Ask most anyone in the benefits industry to recall a pivotal career moment, and many point to a memorable claim experience. In my case, it was a group disability benefit that I sold to “Stuart” in 1993. Making the sale was no big deal — it was my job that I did every day. But 17 days after Stuart's disability policy went into effect, he couldn't show up for work. He was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumor, and for the next year and a half, his family received benefits from that disability policy. In 1993, this benefit cost Stuart about five dollars a week, and that five-dollar sale changed my career.
How amazing is it to sell a product that so profoundly affects a person's financial well-being? Stuart's lasting mark on me was to indelibly imprint the importance of what we do every day in the benefits industry. The benefits that we sell provide safety and comfort when people are most vulnerable — sick, hurt, disabled, grieving. I would never again see my job in the insurance field as a “job.” I knew I had a career that carried with it a big responsibility.
My hope for all of us in the benefits industry is that we embrace the importance of what we do, we conduct ourselves with integrity every day without cutting corners, and we never, ever forget the “Stuarts” that we serve.
Peggy P. Hayes, vice president, sales and business development, American Public Life Insurance Company
Perfect for a people person
“I love my job because I’m an extrovert and I get paid to talk to people all day long. And I love that what my team does impacts the business so dramatically — by only hiring smart, kind, humble people who are self-motivated and self-managed, we are able to maintain a very flexible work culture while doing amazing work.
We hire individuals through what we refer to as auditions, a custom skills test for each role. By using an audition process, we don't need to rely on degrees or years of experience as a proxy for competence, and we can see candidate's self-motivation in completing the audition. Hiring this way is what leads to the most rewarding part of my job: hiring people that other companies are overlooking because their resume doesn't “look right” or they don't have a ton of experience. Giving those folks the opportunity to do great work makes my day.”
Mary Beth Wynn, vice president of people, Jellyvision
Love at first sight?
First, this has been my only job since the age of 18. I honestly don't know how it feels to work in another field. It must be love or I would have left when it started getting “complicated.” Working in this industry is not about selling insurance — the real love for the industry comes from building lifelong friendships and helping people understand a very complicated product. Some might call me crazy, but I never counted commissions before a sale. Being paid was always lagniappe for doing a good deed.
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During the rollout of Medicare Part D, I helped thousands of seniors in Louisiana and Mississippi to obtain prescription drug coverage. Together, we cried and celebrated. Finally, they didn't have to make the decision between paying the electric bill and picking up their medicine.
Today, I am the CEO for Health Agents for America, representing many agents and brokers across the United States that love their clients as much as I love them and this industry. It is complicated, but I wouldn't want to work anywhere else.
B. Ronnell Nolan, president/CEO, Health Agents for America, Inc.
Compliance is challenging — and fun
Complying with state and federal health and welfare plan regulations is a neverending challenge for plan sponsors. Assisting clients in providing relief in all aspects of compliance — from ERISA to ACA — and knowing they will survive a DOL audit provides me incredible gratification and a sense of accomplishment. Admittedly, compliance is not as easy as it was in the “good ole’ days,” but that's why I love this industry so much.
When I arrive at the office each day and open my email, I know I am accepting today's big challenge: new guidance, FAQs, deadline extensions, and more. It's all about deciphering the new information, which we all know isn't necessarily easy at times, applying it to our clients’ plans and then taking action. When I provide that valuable information, I know our clients appreciate that we are on top of things—because they are my number one priority.
ACA presented many compliance action items in the past several years that required hard work and long hours in order to stay up-to-date and ensure our clients met all the mandates. When clients get their dreaded DOL audit letter in the mail, they know I am ready to help them respond in the five to seven day required turn-around time. The relief they feel makes being their broker that much more rewarding.
As we head into the next ACA reporting cycle, letters from the IRS for the last cycle are starting to arrive. Marketplace appeal letters, IRS penalty letters, additional guidance, FAQs, New IRS 5500s, Schedule J and so much more await us in 2017 and beyond. Anticipating the actions the new administration will take leaves us on the edge of our seats, but there will be much for us to do regardless. With all of this going on, who doesn't love the benefits industry?
Lisa Allen, vice president, regulatory affairs, Relph Benefit Advisors
Doing your part
As a long-term care insurance (LTCI) planning specialist, I work with benefits consultants, employers and employees to help them plan for a secure retirement. The marketplace has certainly settled down a bit, but we’ve still seen a few carriers suspend new sales and many implement in-force premium increases.
While many professional advisors understand the reasons behind these moves, this has led to broker apathy around this product line (LTC insurance). The irony is all of this is that consumers finally “get it.”
They understand that LTC is a real issue that requires planning. Many HR professionals or C-suite executives that we work with have personally experienced the impact of LTC on their families and finances.
So why do I love working in this segment of the business? The answer is simple — Isaac and Rachel Maimon.
These are my grandparents, incredible people who both needed LTC for years before passing away. As a young insurance advisor, I witnessed them endure chronic illness and Alzheimer's that not only was emotionally difficult for our family, but wiped away their life savings and home. I kept thinking that there has to be a better way.
Planning for LTC became my passion and mission. Well-known leadership and management consultant Simon Sinek likes to say, “people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” With no federal insurance or entitlement program in sight, we must take responsibility upon ourselves to plan for longevity.
I take great satisfaction knowing that the LTCI industry is doing our part to help American families manage these difficult situations. I’m optimistic that group LTC Insurance will continue to grow and be considered a benchmark benefit … and I love our business!
Steven M. Cain, director sales & business development, LTCI Partners