United Benefit Advisors has named insurance veteran Les McPhearson its new chief executive officer, effective immediately.

McPhearson joins UBA from the Lake Forest, Ill.-based Trustmark Voluntary Benefit Solutions, where he served as vice president of product innovation. He will be based in UBA’s Chicago office. Former UBA CEO Thomas Mangan left the role in May to join the Crystal Lake, Ill.-based Market Financial Group as its president of employee benefits.

See related: CEO of United Benefit Advisors moves on

McPhearson says he’s "humbled and honored to join UBA at a time when the role of the benefit adviser plays such an important and critical part in helping employers navigate the Affordable Care Act and leveraging benefits as a strategy to success.”

In a Q&A with EBA he discussed the evolving role of the benefit adviser and how he hopes to help UBA guide and lead them.

Q: What are some of the top priorities you’ll be focusing on at UBA?

A: First and foremost I want to spend time getting to know our staff internally and developing those relationships. Obviously, our partner firms are the lifeblood of our organization, so I’ll be getting input and perspective from them as to how they can continue to be successful. I’m laying out a plan to spend quality time with them and building our relationships. Of course, we also have strategic partners and solutions we make available to our partner firms and I’m looking forward to establishing and cultivating those relationships. It’s what has made UBA successful. We’re a relationship driven organization.

Q: There’s a lot of change happening in the benefits industry, including adapting to the ACA.  How is the industry acclimating?

A: Particularly for smaller to mid-market employers, it’s been a whirlwind and a real challenge, to assess the financial impact of the ACA on the employer’s ability to provide employee benefits and continue to compete for talent. I think UBA is positioned in such an important place in the market because those employers have limited resources to understand compliance and regulatory rulings, the financial IRS reporting, employer penalties, etc. UBA plays an important role in enabling and supporting advisers and their clients with trying to navigate some of those waters. We really hope to be able to provide advice, counsel, support and information to help our partner benefit firms and the 36,000 employers and 5 million members that they serve understand that better.

Q: How will advisers play a role in helping employers stay compliant with the ACA?

A: Health care reform has forced dramatic change and uncertainty on everyone, and employers — now more than ever — are feeling overwhelmed, confused, and even frightened at the burden of providing equitable benefits to attract and retain superior talent to compete in the marketplace. The role of advisers as trusted companions and strategic business partners is incredibly important to help employers navigate today’s regulatory demands.

Q: What are the opportunities for advisers? 
A: Most importantly, deliver and quantify value. People typically spend more time researching and choosing a TV or a car than they do selecting insurance. Insurance is complicated and not nearly as fun as buying a new car, so being able to clearly provide and articulate the value and benefits is at the top of the list of opportunities for advisors.

 Q: How is the insurance industry in particular changing to adapt to the ACA?

A: The entire industry is dealing with unprecedented change — change among insurers, providers, the government, employers, and employees alike. We are seeing a much greater focus on value-based and bundled care arrangements, accountable care, and the consumerization of health insurance. I'm not sure any stakeholder fully sees how health care will be delivered and financed in the future compared to the business models of the past, so it will be increasingly important for all constituents to work together to make the system work for those we serve.

Q: How are exchanges changing the role of the benefit adviser?

Exchanges are driving the consumerization of health care. Exchanges are creating a significant distribution shift in the benefits marketplace and the most successful advisers will recognize the new opportunities this creates – specifically increased choice, changing funding mechanism, defined benefit or defined contribution and opportunities for new product offerings such as voluntary and supplemental benefits, retirement and financial planning.

Q: Has the need for a trusted adviser changed?

The role of the trusted adviser is clearly changing and, in my opinion, the need is more important than ever. Economic pressures, the war for talent, and increased regulation continue to burden all businesses, especially small and mid-sized businesses. The latter two will continue to have a tremendous need for a trusted advisor to help them be successful.

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