I talk with some of the top brokers in our industry every day,and as I've said before, it's one of my favorite parts of the job.These conversations serve as a much needed counter to the dailybarrage of gloomy news about regulatory hurdles, nasty politics,rising health care costs and industry consolidation.


As part of our ongoing mission to spotlight faces of theindustry, each year we request nominations for our Broker of the Year awards. And each year, ouredit team pores over the entry forms to find five brokers whorepresent everything that's going right with the industry; peoplewho are embracing the changing nature of their work and finding newways to build relationships and better serve their clients.


This year's finalists again represent a variety of backgrounds,geographical areas, and business models. Together, they provide agreat example of the many exciting changes taking place every dayin our industry that are transforming the face of benefits:

  • When Justin White joined the familyinsurance business, it took him a while to find his stride. Butthanks in part to the introduction of HSAs, he quickly carved out aspace within the industry and made it his own. In the years since,he's learned an important lesson: Change equals opportunity.

  • Lisa Boucher believes this business is“all about relationships,” and her career provides plenty ofevidence to support this. With the help of fellow brokers andindustry experts, she has become one of the top three producers ina national firm of more than 800 employees.

  • When I first heard Mark Gaunya speak,I realized he exemplifies the innovative broker we so often writeand talk about. Gaunya hasn't let his deep roots in the health careindustry tie him to the past, as evidenced by his ongoing focus oncreative funding solutions, consumer-friendly health care and thevalue of technology.

  • Felipe Barganier's family backgroundin public service taught him the importance of good benefits andprovided motivation for his focus on public sector employees.Amidst ongoing industry change, he stresses the importance offinding a niche and balancing innovation and personalinteraction.

  • Susan Combs moved to the big city andstarted her own brokerage at the age of 26. Her background in thehospitality and entertainment industries taught her the value ofgreat service and the importance of speaking your clients'language.

Once again, it's going to be a very tough decision.

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.