Slideshow Who are the Rising Stars in Advising?

  • March 24 2015, 8:18am EDT
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The benefits industry is in a state of transformation and young benefit advisers are spearheading many of the efforts that promise to keep the profession relevant in the 21st century. Whether they're building innovative technology, launching educational campaigns or encouraging wellness platforms, Employee Benefit Adviser's 2015 Rising Stars in Advising, ages 35 and younger, are truly making an impact on the business of benefits. This year, our annual list expanded to include 20 honorees. Here they are in alphabetical order:

Taylor Collins

Age: 29

Job title: Owner and vice president, Professional Benefits Inc.

“This industry is still heavily dominated by an older population of males. I love impressing them with a lively discussion about a nuance in an executive disability insurance contract.”

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Isaiah Davis

Age: 28

Job Title: Director, business development, Cammack Retirement Group

“There is no cookie cutter approach to servicing clients in this industry. They all have different goals, objectives and priorities. That is what makes this industry fun.”

Chris Free

Age: 35

Job title: Principal, Rapport Benefits Group

“Young advisers are moving technology solutions into an industry that is very slow to adapt new innovations. They are bringing a vibrant desire for opportunity that attracts them to reforming our system; they aren’t afraid of change.”

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Mark Grisanti

Age: 32

Job title: Vice president and senior benefits consultant, Corporate Synergies

“One thing I know about millennials is that we will not accept mediocrity. We don’t accept the fact that something is done a certain way because ‘that’s how it was always done.’ We want to know why it was done that way, and why it can’t be done better.”

Amber Kendrick

Age: 31

Job title: Director of retirement services, CIG Retirement Plan Consulting

“I love strategizing with plan sponsors and empowering retirement plan participants. Being a benefit adviser is both personally and professionally rewarding.”

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Jed Kerkhoff

Age: 30

Job title: Vice president of employee benefits, Assured Neace Lukens

“Be proud of the fact that you sell insurance. I speak to many counterparts and they seem to find it difficult to be proud of what they do. I’m proud of what I do and that’s selling insurance.”

Drew Leatherberry

Age: 31

Job title: Health and wellness benefit consultant, Forsite Benefits

“Advising benefits is about so much more than shopping quotes. It takes understanding their unique situations and how to manage this vital expense proactively. The end result is gratifying when you can solve the puzzle.”

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Valerie Leonard

Age: 33

Job title: Principal, co-founder, Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial

“It’s rare that two clients are alike. They all have different needs, goals, and circumstances. I thrive when I can help a plan sponsor reduce the costs of their employee benefits by finding creative solutions to their specific challenges.”

Rick Lindquist

Age: 30

Job title: CEO and president, Zane benefits

“Young advisers are realizing a massive shift is happening. When I meet young advisers, they are much more willing to focus on new solutions. One thing young advisers all have in common is a willingness to try new things.”

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Tom McGaffic

Age: 34

Job title: Area vice president, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

“The drive to continue to learn and grow in a fast-paced environment is critical. You have to be curious and challenge the way things have always been done. I believe that creativity is what differentiates an average advisor from an extraordinary one.”

Melissa Oliva

Age: 35

Job title: Employee benefits consultant, director of executive benefits, Power Group Companies

“Just listen to your clients’ and prospects’ needs. They will tell you what they need from you if you just stop talking and ask a few questions to get them to talk to you. They don't need to see all of your shiny marketing materials or hear all about what you want to sell them. They are meeting with you because they have pain …you just have to listen closely to figure out what that pain is.”

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Amad Owidi

Age: 34

Job title: Financial adviser, Morgan Stanley

“Forget about vacation, you have to work hard for the people.”

Krista Palmer

Age: 34

Job title: Carrier relations manager, BenefitMall

“Young advisers are not just looking at the tools offered to the industry today but are consciously seeking the next innovation that will support our business. The ability to not only think outside of the box but to reach outside of it is something I believe we bring to the table. Young benefit advisers are finding new benefit solutions and ways to present and implement them more effectively.”

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Emily Robbins

Age: 35

Job title: Account vice president, Virginia Asset Group

“Our industry does not love change so those benefits young advisers bring to the industry are also some of the biggest challenges. We are having to fight to see some of the improvements we believe will help us better communicate and connect with our clients.”

Joshua Rubich

Age: 30

Job title: Area Vice President, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

“With the ever-changing landscape of legislation, payer networks, provider compensation, funding options and exchanges, it is crucial to be a student of the business. The day you stop learning as an adviser is they day your clients are at risk.”

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Rion Shearer

Age: 33

Job title: Senior employee benefits consultant, Johnson & Bryan

“For me, being an effective adviser means anticipating client needs and presenting a solution. I spend a generous portion of my time educating myself on emerging benefit strategies and solutions that will be beneficial to my clients. My desire to know more than my competition has been instrumental to my success.”

Eric Silverman

Age: 34

Job title: Principal and owner, Silverman Benefits Group; Regional sales coordinator, Aflac

“As a younger or newer benefit adviser, to me, it’s really about confidence. It’s the confidence that not only comes with experience and age, but moreover, through taking the time to properly educate yourself and become a true student of your business. With younger advisers more apt at embracing technology and the use of smartphones, tablet devices and social media, it’s very hard to claim ignorance about something as being a reason for not having the success that they yearn for and desire.”

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Tim Tracy

Age: 34

Job title: Vice president, Gerard B. Tracy Associates

“With the amount of change in our industry, I don’t think you can be a successful or effective adviser if you are not constantly learning. Whether it is staying up-to-date on all of the compliance issues revolving around the ACA or new and innovative technologies in our industry, there is always something to learn.”

Michaelyn Tynan

Age: 31

Job title: Vice president, Mesirow Financial

“We are only as good as the people surrounding us. Find a great group of people to work with and treat them like gold. Your team is a reflection of you and can be used to fill gaps where you might have weaknesses.”

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Blake Weller

Age: 33

Job title: Vice president, BB&T Insurance Services

“The learning curve for a new adviser is significant. They must be knowledgeable in insurance contracts, funding methodologies, regulatory requirements and technology solutions just to name a few. However, there is tremendous opportunity for advisers who make the investment to gain expertise in these areas.”