master. Ask yourself, the people with whom you're working and your clients: What are we doing, and what is the ultimate value?

How have you seen the industry change the most?

Cost-shifting as well as shifting of risk and responsibility.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

Visit with Leonardo DaVinci and bring an iPad.

What is something no one knows about you?

I used to write and perform comedy sketches.

 

 


Helen Box-Farnen
Communications Consultant, Aon Hewitt * Baltimore, Md.
20-plus years in the business

 

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

I wanted to apply my marketing communications skills to a new audience - employees.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

It provides the opportunity to educate plan sponsors on the importance of employee communications.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

Don't underestimate the value that employee understanding and appreciation of a benefit plan has on the overall effectiveness of a benefit.

How have you seen the industry change the most?

The amount of government regulation has increased and [new laws] get passed faster and faster.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

I'd become part of the court during the time of Tudor England. I'd bring a lifetime supply of medical supplies.

What is something no one knows about you?

I am passionate about sports, but have absolutely no athletic ability.

 

 


Andy Torelli, CLU, ChFC, MSFS
President, e3Financial Newport Beach, Calif.
30-plus years in the business

 

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

I started out on the life insurance side out of school, as I had a friend in the business. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I morphed into the benefit business in 1988 and started my own company.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

I'll be able to better connect with constituents. When you are on the print side, you see things from a different prospective.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

I see it as a changing climate, so I think the day of the solo producer is effectively over unless you want to have just a job. But in terms of career, you need to be part of an organization.

How have you seen the industry change the most?

The regulatory environment has changed. There are fewer insurance companies, less competition and compression in compensation. There's also the expectation at the client level that you need to do more for less. That goes across all industry groups.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

I don't want to go anywhere other than where I am now.

What is something no one knows about you?

I'm basically shy. Most people think I'm really an extrovert.

 


 

Robert J. Lieblein, CPA
Managing Partner, Hales and Company * Harrisburg, Pa.
20 plus years in the business

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

Our company is a consulting firm in the insurance industry, so we work with agents and brokers on strategic consulting, evaluation, mergers and acquisitions. My specialty just happens to be the employee benefit industry. I started building a practice that focused on employee benefit firms, [believing that] the years of 10% to 15% market lift would go away and compensation would change. That was not a well received message 10 years ago, [but] it was just a matter of time. I saw a market opportunity that had been ignored.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

It means being part of a group of professionals who probably share a common vision about an industry going through transformation. This is a way for us to collectively get our thoughts out there to the critical masses and the employee benefit agencies. Many [advisers] grew up in the business as producers and became business owners. They are now dealing with situations they never had to deal with, and it's challenging for them. This can be a great opportunity to help a significant number of agencies and people n the industry.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

You are entering a profession that to a certain extent is being reborn. You need to look at the business differently from the way your peers or mentors heard or read about it in the past. You really need to focus on how you will differentiate yourself, your delivery risk-management strategy and how you will engage the consumer.

How have you seen the industry change the most?

The single biggest change is that it has gone from an industry that was purely relationship-based to one that's turned into an economic issue. Health care is an economic strategy, not just a cost issue. What was done in the past to meet the need of employer is night-and-day different today.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

I'd live in the time the western part of the United States, especially the Montana and Wyoming area, was just developing. I'm a big outdoors person. I do a lot of wildlife photography, and I think it would be amazing to see the country and landscape a hundred years ago. I'd bring my 2011 professional camera back to then.

What is something no one knows about you?

My daughters are ages 11 and 9, and they are top ski racers, which is very unusual since we live in Pennsylvania. Our family has a passion for a skiing.

 


 

William "Tinker" Kelly
Chief Executive, Voluntary Employee Benefit Advisors * Nashville, Tenn.
9 years in the business

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

I saw it as an opportunity. Most people work hard, but that doesn't mean their employer is going to pay them well. In the world we live in, if you work hard, you're gonna get paid handsomely for it. And I can control my own destiny.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

I've always believed that you get out of things what you put in. I've served on a lot of not-for-profit boards and am the past president of the Tennessee Business Roundtable. I've always found when giving back, you not only reap rewards, but you get paid back double.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

It's going to take you a year to figure it out. You don't know what you don't know; the business seems simple, and it's just not. If stick with it, in two or three years, you're going to be fine.

How have you seen the industry change the most?

The biggest change is the technology infrastructure investment you have to make to deal with larger accounts. In the old days, you went out with a few brochures, black pen and paper. Now you need data management skills and all of the technology fundamentals required to complete and execute a large enrollment.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

I would probably travel back to the turn of the century, because that's when we moved from the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age. I'd bring a lot of capital to invest and make more money.

What is something no one knows about you?

My first real job was in college. I was the first Budweiser representative at the University of Tennessee. It was one of the funniest experiences I've had.

 


 

Mark S. Gaunya, GBA
Principal, Borislow Insurance * Andover, Mass. *
23 years in the business

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

I grew up in the business of health care-my dad is a physical therapist and my mom is a nurse. I went to work with them out of college and ran outpatient physical therapy fitness clinics in three states. I worked my way up from the bottom to be the controller. I then helped my parents sell the business and sold myself out of a job. I always wanted to go work from where they wrote the check, so I went to BlueCross National Capital Area, which is now CareFirst.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

I'm very passionate about giving back to our industry. I'm the current president of Massachusetts Health Underwriters. Being on the EBA board is an opportunity to give back to the industry. It also gives me a platform to share my insight on what's happening with our business.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

Run away. Just kidding. [I believe] where's there's change, there's opportunity, and there's a significant amount of change given PPACA. There's tremendous opportunity for people who innovate and place a premium on being a strategic partner. If you are not passionate, you won't succeed. Align yourself with a mentor who can teach you and provide networking opportunities.

How have you seen the industry change the most?

The industry has gotten a lot more complicated. It's much more heavily regulated, and the cost pressure that employers and consumers are feeling is tremendous. You have to know a lot more about a lot of things. You used to be a jack of all trades and master of none. Now you have to be a jack of all trades and master of many.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

I would want to be present at the table with the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams. I would bring a tape recorder or video with audio in order to bring the experience back and share with my children.

What is something no one knows about you?

I played rugby, and I'm a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I have two "Terrible Towels" framed in my office from the 2005 and 2008 Super Bowls, which I attended.

 


 

Beverly Beattie
President and Chief Executive, Selden Beattie Advisors
South Miami, Fla.
15 years in the business

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

For almost 10 years, I worked in the health care world in physician recruiting. During this time, health care and wellness programs were very creative and innovative, and I was getting a lot of recognition from media outlets.

I realized that there was a real need for this information and that I could go out as a consultant and deliver the message as an entrepreneur.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

I love to give back and share with advisers what is working for my firm. [I hope] I can help others nationally position themselves in a way that they are going to be effective.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

They need to align themselves with a firm that thinks strategically and truly has a global vision.

You need a lot of knowledge today to really be a subject matter expert in the health care delivery system. You have to know how we can work with the employee community to engage and build consumerism and consistently drive those behaviors that are really going to work against the natural pressures that are driving costs up.

How have you seen the industry change the most?

If you are still operating as a transactional broker, you will be out of a job. There will be no place for you because with exchanges and other options.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

In theory I wouldn't, because then I would give up today what is precious to me. But to answer the question, I would go back to 1979, and I would bring Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

What is something no one knows about you?

I went scuba diving in Bora Bora with reef sharks-lots of them! My mother is a real German baroness.

 


 

Gene Taylor
Independent Agent, Xpress Healthcare Liberty Lake, Wash.
4 years in the business

Why did you decide to go into this profession?

Since the environment is changing so much in regards to health care, I receive satisfaction from helping employers save money. I've talked with companies that have had two rate hikes in 12 months.

What does being an EBA board member mean to you?

It means I can be in the community and share my expertise with others.

What advice would you give to a broker just entering the field?

Brokers have to reinvent themselves, and they really have to think outside the box a little bit.

How have you seen the industry change the most?

The industry has become really competitive; brokers have to be prepared.

If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go and what would you bring with you?

I would take a peek into the 2020s and I'd take a credit card. I'm curious to see how things are going to play out in our country and world.

What is something no one knows about you?

I have taught ballroom dancing for 20 years.

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