Being an outstanding broker means more than simply meeting client expectations about products and services. It’s about growing the firm while simultaneously helping employers take their own businesses to the next level. EBA’s 2016 Employee Benefit Advisers of the Year in the categories of overall winner, Retirement, Technology, Voluntary and Wellness, are doing just that. Chosen by the editorial team after a month-long online nomination process, these winners from across the U.S. epitomize a job done right.
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Retirement Adviser of the Year

Robert A. Massa, Director of Retirement at Ascende

In the five years since Robert Massa created EPIC’s investment advisory firm, it has grown to exceed $3 billion in assets under management. An industry thought leader, CPAs and attorneys often call Massa for his take on everything from plan design to fiduciary issues.

As a 25-year industry veteran, it’s Massa’s goal to help employers establish best practices for their plans, with a growing emphasis on financial wellness and fiduciary responsibility.

“My favorite part is working with our clients. I have a policy where I try to make sure every client sees me two times a year. That’s my personal goal. I insist that clients don’t only see me when there’s a problem. I want them to see me when there is not a problem so, when I do show up, they know that I take their account seriously,” he says.
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Technology Adviser of the Year

Sean Clem, Vice President of Technology, Marketplace & Engagement Solutions at Pacific Resources

Sean Clem embraces the uniqueness of each client to bring them a custom solution that is tailored to their specific needs. With this goal in mind, he’s helped to streamline business practices at Pacific Resources, such as integrating the company’s benefits administration technology practice with its private exchange consulting practice.

He takes a holistic approach to analyzing available benefits technology for clients to ensure there is a good philosophical and cultural fit between the vendor and client, while heading Pacific Resources’ private exchange research.

“We need to look holistically at the market and figure out the best way to leverage technologies that are out there to supplement plan design and other decisions employers have made to reach the overall strategic goal,” he says.
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Voluntary Adviser of the Year

Joseph D. Alfonsi, Partner, TriBen Insurance Solutions, Inc.

Recognized as a voluntary expert, Alfonsi has helped his niche voluntary advisory firm to add more than 50 new employer accounts in the last year alone. He is a consultant to carriers and brokers alike, and uses his background as a police officer to listen to clients and diagnose their specific needs.

“Companies are eliminating employer-funded STD and LTD at a steady pace and once-generous life insurance benefits have turned into ‘enough to bury someone’ benefits,” Alfonsi says. “The opportunity for voluntary benefits is not just knocking, it is ramming down the door.”
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Wellness Adviser of the Year

Craig Schmidt, Senior Wellness Consultant, EPIC

Passionate about wellness at a personal level, Craig Schmidt is an avid runner who practices what he preaches when it comes to living well. He leads EPIC’s wellness team to deliver a wealth of customized resources to clients each month.

Schmidt managed the rebranding of the company’s wellness newsletters and the creation of EPIC’s wellness playbook while turning wellness from a reactive process for employers into an integrated part of their overall benefit packages.

“When you have some companies and groups saying, ‘I want to do wellness. Let’s do a biometric screening, let’s do a walking challenge. Now tell me what I impacted.’ I have to say, ‘Well, you’ve impacted next to nothing,’” Schmidt says. “But, if you add those companies that are really looking to make policy change, enhancements to the culture, changes to the environment, add some support resources, really adjust and change their benefit package in a way that can empower individuals to work the health system; that’s when you really start seeing the successes.”
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Employee Benefit Adviser of the Year (overall winner)

Gayle McCann, Partner, President, Risk Advisor at North Risk Partners, Johnson McCann Division

Armed with a nursing degree, Gayle McCann diagnoses her healthcare clients’ concerns, working within the system to create custom solutions for them. From developing group purchasing for small medical group clients to working with carriers to develop innovative products that meet the needs of her niche clients, McCann works tirelessly to be an advocate for employers, particularly the often neglected small-group market.

For the past several years she’s also mentored a group of young producers at her firm, one of whom praises McCann as an outside-the-box thinker who is a respected and trusted adviser.

“You are always having to change with the times and I think that’s what makes our business so great,” McCann says. “Because no day is the same and no client is the same, and no answer for a client is the same. That’s why I’m in benefits.”