Top Women in Benefit Advising highlight industry challenges, opportunities

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What is the most challenging thing you’ve ever faced, and how did you overcome it?

That question always elicits interesting answers, and it’s one of the questions we asked all of the candidates for our annual Top Women in Benefit Advising feature, one of my favorite projects to pull together. I’m always particularly curious about how people answer the second half of that question.

For Casey Armstrong, a benefit adviser and president of Armstrong Fairway Insurance Agency, that challenge hit when she was 21, the day she suffered a stroke in her apartment, leaving her with limited mobility on the right side of her body, and starting her down a path of physical rehab and speech therapy.

Also see: ‘I’m not a broker — and I don’t want to be’

Armstrong, 41, now has been a benefit consultant for more than two decades and is one of Employee Benefit Adviser’s 2019 Top Women in Benefit Advising. As she recounted to associate editors Amanda Schiavo and Caroline Hroncich, Armstrong used that physical setback to motivate her, as well as to better empathize with her clients and help them navigate the health insurance marketplace, one that she found so frustrating.

For other honorees, the small indignities of being called “sweetheart” or “pussycat” in the workplace were some of the petty remarks and annoyances to endure. She and all of our 20 honorees this year faced similar stories of setbacks and perseverance, which made them better, more experienced advisers.

Contributing writer Bruce Shutan also examines new, emerging strategies advisers should consider for clients looking for an edge to improve their talent management strategies — soft perks and lifestyle benefits. As Paul O’Reilly-Hyland, CEO and founder of Zeamo, which provides a flexible monthly subscription for boutique health club access, sees it, traditional offerings don’t cut it anymore, and with unemployment at its lowest level in nearly half a century, employers must “be at the forefront of offering really innovative and key benefits.”

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