In a largely male-dominated profession, EBA’s 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising stand out for both personal and professional reasons. Some of these winners, who are listed in alphabetical order by last name, were credited with finding substantial savings for employer clients and strengthening their organization’s bottom line.
Several showed bravery in the face of unspeakable obstacles or gave back to their local community. One woman runs a nonprofit dedicated to curing lung cancer. Many mentored female peers whom they encouraged to climb the corporate ladder.
The list, selected by EBA’s editors after a month-long online nomination process, is brimming with thought leaders who belong to various industry organizations. Some made their mark in media by contributing to books or popular news outlets. Others advocate a holistic approach to technology, behavioral finance, level-funding techniques, mind-body healing and metrics to track corporate objectives.
Beam’s business development efforts have led to explosive growth for her firm across the Southeast, with more than $2.2 million in new business revenue within the first two years. Her insight has helped new clients transition to a fully automated approach to enrollment and administrative processes.
Marne Bell photographed at Michigan Avenue-Chicago River, Chicago, IL. June 20, 2017. Photo by Andrew Collings.
Andrew Collings/Andrew Collings/Andrew Collings Photography
Area Senior Vice President, Client Development, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
An industry thought leader on worksite health initiatives, Bell has been interviewed by CNN about onsite clinic trends and solutions. For more than a year she valiantly fought a life-threatening illness while still becoming a top producer with the most recognized brand names.
President/CEO, Tanya Boyd & Associates LLC
A recipient of the Dallas Association of Underwriters’ Stellar Award, Boyd is a Leading Producers Round Table Soaring Eagle and member of an agent group supporting women in the field. Her company has doubled every year, adding more than 50 new groups and 100 individual clients in 2016.
Rae Lee Clark
Chief Compliance Officer, Vita Companies
Clark is an expert at complex healthcare laws and regulations, and she was instrumental in developing a paperless strategy that has reduced Vita’s eco-footprint. Her blog has seen a dramatic uptake in readership that has bolstered the firm’s marketing and reputation in her state.
Susan L. Combs
Partner, The Capacity Group, an EPIC Company CEO, Combs & Company LLC
Having served as the youngest president of Women in Insurance and Financial Services in the group’s 81-year history, Combs was instrumental in helping develop its National Mentorship Program. She is a strong advocate of luring more women to the benefit advising field.
Senior Director of Account Management, NFP
Donohue’s approach to helping save more than $1 million on a pharmacy contract that exposed excessive pricing has been leveraged for other NFP client relationships. She also helps new recruits balance and develop valuable career paths, and created a client event series that includes a wine tasting and a night at the Boston Pops.
Pamela Anne Files
Senior Vice President, Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance
Buoyed by a strategic vision to align with an analytics firm, Files has seen an exceptional embedded algorithms process make a meaningful difference for clients. She’s also deeply dedicated to helping female colleagues share best practices and inspire them to reach leadership positions among health underwriters in her state.
Gillow was instrumental in advising clients on all their non-medical benefits strategies, saving them millions of dollars while in most instances, enhancing the benefits being delivered to her clients employees and their families.
Senior Strategist of Health and Welfare Consulting, Trion Group, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC
Gray has produced more than $1.5 million in new business each of the past five years and ranked among the top five producers in the Marsh & McLennan Agency during that time. She is also the mentorship co-chair of Trion’s Growth in Relationships & Opportunities for Women initiative.
Principal and Lead Advisor, Cafaro Greenleaf
Greenleaf built her career on a core belief that all hard-working Americans deserve to retire with dignity. She’s a huge advocate of behavioral finance and understands the unique challenges women face in planning for retirement, including a longer lifespan and careers paused by caretaking.
National Vice President of Sales, FBMC Benefits Management Inc.
Hanselman has made a tremendous impact since joining in May 2016, when sales opportunities ballooned and then exceeded 1,000% above last year’s total in the first half of 2017. She has also helped lead and organize a statewide county employee benefits benchmark analysis study.
Employee Benefits Consultant, CoreMark Insurance Services Inc.
At least two clients of Jensen survived regulatory audits because of her hands-on support. Under her leadership, the Sacramento Association of Health Underwriters broke a number of records and earned the Pacesetter Award and Presidential Citation.
Suzanne (Suzy) K. Johnson
President, Owner and Employee Benefit Strategist, Employee Benefit Advisors of the Carolinas LLC
Johnson has qualified for the National Association of Health Underwriters’ Soaring Eagle agency recognition award each year since its 2010 inception and helped redesign the eligibility criteria for the group’s Leading Producers Roundtable. Her agency has excelled by introducing level-funding techniques to many mid-market clients.
Executive Vice President, Health & Benefits Major Market Leader, HUB International Midwest Limited
Klein is responsible for creation and implementation of best practices, and is integral in formulating HUB’s client service model. She helped build a new and improved deliverable system, including templates, calendars, best practices, three- to five-year client strategies and stewardship reports.
Kriha, who has been recognized as a top 10% performer in a $1 billion organization, has qualified for the Circle of Champion award for six consecutive years. She’s also involved with Giving WoMN, whose 100-plus members help educate women about philanthropy and provide grants.
Known as a cultural evangelist at a firm consistently recognized as a Best Place to Work, Krystyn addressed both of those strategic themes at a 2016 HR Tampa conference talk. She has also developed metrics to define and track objectives and their expected outcomes.
Health & Wellbeing Manager, Sequoia Consulting
Markley is an expert on employee productivity and retention through next generation benefits strategies, speaking on panels and writing for Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global. She has sought to improve employee engagement in corporate wellbeing initiatives through a handy mobile app.
Managing Principal, Ascende, a Division of EPIC
McGarey has helped define best practices for compliance and has closely monitored changes across the healthcare reform landscape. Under her leadership, Ascende has transitioned from a regional player to a thriving business with $5 million in client revenue and cross-selling opportunities.
With more than 35 years of industry experience, Nicholson is considered a major reason why her firm has increased its revenues more than 25% annually since she joined six years ago. She’s also founder and president of a networking group of more than 550 HR professionals in her field.
Naama O. Pozniak
CEO, Paz Holding Inc./DBA A+ Insurance Services
Pozniak is a strong believer in the mind-body connection as a means of both healing and reducing healthcare costs. She also founded a new yoga studio in her community and hosts programs at her home on wellness and spiritual living.
Vice President, Global Employer Solutions, Pacific Resources
When it comes to disability insurance and absence management consulting services, Purdy is an expert at devising best practices. As the only female on her firm’s senior leadership team, she’s widely recognized as an influential thought leader among her peers.
President, Principal Resource Group
Featured on the 2016 list of Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising, Rettger has been a leading voice on the importance of Health Savings Accounts as a tax-preferred savings vehicle. She’s also a contributing author for a book on innovative benefit strategies that will soon be published.
Chief Client Officer, FBMC Benefits Management Inc.
Robleto has helped shape a client-focused culture by defining exceptional customer service and developing tangible metrics. In 2016 she established a dashboard chart to capture key enrollment information that could be shared with all employees on a weekly basis throughout the season.
Producer, AHT Insurance
As the first account executive and only female team member of the Chicago location, as well as one of just 11 female producers for the entire firm, Sachtjen has carved a niche with architectural firms. In her spare time, she runs a nonprofit dedicated to curing lung cancer.
Charlotte Santa Cruz
Founder and CEO, Santa Cruz Insurance Group
Working her way back from post-Hurricane Katrina devastation and a life-threatening injury without disrupting her reputation for outstanding customer service for clients and even former customers, Santa Cruz’s enrollment services firm’s production has gone from mid-six figures to several million in annual new sales.
President, Totem Solutions
Schultz is a member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and has supported Opportunity International, which helps women in business and seeks to reduce global poverty. She’s also a co-author of The Ridiculously Simple Guide to Health Insurance.
President, Summit Insurance Services
Sheue is a pioneer in incorporating enhanced voluntary benefits into level-funded medical plans. Recognized annually as one of the top benefit advisers in the Rocky Mountain area, she recently was named to the Advisory Board of the Workplace Benefits Association.
CHRIS STRONG PHOTOGRAPHY
Under Smith’s leadership, the firm’s employee benefits department has grown 600% in the past decade, including 23% growth last year. She also has groomed half a dozen women for leadership positions through mentorships.
Katy (Catherine) Stowers
Managing Director & General Counsel, FirstPerson
Under Stowers’ leadership, an internal Operations Task Force meets biweekly on ways to improve the company, including better support during the open-enrollment season. She oversees her firm’s 29 largest accounts and plays a critical role in the success of an $11 million company.
Financial Advisor, Veltus Financial Services LLC
Veltus embraces a holistic approach to technology. She also intimately knows the importance of income-protection products as the mother of a disabled adult son, and is a powerful advocate for such solutions.