The 20 most creative people in insurance

"Creativity is just connecting things," Steve Jobs famously said, making one of the most pursued attributes in the business world sound beautifully simple and obtainable.

Insurance is a multi-trillion dollar industry, and so, of course, millions of connections happen every day. Most of them go unnoticed. But every now and then, it's worth pausing to dwell on the impressive innovation that comes from a few of the industry's great leaders. It's worth acknowledging the smart product design, the intuitive risk modeling, the technological leaps and the fine art of selling a complex product to meet an individual need. It's worth celebrating all this industry accomplishes year after year, against great odds.

There are many creative minds revolutionizing the industry today. Here, we present 20 of the greatest, a cross-generational, cross-disciplinary, cross-regional group that is truly making a difference in how we sell, market and think about insurance today.

View last year's list.

sGregory Bailey
Partner, Insure.VC

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
GB: The insurance industry is a wonderful space to make a very big impact. The U.S. insurance industry is approximately a $2 trillion dollar industry. That’s larger than the GDPs of Sweden, Switzerland and Poland — combined! There are multiple ways that innovation and technology will help drive the future of the insurance industry.

I've had the good fortune to work in several capacities throughout the insurance industry over the last 20 years. Having started as an agent and selling life insurance at kitchen tables, I have great respect for advisors that help their clients plan for their futures and protect their families. I worked my way up the corporate ladder and was most recently the CMO of a large insurance company in the Des Moines area. Currently, I’m a partner at Insure.VC  a working angel fund that makes investments in startups focused on driving change in the insurance industry.

LHP: Describe what you do.
GB: My work today remains the same as it has been for the past few years: driving innovation and change in the insurance industry. Previously, I’ve done this from the “inside” by working in leadership roles at various insurance companies. Now, I’m continuing this mission, but from a different vantage point. Insure.VC makes early-stage investments in startups that are focused on driving change in the industry. We like to find investment opportunities where we can lend our domain expertise and provide meaningful industry connections to the entrepreneurs we’re investing in. We believe that “InsurTech” (i.e. insurance technology) will be a meaningful growth area for venture capital investments in the coming decade, similar to what FinTech has been to the banking industry over the last decade. One need only mention names like PayPal and Square for industry veterans to realize the massive impact those companies have had on the banking and payments industry. We believe there is similar change on the horizon for the insurance industry.

Additionally, I keep busy with strategic consulting and speaking engagements. I also find time to blog on related industry topics.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
GB: First, I’m especially proud of my family. My wife, Ali, and our two sons have been a wonderful support for me and my career endeavors for many years. I’m proud of the industry relationships that I’ve developed over the last two decades and the focus I’ve been able to bring on the need for change in the industry.

There are a few professional endeavors that I look back on with fondness. One of those was working at a large insurance company a few years ago where I was able to help shift the focus from a “building websites for a desktop computer” to building with a “mobile-first” mentality. This sounds simple (and in hindsight it should be), but mobile web and responsive design have become table stakes to driving great customer experiences. Another example I’m proud of is having been asked to speak at several conferences and meetings on topics related to innovation, marketing and technology and the future of the insurance industry.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
GB: Some in the insurance industry liken “creativity" to a color palette and developing three-panel product brochures. That’s unfortunate. At its core, creativity is about solving problems. I love this definition I once read that says: Creativity is characterized by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. I don’t think I can say it any better than that. That’s what I do.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
GB: There is a burgeoning swell of tech startups that are focused on driving change and innovation throughout the insurance industry. This is an extremely exciting time to be a part of this phenomena and to be a part of the insurance industry. Startups like Zenefits,  Oscar Health,  Melius and PolicyGenius and others are doing great work to drive change and innovation throughout the industry. Startup accelerators like the Global Insurance Accelerator in Des Moines and Startupbootcamp Insurance London are another key part of the global insurance startup ecosystem.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
GB: I’m usually not one to make predictions, but if I had to, I’d say the industry will look significantly different than it does today. In particular, the modes of distributing products, the very products themselves and the expectations consumers place on their insurance companies will see large-scale changes in the years ahead. There are massive opportunities for those willing to look out onto the horizon and build to take advantage of these large-scale changes. I’m looking forward to being a part of that ride.

sYaron Ben-Zvi
Co-founder and CEO, Haven Life

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get started in the industry?
YBZ: I come from a FinTech background, having founded two startups prior to Haven Life. However, I first came to the insurance industry as a customer. I was in the market for life insurance after my wife and I had our first child. When shopping for a policy, I was surprised to learn I couldn’t purchase one online. There was a huge opportunity to increase accessibility and create a self-directed, technology-centered process for buying life insurance, and that’s how Haven Life came to be.

LHP: Describe what you do.
YBZ: At Haven Life, we’ve transformed the four-to-six week process of purchasing term life insurance into one that can be accomplished entirely online and in about 20 minutes. As CEO, I’m responsible for the overall vision of our company. This means ensuring we continue to deliver a forward-thinking customer experience.

LHP: Share an achievement that you are especially proud of.
YBZ: Innovation within an industry as highly regulated as life insurance is no easy feat. In the last year or so, I’ve been incredibly proud of how our small team (we’re only at about 14 people) has been able to make such a significant impact within the industry and in such little time.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
YBZ:
To me, creativity means finding solutions to problems you don’t even know exist. Life insurance has been a valuable product to consumers for more than 100 years, and I truly believe it will continue being a vital product for financial security. However, the industry needs to continue evolving and striving for ways to alleviate customer pain points before they even exist.

In my opinion, a self-serve, digital solution for buying life insurance was a long time coming. Somehow, the Haven Life team was able to make it to the gate with the first and only solution for buying a medically underwritten policy online. However, we aren’t going to stop there. We’re going to keep looking for ways to introduce new and innovative offerings and solutions that are relevant to these tech-savvy consumers.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
YBZ: The financial services industry has been embarking on a huge transition over the past few years. From digital payment solutions like Venmo to robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront and even educational resources like Society of Grownups, the industry has embraced technology and new ways of thinking to better serve today’s consumer. We’re doing the same at Haven Life, and I think there is much more to come from within the life insurance industry. The outcome of all these efforts is creating empowerment among today’s younger consumers to take control of their finances. I think that’s pretty exciting.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
YBZ: Specifically for life insurance, technology will continue to drive change from how policies are created to how they’re issued and modified. One of the biggest changes we anticipate is eventually removing the need for a medical exam altogether. With the access we have to improved underwriting algorithms, consumer medical histories and even health monitoring technology, there are enough resources to render medical exams unnecessary. This would be a huge step forward for the industry, and I think we’re almost there.  

Additionally, the way life insurance companies interact with their consumers will begin to change dramatically. We’re already starting to see that with John Hancock’s Vitality program. More companies will start to adapt rewards and incentives programs to create loyalty and a two-way dialogue with their customers. 

 

sVince Bodnar
Chief Actuary, LTCG

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
VB: I got started as an actuary at a very young age. I was very interested in numbers, but I didn’t know I could find a career working in numbers until I got a summer job in an insurance company in the actuarial department. I looked around and I said, ‘Hey, I can do this.’

My mother worked at an insurance company, and she saw that there was an opening in the actuarial department, really for a file clerk position, and suggested I apply for it. I never went to college. I think I’m the only actuary in the country that’s never been to college. Part of becoming an actuary meant that I had to pass the actuarial exams, which were very difficult exams, so I had to teach myself calculus and probability, everything I needed to learn to become an actuary. It took a lot of persistence, but I did it. That’s how I got started. The field picked me, I didn’t pick it, but I stayed in it because I saw the value that insurance really can add to consumers. That’s what keeps me in it, particularly the line of business that I’m in, which is long-term care insurance. It makes a difference in people’s lives. I see what the product does for people who have bought it. It changes their quality of life.

LHP: Describe what you do.
VB: My career has gone lots of places over the last 30 years. Today, I’m Chief Actuary for LTCG. We are the largest third-party administrator for long-term care insurance in the country. As the chief actuary, I have a dual function: I run the company’s externally facing actuarial consulting practice, and also help our clients' monitor and manage their business. We also are very instrumental in product development. So we help our clients — and by clients, I mean insurance carriers — design new products. It’s very clear that the way the old product was designed just isn’t selling anymore. And so we’re really trying to figure out some new ways to deliver financial solutions in this space.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
VB: In the spirit of knowing that the long-term care product has to change, I took it upon myself to start exploring what has been done in other countries. Of course, the need for long-term care funding and financing exists in every country in the world, but the way that financial need is met is different depending on the culture, the economy and the government programs that exist. I did a lot of exploration. I visited the United Kingdom because I thought there was a possibility to bring the U.S. product to the U.K., but what I found instead was that there was a product sold in the U.K. that could work here in the U.S. It’s called the care annuity, and it’s a long-term care product that you buy when you need care. So, it’s an underwritten single premium immediate annuity.

I won a project with one of the insurance companies in the U.K. that sells the product to explore bringing it here to the U.S. In the end, they found a partner that they’re going to work with to launch the product here; we should see it within six months to a year. All of this was the result of just opening up the lens a little bit in order to see what’s being done all over the world. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of, particularly with respect to product innovation.

Another thing that I’m proud of, as an actuary, is helping companies identify problems with their long-term care blocks and then assisting them as they take corrective actions. 

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
VB: Creativity just means thinking outside the box, thinking outside the traditional way we deliver solutions. In today’s insurance space, companies react to what their distributors say might sell. And agents can get stuck in their own world view, too. They’re out selling a particular product and they realize that, “Hey, if there’s this additional feature, I can sell more of it.” I think that’s the extent of creativity in the insurance space today.

I think we need to pick up our gaze and look elsewhere. We need to say, “Wait a minute. What industries are parallel to us? Where did they go, and what can we learn from them?” If it worked for them, then that same thing might very well work for us. We also need to look beyond our borders, look globally. How have other countries solved these problems? What’s different about their perspective that makes a certain product work there?

We need to think across multiple generations, too. The customers that we have today aren’t going to be the ones we have 20 years from now. Think about the way the younger generation thinks, and design products that would be appealing to them, as well.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
VB: Insurance is something we will always need. It’s an in-demand industry. Even if people don’t know they need it, they do need it. Success is simply a matter of showing them why it works for them and why they should buy it. There will always be this industry.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
VB: I think that the whole design of long-term care has to change. Today’s long-term care insurance product looks like an old defined benefit pension plan, where the employer funds a liability that’s going to happen 30 years from now and longevity and interest rates are completely unknown. This is why the long-term care product is almost uninsurable for carriers.

In the pension plan space, we saw the emergence of 401(k)s, where people now have their own money in an account that they can see and they have control over. When they retire, they are able to decide when and how they want to use it. I think long-term care will have to move to something like that, as well, where it becomes more of a savings plan. I’m preaching that message to some of the carriers and it seems to be resonating, but to get to that point a lot of things have to change: tax policy, distribution, regulations. Just the way we think about it has to change. It’s a work in progress.

I think the industry is going to look a lot different in 10 to 20 years than it does today. It is exciting to be part of a movement that’s trying to redesign it. I don’t know if I’m part of that movement per se, but I’m certainly out there pushing it. I’d love to see one of these ideas stick and do really well. It’s exciting to be in the industry at this time when it really does need to transform itself. I want to be part of that transformation.

sMitchell H. Caplan
CEO, Jefferson National

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
MC: I got my start more than three decades ago, working with a strong and talented team. We have a proven track record of challenging the status quo to really disrupt distribution and drive innovations that create greater consumer value. At TeleBank, we were one of the first to help change the way people bank. At E*Trade, we made it our mission to democratize online investing. And now, at Jefferson National, we’ve pioneered a whole new approach to tax-advantaged investing.

LHP: Describe what you do.
MC: Jefferson National was built from the ground up to serve RIAs and fee-based advisors. It’s the foundation of everything we do. At the intersection of insurance products and the market of RIAs and fee-based advisors, we see a tremendous opportunity to create more products and services to meet their unique needs — and invent new ways to help them sit on the same side of the table as their clients.

We have worked hard to understand everything about RIAs and fee-based advisors — how they advise, how they invest, how they manage their practice. We feel privileged to be one of the few to really gain their trust, successfully become part of their practice, and build critical mass in a highly fragmented market. We are committed to serving them with products and solutions that are simple and transparent, with more choice and greater value.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
MC: I take great pride that, at Jefferson National, we launched a whole new category of Investment-Only Variable Annuity (IOVA), and pioneered an unprecedented tax-advantaged investing platform. Jefferson National’s Monument Advisor is the industry’s first no-load flat-fee IOVA that has been re-engineered to meet the unique needs of RIAs and fee-based financial advisors. Our flat-fee IOVA has been ranked one of Barron's Top 50 Annuities for three consecutive years. We have been called the “Industry Gold Standard” for serving RIAs and fee-based advisors. Our company has won over 45 industry awards, including DMA Financial Services Company of the Year.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
MC: I have always believed that creativity is that unique ability to recognize problems and to find new ways to solve them. So often, it starts with asking the question “Why not?” It’s about finding ways to serve those who are not being served. It’s about taking the risks that no one else is willing to take, defying preconceived notions, exceeding expectations and building something from the ground up that no one else imagined you could build.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
MC: What is most exciting about our industry is the tremendous opportunity for serving RIAs and fee-based advisors. In recent years, it’s the fastest growing segment of the market, with no signs of slowing down. Investors’ lives are not getting any simpler. The more complex things are, the more opportunity there is for an expert advisor to add value. And as the number of RIAs and fee-based advisors grows, we see a tremendous opportunity to create more products and services to meet their unique needs.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
MC: The intersection of technology, wealth management, and the RIA and fee-based distribution channel is driving the evolution of our industry. The most successful advisors of the future will crack the code to combining digital solutions with human capital to achieve greater scale in their practice and create greater value for their clients.

Technology continues to disintermediate every step of the value chain. Recently, in our inaugural Advisor Authority study of more than 500 RIAs and fee-based advisors nationwide, we learned that top advisors are “tech-obsessed.” Advisors who manage more AUM spend more on technology — and use more technology — to make their job more seamless.

In fact, for today’s most successful advisors, the only thing more expensive than adding technology is not adding technology. Technology empowers advisors with greater capabilities to analyze and understand the state of the market, the state of their practice, and the state of a client’s assets more accurately than ever before.

But technology is no replacement for holistic financial advice. As clients begin to build wealth, as our financial lives becomes more complex, the need for guided advice grows. The demand for independent unbiased advice continues to grow. And in the end, people still want to talk to people. They still want the human touch. Technology is important, but I’m still betting on advisors and the value of guided advice.

 

sKevin Coleman
Head of Research & Data, HealthPocket, Inc.

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
KC: I was an executive at a technology start-up founded by Dr. Glen Urban, the former dean of the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Our company produced financial decision support tools for consumers. During this time, Glen received an information package from Medicare regarding the upcoming Part D prescription drug benefit. He found the material confusing and said, “If an MIT professor can’t make sense of this, what will this be like for the average consumer?” We realized that we had found an exciting business opportunity that could help a vulnerable senior citizen population, so I immersed myself in Medicare regulations and product data and became the conceptual architect of a commercial insurance exchange for Medicare drug plans and Medicare Advantage health plans. The exchange became the core of our business and led to a successful ‘exit' as a start-up.

LHP: Describe what you do.
KC: I’m the head of research and data at HealthPocket. My department produces unbiased studies on the American health insurance market, from Affordable Care Act and Medicare plans to dental plans, Medicaid, and the term health insurance market. I also work to generate online content that will engage consumers and produce traffic resulting in advertising revenue. 

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
KC: I’m very proud of the success I’ve had in producing unbiased market research. I’ve worked on studies that have been cited by both political parties and helped inform contemporary health reform debate. I’m also very proud that HealthPocket has been able to serve as an industry watchdog. Our analyses have identified bad actors in the insurance field, as well as the government inflating its ACA enrollment numbers by including stand-alone dental plans. 

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
KC: Not creative? The only way HealthPocket receives consumer attention is by earning it. I work very closely with an immensely talented team on identifying ways we can empower consumers to make better insurance decisions through previously unperformed research and the development of online tools. As a team, we are constantly examining new data sources and asking ourselves, “Can we leverage this information in a way so people can spend less on healthcare while receiving higher quality."

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
KC: The Open Data Initiative championed by the department of Health & Human Services is extremely important and we are only beginning to reap the benefits of more researchers and companies having access to health data to identify inefficiencies and propose improvements. 

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
KC: Bracketing continual advances in medical technology and services, much of the evolution of the healthcare industry will be affected by political developments in the next decade. As a country, we’ve expended an enormous amount on health reform initiatives that have not addressed the fundamental problems driving healthcare costs: 1) the type and velocity of healthcare usage in America, and 2) the cost of delivering that care. I’ve attended various events where state and government officials discuss their plans for future healthcare reform and, sadly, these matters seem quite low on their priority list, if present at all. My hope is that both parties can find ways of collaborating on these matters before healthcare costs swell beyond sustainable management. 

fAdam Cufr
Principal, Fourth Dimension Financial

LHP:  Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
AC: Insurance is a fascinating tool when you consider its impact on families and communities. The very concept of risk-sharing and positive financial leverage allows for outcomes that transcend what any individual can accomplish on his or her own. That alone should cause people to take an interest and look beyond common preconceptions.

I entered the industry after working as a procurement manager for a Fortune 500 company. Building multi-million dollar chemical plants was certainly interesting, but the lure of an entrepreneurial venture was too strong for me to resist. I sought out a number of opportunities and eventually chose to work as a Registered Representative with a large mutual insurance company. While far removed from the experiences of helping build chemical facilities in South America, the process of engaging people on a very personal level while applying a host of analytical skills through the lens of financial security proved very fulfilling, albeit incredibly challenging.

The amazing thing about a career in insurance and financial services, as compared to procurement, was the shared need for effective and repeatable processes to get the best results. Without a process, there is too much left to chance and the client may not receive our best work. 

LHP: Describe what you do.
AC: I own and operate a Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm, Fourth Dimension Financial Group. Focused on serving those who are nearing or in retirement, we offer a comprehensive financial planning experience to those who desire a holistic approach to their retirement and financial security planning. The vast majority of our clients are between the ages of 55 and 75, while we also serve their children in order to provide multi-generational solutions. Utilizing insurance solutions (life, long term care, annuities) and investment management, we take great pride in solving myriad needs for our clients, while working closely with other professional advisors to build a team around the families we serve.   

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
AC: While thriving in our industry is achievement enough, the opportunity to author my retirement planning book, "OFF THE RECORD, Secrets To Building a Successful Retirement and a Lasting Legacy," gave me occasion to articulate the philosophy of our practice as well as equip our current and future clients with the information that allows them to become more educated in retirement planning.

Similarly, having the privilege to write a monthly column for Retirement Advisor magazine is a great source of pride for me. It allows me to give back to my fellow advisors by sharing some of the lessons hard won over the last 14 years in our industry.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define "creativity" as it relates to the work you do?
AC: As strange as this may sound, I have long felt that our industry could benefit from more artistry. As a performing drummer for over 30 years, I look at every note, every stroke of the stick as an opportunity for artistry, for expression. If we take a much closer look at each touch point we have with clients, there is so much room for artistry and creativity. As a result of this approach, we choose to write a beautiful print newsletter to our clients, we host client events that feature beautiful themes and design. In fact, everything we do has an element of creative design in it. Why not surround our clients with beautiful things? Additionally, the message we use to educate and inspire clients to engage in the highest level planning possible is best achieved with a creative voice. As advisors, we know how the financial and insurance tools function, but how can we make them more beautiful and more interactive? That's where "creativity" can really set you apart from your peers who may simply focus on the mechanics and product details.   

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
AC: With the loss of corporate pensions and threats of reduced security from governments and markets, people need us more than they ever have. They're looking for solutions that only we can provide as insurance professionals. This ushers in an era that's ripe for the most creative people in our industry to innovate and inspire others in a way that is very unique to this generation. How can we not be excited about that?

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
AC: The dramatic revolution in technology will cause commoditization in many areas, including investment management and insurance product development. This means advisors and agents will have to adopt a more planning-focused approach in working with clients. Whereas at one time we held the keys to all of the information and we could force the public to bend to our desires, those days are almost gone. The most effective professional advisors will develop processes and strategies to help clients navigate the sea of sameness by offering exciting and engaging planning processes. Those who insist on simply "selling" will wonder where the good old days went ... even though they're right here, right now.

 

sMaria Ferrante-Schepis
Managing Principal, Insurance and Financial Services, Maddock Douglas

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
MFS: I fell into insurance by accident in 1984. I had a rough transition during my first year in college. I decided to take a breather, and I needed a job in the interim. I got an interview for a job as a file clerk in a small life insurance company. However, when I arrived, the job was filled. There was an entry-level opening in the marketing department for an “Illustration Clerk.” I was happy to learn it was not an artist job, but one that required math and computer aptitude. I was given the job, at The North Atlantic Life Insurance Company of America. The company was small and all the different disciplines worked closely together, so I learned a ton. And being 18 years old, I was not afraid of computers (even though back then they weighed more than I did). My boss, Jack Salerno, gave me an instructional book that I will never forget. It explained the origins of life insurance, and how the concept of pooling money together helps protect people better than they could on their own, which made so much sense. Eventually, I decided to go back to school locally at Hofstra University for a marketing degree. I attempted to quit, but Jack offered me a part-time job while I studied, and then he offered me a full-time job when I graduated. I always thought I would try something else, but I never did. I am grateful because I would not have met my husband Jim if not for staying in the industry. Since North Atlantic, I’ve worked for three other insurance carriers prior to getting into my current role. These include Bankers Life of NY, Prudential and Guardian.

LHP: Describe what you do.
MFS: My role is to inspire leaders in the insurance industry to make positive change, and shape the future of their companies and the industry versus having it shaped for them by outsiders. I am employed by Maddock Douglas, Inc, which is an innovation consultancy in the Chicago area, and works with Fortune 100 brands in many industries to help them figure out what’s next and build toward it. I also am a partner and investor with Ring Leader Ventures, which is affiliated with Maddock Douglas, and helps find new startup companies with new capabilities that can accelerate the launch of new products, services and business models. I am grateful to have found this creative group of co-workers, and an elite list of insurance executives to work with on a variety of innovation challenges. 

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
MFS: I am especially proud of having co-written the book “Flirting with the Uninterested; Innovating in a 'Sold Not Bought' Category” with Mike Maddock. This book is the byproduct of many years of observations and inspirations to positively impact the industry, and intersect innovation with insurance. Writing a book is not only hard, but it makes you very vulnerable. I remember worrying quite a bit about how readers would react to it, and even if anyone would read it. What happened was the opposite. Thousands of copies have been sold, the reviews have been terrific and it has been in the No. 1 spot on the Amazon bestseller list in its category. I often run into people in the industry that tell me that their copy is written in, dog-eared, highlighted and sticky-noted all over, and that they use it as a reference guide. That makes me really happy because it means people are using it to change some aspect of their work. 

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
MFS: I have my own personal definition of creativity that is on the back of my business card. It is “the ultimate solution to discomfort.” Think of an irritating grain of sand in an oyster and how it creates a pearl. I know that insurance is not considered creative, mostly because of constraints of regulation, complex math, anti-selection and other prickly attributes. However creativity can actually be fueled by constraint, if we are uncomfortable enough with the present state. I recall having to be super creative in my early days in the industry because I worked for small companies with significant budget constraints in addition to the other constraints. The only way to cut through and stand out is to leverage any and all talents of yourself and your team, within the constraints. Or, to change the constraints if it makes sense to do so. And yes, it is possible. Disruptors change the rules of the game all the time. However, I am not a fan of creativity that jeopardizes the true intent and purpose of insurance, or finds unintended loopholes. To me, that is just icky and perpetuates negative perceptions.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
MFS: I am most excited about the innovation pipelines of some of the insurance companies we have been working with over the last few years. There are some super creative and different ideas that have tested well in consumer quantitative tests, and map to future trends we have been tracking. Among those trends are digital/mobile (of course), aging in place, mortality/morbidity, technology-assisted advice, quantified self, the sharing economy and others. New innovations take a while to develop and launch, so the things we were working on four or five years ago are just coming to fruition now, and the things we are working on now will come to fruition in a few more years. It is also nerve-wracking because execution is key, and the insurance industry isn’t accustomed as much to learning from mistakes in market. More often, if something isn’t executed well, or doesn’t have immediate success, the plug gets pulled too quickly. So I am excited in a way that people at NASA get about their space missions, or a parent is about their kid’s first day of school. There is risk, but it is imperative to (wisely) take it even if it means having some failures. 

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
MFS: My prediction is that many companies will become better at innovation and at finding and partnering with or acquiring startup companies with emerging technologies that will enable the insurance experience in new ways. The pace of change is faster than ever before, and new startups are popping up everywhere that have intentions of disrupting the business. There will be higher levels of transparency demanded by consumers that will be delivered by new kinds of interactive technological platforms versus static disclosure and forms. I also believe that there will be a mainstreaming of models that enable self-selecting groups to start their own insurance pools versus buying into traditional insurance companies. Finally, and this may be 20 years out there, but I believe that some life insurance companies will get in on the game of extending the human life span, and begin offering their customers ways to access technologies that enable this versus just paying out money after a death. If that were to happen, the ‘sold not bought’ paradigm would be completely flipped, and life insurance would take on a whole new meaning. 

sAmy Florian
CEO, Corgenius

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
AF: In the early 80s, I began working with my dad, a worthy mentor who was inducted into the Iowa Insurance Hall of Fame. My primary work involved teaching general agents how to sell what was then a brand new type of product, universal life insurance. My appreciation for life insurance was dramatically confirmed when I was left a 25-year-old widow with a seven-month-old baby boy. My grief and survival was immeasurably easier because we had adequate life insurance.

In my 25+ years of facilitating support groups, I've heard countless horror stories from people without enough coverage. I always thank insurance and financial professionals for ensuring their clients and families are protected. I'd like the horror stories to stop. Insurance is the way to do it.

LHP: Describe what you do.
AF: I am a thanatologist — an expert in grief, loss, and transition. I teach financial professionals how to communicate with and support clients through all the transitions of their lives.

So often, especially in the tragic times (i.e. death, divorce, dementia, serious or terminal diagnosis), financial professionals know how to handle their client's financial needs, but are much less skilled when it comes to knowing how to communicate with them in their grief.

In this increasingly relationship-centric field, professionals need to know what to do and say financially AND non-financially. I teach them what their clients wish they knew, what they wish they'd say, and how they want to be treated. I teach them to stop perpetuating the mistakes they've picked up across the years from others and instead effectively work with their clients. These skills help on a personal level, while also facilitating wise financial decision-making.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
AF: My book, “No Longer Awkward: Communicating with Clients Through the Toughest Times of Life”, was among the first to shine a light on a topic that has been largely overlooked in industry circles. It is the guidebook that professionals keep on their desk for ready reference.

Yet more than any award, more than the book and the articles I've published, more than the high ratings I enjoy, I am thrilled that I make a difference in people's lives, both personally and professionally, especially during their toughest times when they need it most. Simultaneously, I make an impact on the bottom line, enabling professionals to retain business across generations while gaining business from others who don't know what they know. I can't think of a greater privilege than to inspire and educate in ways that have such deep and broad significance.

LHP:  Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define "creativity" as it relates to the work you do?
AF: Who would ever have imagined that an expert in grief would be so vital to the financial industry? I am the pioneer who saw the need and created training that combines grief studies and financial business principles, pushing the boundaries and challenging professionals to think about themselves and their clients differently. Others are getting the message and are developing programs, yet my training remains unique and uniquely valuable.

LHP:  What excites you most about the industry today?
AF: While there has been a good bit of bad press about the financial industry since 2008, there is also a growing recognition of the need for financial services. The popular press is filled with stories about the priority of saving for retirement, the necessity of long-term care and disability policies, the consequences for families if there is no life insurance, and the importance of solid professional guidance to avoid mistakes. There has never been a time more primed for growth in this industry, and I'm excited to help professionals take advantage of that by distinguishing themselves as truly comprehensive, caring professional guides.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
AF: This industry will continue to move away from a focus on sales. Clients do not want to be sold commodities; they want to achieve life goals and leave behind a legacy. That means the successful financial professional will offer more holistic service focused on relationships, deep communication, and transition management. The skill set will shift from the ability to describe products in compelling ways to the ability to understand and support clients through whatever life throws at them in financial and non-financial ways. Solid financial products, services, and skills will increasingly be the entry stakes. Relationship with the client and family across the lifespan will determine success.

sStephen D. Forman
Senior Vice President, Long-Term Care Associates, Inc.

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
SF: In my family it’s a rite of passage. At 13 you have your Bar Mitzvah, at 16 you get your driver’s license, and at 18 you get your insurance license. Some of my fondest childhood memories are the business trips I took with my dad as we crisscrossed the western states selling long-term care insurance. I was just a kid, but he’d take me into the homes with him during his sales calls.

By high school, I remember how the entire family would gather to put out direct mail — we’d do the copying, folding, stuffing, labeling and stamping each time my dad needed to drop a 3,000 piece mailing. We had a regular assembly line! If my dad needed me to get on the phone and help him set appointments, I’d do that, too. I’m 46 now, and when people ask how long I’ve been in the insurance business I’ll typically give 1991 as my start, since that’s when I graduated college and returned home to work with my family. But a more accurate date would be since the early 70s, as my brothers and I grew up side-by-side with the LTC industry.

LHP: Describe what you do.
SF: For the longest time, LTCA’s phone number was one-digit off from the Bellevue Public Library’s Information Desk, so we often got their calls. As fate would have it, I’ve taken on the role of Information Desk to the LTC industry. People need to know they can turn to “that guy” when they have questions, and, through the years, I guess I’ve become “that guy.” Because I do a great deal of number-crunching, analysis and reporting, and stay current on LTCI news and trends, LTCA’s producers use me as a daily resource for their toughest questions.

If that sounds a little vague, let me add that just about anything written that leaves our office passes through my desk. This would include advertising and marketing, publicity, articles and all online commentary and social media. Likewise, I’m LTCA’s focal point for the media who conducts our interviews and goes out on speaking engagements. And of course, as co-owner, I’m involved in the day-to-day operations and decision-making of our company.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
SF: Even though I’ve been writing for a long time, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as having finished an entire book. In my case, that’d be “The Advisor’s Guide to Long-Term Care.” To be fair, I co-authored it with Jeff Sadler, and if he hadn’t first laid the groundwork it would’ve been an entirely different proposition, so I’m very grateful.

But it still required an enormous amount of work after-hours and on weekends at a very diligent pace to enter a club whose membership I have a newfound appreciation and respect for. Since its publication I’ve met so many colleagues who’ve volunteered wonderful reviews and told me how much they’ve learned. That’s so heartening.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
SF: There was a time not too many years ago where I was a bit “burnt out” and had trouble finding the motivation to get out of bed and come into the office. I know we all do, from time to time, no matter what we do for a living. That’s when I knew it was time to redefine my job. And, funny you should mention it; creativity was at the heart of the problem.

You see, I wasn’t a business school guy — I graduated from UCLA with a degree in Film & Television. What does that have to do with insurance? Exactly. But it’s a testament to the fact that I tend to gravitate to the arts, and can’t function unless I have an outlet for my creativity. So a few years ago I picked up the pen and began writing for work.

I gave myself two criteria. First, I never wanted to write one of those boring me-too stories like, “According to the Dept. of Health and Human Services, 70 percent of adults over the age of 65 will use some long-term care services. Long-term care is the kind of help we need when we can’t perform activities of daily living.” I must see this exact article once a day. Dear Lord, make it stop.

My second requirement was that I only do topics that no one had done before. And so far, after authoring nearly 40 essays, I’m doing pretty well!

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
SF: There’s so much upside. “Past results do not predict future performance.” Everyone knows this … until it comes to LTC’s LIMRA numbers, then they can only imagine that next year will be worse than the last.

The American people are aware of the need — and thank goodness the media is covering the issue much more frequently and fairly now. LTC has become a part of life, so much so that it’s now routinely written into TV shows and movies and no one bats an eye. Public programs — no matter how well-intentioned or what shape they’ll take — must include the partnership of private insurance, so they’re invested in our success.

Personally, I’m always excited to build a better sales mousetrap. The “buyer” is a tough nut to crack! And yet, there’s an ever-growing list of techniques we haven’t even tried yet. I must have 50 marketing ideas saved up. It’s like anything else though — we only have so many hours in the day.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
SF: Well, I’d like to imagine LTCA will be a driver of some of this change. After all, we helped pioneer some of the earliest products back in the 1970s. Over a dozen years ago, we initiated the “split model” in the world of LTC sales. Then, we were among the earliest adopters of online sales followed by a proprietary system that abandoned reply card leads in favor of an online appointment setting system. So yes, I do have some ideas where the industry is going, but I’m going to play it close to the vest.

However, on a macro level, it’s not out of the question to imagine Medicare will become increasingly means-tested and that Medicaid reform will gather more steam. Couple this with a rising interest rate environment and rising minimum wages flowing throughout the economy and things could look good. One could even imagine increased competition in LTCI, which exerts a downward pressure on rates.

But what will the cost of care look like? That will impact the price of LTCI. And that’s dependent on the supply and demand of providers and beds vs. an aging and disabled population. I can imagine some progress being made towards Alzheimer’s — certainly not a cure, but what if we merely delayed its progression? Would that lengthen claims? Or delay them? Will we finally get a Section 125 (Cafeteria Plan) tax break? And if so, will this spur carriers to re-invest in their group plans to capture a younger, healthier book of business? Will combo sales (or life insurance itself) completely erode traditional LTC insurance? Or cause a complete reinvention of the product we recognize? Or will something occur within the next 10 years that utterly changes the combo market?

My gosh, it’s hard enough forecasting the year ahead, let alone the next ten. When you think about it, we’re talking about 2025 — shouldn’t we have flying cars by then?

 

sTate Groome
Managing Principal, LifeTrust3D

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry? 
TG: My journey actually began Halloween night, 1960. Now realize … I wasn’t born until 1979, so stay with me here. A young boy tripped on his ghost costume that Halloween night and another boy (my father) helped him pick up the candy that flew everywhere, and that’s where it all started. Those two boys became best friends, and ultimately developed into successful businessmen.  My father went to work in the insurance industry for his friend’s father, Henry Colton. This is where my story began — with the tutelage, passion and support of my father, George Groome, and the lessons he learned from Henry Colton.

After I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, I went on to teach and coach at an at-risk charter school. I started in the insurance industry in 2003 selling the nation’s hottest product at that time, long-term care insurance. With my father’s guidance (but without him writing me a paycheck), I quickly learned how to schedule meetings, relate to my clients, implement long-term care insurance solutions, earn a commission and pay office overhead expenses. However, my true “ah-ha” moment didn’t come until I delivered the first death claim for a $22 million policy that I had written earlier in my career. That is when I truly realized the impact of the work we do as life insurance professionals.

LHP: Describe what you do.
TG: Today I play two roles: I am a shareholder, Vice President and Director of Insurance Strategies in our third-generation, family-owned financial advisory firm, Colton Groome & Company. Colton Groome & Company is a full-service wealth advisory firm founded in 1950 on the principles of thoroughness, precision and courage. We advise affluent individuals and families, medical professionals and business owners.

I am also the Managing Partner for LifeTrust3D, LLC (LT3D), the nation’s premier fee-based life insurance policy monitoring, managing and consulting firm. Although LT3D did not officially launch as a stand-alone entity until 2014, fee-based policy management has been core to our family business for 17 years. Simply put, LT3D was launched to help people love life insurance again. We have never lost sight of the fact that people buy life insurance for ONE reason … because they love someone.  LT3D provides unbiased reviews that enable people to make good life insurance decisions without the pressure of feeling like they are being “sold” something. 

We have long known that life insurance is a dynamic asset, but the consuming public thinks it is static — set it and forget it. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is why LT3D was born – to support trustees, family offices and fiduciaries in the ongoing management of their trust-owned life insurance policies. We work to employ a best practices policy monitoring system designed to meet the specifications set forth by the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA) and Office of the Comptroller Currency (OCC). Our process combines the most cutting-edge, highly secure, cloud-based technology with over 60 years of real-world experience.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of. 
TG: I feel very fortunate to say that I have a few recent exciting achievements. First, I get to work with my brother Matt, every day. Together we were recently honored by our regional business community as recipients of the “40 under 40” award.

Second, I recently completed my first book, titled "The Best Policy: Managing Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, Getting to the Heart of the Matter." It has already become part of the curriculum at Campbell University’s Lundy-Fetterman School of Business, which offers the only trust and wealth management undergraduate degree program in the United States. 

Third, I am a seven-time Top of the Table Qualifier and 4-year Member.  In fact, this year I was honored to speak at the MDRT annual meeting in New Orleans.

Fourth, I have been recognized as an outstanding Volunteer with the YMCA and by the state of North Carolina through my work with Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

I am most proud to call myself a husband to my beautiful wife, Anna, and father to my three amazing children Davis, Lillian and Evan. 

Lastly, I would be lying if I didn’t also say this honor of being recognized as one of the most creative people in insurance  isn’t a definite highlight as well!

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
TG: Making people’s lives better. Expert insurance advisors are needed today, perhaps more than ever before. If you are good at what you do, treat others as you want to be treated and are transparent in your businesses dealings, I believe the sky is the limit. We had a trust and wealth management intern this summer from Campbell University. Lizzie was incredible and, being a former teacher myself, I loved seeing her light up when she was able to take what she learned in the classroom and apply it today. I am doing more teaching at the University level, and speaking at professional conferences because I am passionate about sharing the knowledge I have acquired, and the truly thoughtful, creative ways we utilize that to simply make people’s lives better.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years? 
TG: There are a lot of unknowns today, including political factors, economic factors and industry factors. The sustained low interest rate environment has had a significant impact on even the strongest of life insurance carriers. We have witnessed the decline of interest crediting rates on universal life policies, the decline of dividend rates on whole life policies and more expensive guarantees on universal policies with secondary death benefit guarantees. 

Additionally, fewer and fewer true life insurance professionals exist today. Many of the best are nearing retirement and many younger professionals want to manage money. Life insurance is sometimes a dirty little word no one cares to discuss, but we know it is arguably the most important financial conversation to have! It’s the secret weapon to protect your assets and lifestyle, so long as it is monitored and managed properly. 

I wonder what the industry looks like in 10 years and if we will have enough qualified insurance advisors to properly advise policyholders? We look at the United Kingdom and are wary of the possibility for U.S. insurance commissions to be reduced, or even eliminated, in the future. With all of the unknowns, we want to be positioned to earn a fair living for our expert insurance advice and consultation regardless of whether a new insurance sale takes place or not. This is why LT3D was born and why we believe fee-based policy monitoring, managing & consulting are a critical part of the evolution of our industry.

sKaren Joyner and David Lear
Managing Partners, LifeTrends

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
KJ: Insurance found me. As a senior in college, I needed a job closer to home/school. My first job was assisting an independent group health producer. After graduating college, I easily found new opportunities to grow and evolve within the insurance industry.

DL:  I have a degree in mathematics, so an actuarial position at an insurance carrier was a natural fit for local job opportunities here in Austin, Texas. My first job in the insurance industry was with Great American Financial Resources, as an actuarial analyst.

LHP: Describe what you do.
KJ and DL: In January 2011, we created an industry-leading technology solution that provides data and information to life insurance carriers and select insurance marketing organizations (IMOs). Our services help life insurance carriers price products, as well as competitively evaluate their product offering in the marketplace. Our services also help IMOs with product due diligence and selection, helping them offer the best possible product solutions to the producers they are servicing.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
KJ and DL: We are incredibly proud of taking the leap and starting LifeTrends. Our business is very specialized and unique in the marketplace. We take extreme pride in what we do for our clients. We have built our service model around building partnerships with each of our clients, listening to their feedback and exceeding their expectations.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do? 
dKJ and DL: In our opinion, there is a vast amount of opportunity to be creative in the life insurance market. Bringing new, innovative technology solutions is critical to the future of our industry. Our creativity shines with the resources LifeTrends offers, the speed at which we can evaluate new products that come to market, and the amount of data and information we maintain about the competitive landscape of the life insurance industry.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today? 
KJ and DL: We feel like the life insurance industry is in a state of reinventing itself, which may seem scary to some, but it’s a very challenging and exciting time. The current state of the industry allows for so many opportunities.  We will support the industry by working with our clients to come up with creative, smart technology solutions.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
KJ and DL: The industry is dealing with new generations of consumers, whose needs are much different than the traditional clients of the past. The way in which clients use insurance products will quickly change. The way in which products are distributed has to change. Carriers have to build products that are suitable to these emerging client markets. They have to work with distributors who are forward-thinking, nimble enough to change their business models and practices to accommodate the evolving needs of future clients. Partnering with our carrier and IMO partners will enable us to be part of the process, part of the solutions.

sVinay Murthy
VP, Business Development, SocialTwist

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get started in the industry?
VM: As an entrepreneur, I am always looking for underserved markets that may be ripe for technology-based disruptions. As we did our research into various industries, insurance stood out for a few different reasons. At its core, insurance is a relationship business, having thrived on agents offering great service and in return seeking referrals from their existing clients. In talking to a number of agents and brokers and from our own survey data, it became clear that the existing word-of-mouth referrals had to be streamlined, automated and be relevant for the new generation of consumers. In addition, the insurance industry as a whole was behind in the adoption of social media and mobile technologies. All this meant that we had a great opportunity to enter this market and make a difference. Finally, our group company SocialTwist had done digital referral marketing programs for a few of the insurance carriers and we were in a better position to bring these tools to the rest of the agents and brokers. 

LHP: Describe what you do.
VM: Being a co-founder of a startup means that I have to wear many hats, spending time on whatever needs my attention. I have been involved across the board, from product development to partnerships to talking with media and industry analysts. Being a data-driven company, I also spend a lot of my time analyzing the product data usage and data collected from running our marketing campaigns. 

LHP: Share an achievement that you are especially proud of.
VM: For an entrepreneur, the biggest achievement is when the product/solution you have designed really solves a customer problem and you can see the excitement in your customers as you explain your idea. The KnownCircle social discovery platform is making it easy for consumers to find the right agent, by looking up agents who their trusted connections (their friends and family members) are using. When we started talking to insurance agents about KnownCircle, the idea of making it simple for them to get referrals, everyone immediately acknowledged how important it was for them and appreciated our innovation in this space. It was thrilling to hear it from them.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
VM: The premise of your question is true. The biggest opportunity we saw here is that technology companies underserve the insurance industry. Now we hear about some of the bigger players getting into this space (Google Compare, for example), but it is still early stage. Creativity is when we can deploy technology to simplify and improve things, and/or lower costs, without requiring users to go through a steep learning curve. We have leveraged the technology assets currently available within the agent community, elevating their exposure to evolving customer preferences. Agents are operating within their comfort zone, yet catering to the fact that consumers are getting more savvy and depend on the newest innovations, especially in social and mobile technologies, to make purchase decisions. KnownCircle bridges this gap perfectly. Agents understand the value of referrals and the simplicity of getting onto KnownCircle. Consumers leverage KnownCircle to find trusted providers.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
VM: 
It is really refreshing that insurance agents are now open to new ideas and in some cases wanting to be the change agents. This is the result of the changing demographics, a shift in how people search and buy products online, competitive pressures within the insurance industry and finally wanting to catch up to the technology changes they see around them.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
VM: I see consumers falling into one of these two categories. One, always wanting to use low-cost self serve options, or two, wanting better quality personalized service at a competitive price point. Both types of consumers will do their own research and will not be influenced by traditional forms of advertising. Brand engagement with customers will be an effective way to create influence among the new generations of customers seeking insurance. It will therefore be imperative for agents to build their own personal brand that customers trust. For the first category, Internet search, price comparison engines and reviews become important sources of discovery. It comes naturally for today’s millennials to check what their friends and family are doing, where they are, what they buy. With KnownCircle, consumers can find which agents are being used by their friends and family — and that will ultimately drive the purchase decision.

 

sB. Ronnell Nolan
President, Health Agents for America

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
BRN: Funny story, my dad told me I had to get a job. I applied at Pan American Life and was hired at age 18. Later I found out they hired me because they thought my dad was a dentist and I could type dental claims. I told them my dad was an insulator — LOL.

LHP: Describe what you do.
BRN: I am the President/CEO of a non-profit trade association that fights for the survival of insurance agents and brokers across the U.S.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
BRN: Being chosen by the Louisiana Women's Legislators as Business of the Year this year is one of my greatest achievements. Being recognized by those hard-working ladies was a huge honor.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do? 
BRN: I work hard to find ways to catch the attention of the agents and brokers. I know they need HAFA; it’s my job to find specific and creative way to help them grasp that need.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
BRN: The fight! Not being scared to stand up for our industry and ask for the things we need to survive. I always say, "Over my dead body will we lose our jobs!" I will continue to do whatever it takes to get the attention of Washington, state and local governments and the alphabet of agencies in charge of the ACA.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years? 
BRN: Wow, it is ever-changing, on a daily basis at times. I anticipate the agent/broker will continue to fight to service the consumers and to get paid a fair wage for their work. I believe we will have fewer agents and brokers and bigger insurance companies.

sGreg Preite
CEO, The Digital Advisor

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?  
GP: I began working with insurance professionals in 2010, assisting them with their online marketing needs. Over the past five years, our firm has developed relationships with a few dozen of the top producers in the industry. Our goal is to help financial and insurance professionals increase their reach online, effectively manage their existing client relationships, encourage referrals and repeat sales, and establish themselves as thought leaders within the industry.

LHP: Describe what you do.
GP: We develop websites, manage social media platforms, write unique and custom web/blog content, produce whiteboard animation videos, manage email marketing programs, develop lead generation and seminar registration tools, perform search engine optimization (SEO) work, manage Google AdWords and Facebook ad campaigns, and assist financial and insurance professionals in educating their clients, prospects, and referral partners.  We have created a division of our firm exclusively devoted to financial and insurance professionals, www.TheDigitalAdvisor.org.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
GP: We began our firm with just one person (me) and just a couple clients. Today, we have a team of nine marketing professionals and work with high-end, top-producing professionals across the United States. I believe we can provide a higher level of personalized service at a much lower cost than most marketing firms. We actually get to know our clients and understand their needs and the nuances of their practice. We are not a “mill” and our clients are not “numbers.”

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
GP: In our world, “creativity” means developing unique content (articles, videos, webpages, social media posts, email messages, etc…) that captures the attention of the insurance agent’s audience and successfully builds their credibility. Success in the insurance industry is based on the relationships you are able to build and maintain. We use creative and innovative methods to help today’s agent accomplish this online, thereby leveraging their time and efforts.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
GP: Pew Research reported that from 2010 until nearly 2030, 10,000 Americans will retire every day. These individuals need not only guidance, but the security that many of today’s insurance products provide. Combine that with the fact that very few insurance and financial professionals have tapped the full potential of social media and digital marketing and there is incredible opportunity for the progressive thinking agent with the desire and mindset to leverage the internet for building their business.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
GP: I believe there is nothing but growth in store for the industry over the next ten years. Agents who get onboard now with their digital marketing strategies will lead the field. It is clearly the way of the future, and Americans of all ages (yes, even those who are 55 and over) are embracing social media and the Internet. Agents who want to reach large audiences will need to adapt to the Internet in order to make it happen.

sSamuel Rad, Certified Financial Planner

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
SR: I'm a 33-year-old Certified Financial Planner. I live and work in Beverly Hills, California. I immigrated to America from Iran as a refugee after the fall of the Shah and the Islamic revolution that took place in Iran. My family left everything behind and had to start new in America. We all had to work. In college, my sole focus was to be able to provide for the household. I took financial planning courses and got my degree in finance.

Before studying finance, I was always told by my parents and my community that life insurance was bad. Many immigrants don’t trust life insurance. I see this with my immigrant clients today, whether they’re Mexican or Asian, a lot don’t trust in life insurance because where we come from life insurance doesn’t have the same financial stability and accountability as it does in America. In other countries, they don’t have the type of life insurance policies that we do here, where you put money into it and if you change your mind, you can take money out. In other countries you pay into it, and when you die, they give you some money back if the company is still around and if the same government is in place. So I was talked out of it by my parents, but my schooling kept me going.

When I got out of school, I ended up working for MetLife for two years. While I was doing that, I came to realize that not only did my parents need help, not only did their friends need help, but most of the American population, even people who were born in America, didn’t understand most of this stuff. And that was eye-opening for me because, as an immigrant, I thought that as long as you were born here, you would be privy to all this information. I realized that I could help a lot more people than just my parents. So, I started to focus more and more on consumers, and I became better at it.

LHP: Describe what you do.
SR: I’m a Certified Financial Planner. I have an insurance license and a real estate license. I focus on asset protection and income planning for my clients. A major part of my business is insurance products. I also teach classes at UCLA and several community colleges.

My target market has primarily been women. Whether they’re single, divorced or widowed, I’ve come to have a very close relationship with my women clients. Ninety percent of my clients are women and I’m actually writing a book which will be called Women’s survival guide to retirement.

I use things like online marketing, social media and online video tutorials in order to reach out to the public. In addition to women, I focus a lot of my energy on millennials, since I know that they are being ignored. Most financial advisors don't know how to communicate well with the millennial group. This has become another niche for me.

LHP:  Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
SR: There are many, but one of my biggest personal achievements is the fact that I am able to support both of my parents financially. I’m their retirement plan now, having been able to put myself through school.

I’m also on the board of directors for a non-profit charity that helps seniors with housing.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
SR: I personally like to think that the insurance industry is innovative. Insurance has been one of the most stable industries in America, and having such longevity means that the industry been able to innovate to keep up with changing times. Companies have had to change their products and change their message in order to be able to change their level of service to clients. When you think of some of the things that in the past were really nice and high-end, like, for example, traveling by airplane, the level of service has dropped substantially. I think insurance hasn’t come down in service; insurance has remained very stable. It might sound counterintuitive, but to me, this stability is a sign of creativity.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
SR: Most successful insurance people are baby boomers who are moving toward retirement. For anyone that’s young and motivated in this business right now, it’s an amazing opportunity. In fact, I don’t know why more young people don’t see this as an amazing opportunity. 

I think everyone should be excited about this industry because of technology. There’s a lot of innovation that’s yet to come in this business. For example, more smartphone capabilities, or being able to use your life insurance as a charge account, like with a credit card attached to it (the cash value). These are just two examples of the massive technology changes that are on the horizon.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
SR: I think consumers will have more instant access to insurance products and the industry will become more flexible. Right now, there isn’t instant access; you have to send documents to the insurance company, wait for their review, and get a response. There’s a lot of innovation right now with respect to hybrid products, I would say, and I think that will continue. Products like indexed annuities or indexed life insurance that incorporate the stability of life insurance, but also have connections to the stock markets, are very appealing to consumers.

Also, there’s fresh blood coming to the environment on the client side and the industry side, specifically millennials, the largest class of working individuals. I think there will also be more women in the workplace. This is a change that will happen within the next five to ten years. It takes time for a new generation to learn the bells and whistles and understand the regulation. But radical change will happen within the next 10 years.

sSean Ruggiero
President, Safe Money Smart

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
SR: I have been in insurance and financial services since 2008. For 10 years prior to that, I was in the startup market, but I wanted to apply some stability to what I provided for my family and insurance seemed like a good bet.

LHP: Describe what you do.
SR: I have many roles and many pursuits within the insurance industry. I started and direct the annuity division for Family First Life, which has over 1,700 agents nationwide and has issue paid over $30 million of annuities in its first 12 months of business.

I am also the founder and president of SafeMoneySmart.org, which is a consumer and agent advocacy site that helps people understand and navigate the alternatives to equities and bank products in retirement, including the background, licensing and history of agents who are representing the annuity companies. 

Lastly, I created a sales software innovation company called Xeddi, which this October will launch LifeDrip, the only fully automated turnkey marketing solution for all lines of life insurance. LifeDrip automates email and social media marketing, which is customized to the lines that a producer represents. It includes an exclusive client feedback portal and agent microsite that aggregates all referrals and requests new referrals on an automated basis. LifeDrip has a patent-pending technology called "SalesTriggers" that provides automated feedback of "Drips" to notify agents when and how to act based on responses and client habits. It’s a game changer for the industry!

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
SR: It sounds cliché, but I am most proud of being a father of four and husband. My family is my greatest achievement because that is ultimately the meaning of life, but perhaps this is not the right forum for that discussion.  

In the insurance world, I would have to say one of the achievements I am most proud of is the work I've done with Family First Life. FFL was started in January 2014 and has been focused on innovations in technology from day one. I worked with FFL on implementing a fully integrated CRM which aggregates all leads across all platforms, including Internet, mail, telephonic, TV and social media. FFL has the only fully integrated CRM customized for IMOs, and it's adaptive code makes it accessible across all mobile devices. With tools and forward-thinking like this, FFL is on on pace to hit $25M of life and $30M of annuity volume for 2015.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
SR: The main hindrance with insurance is its fragmented nature. The usage and structure of IMO/NMOs means that carriers put most sales distribution on the IMO. IMOs don't have the money that a carrier or publicly held company has, so they can't dedicate as much "creativity" of R&D as a whole. That leaves the burden on startups and innovators who often don't see insurance as a vertical that needs creation, at least not from the producer side. (The consumer side is a different story.) To be an innovator in insurance, I believe you have to know what it means to sell insurance and to teach insurance, then look for technology that can streamline that process and create new efficiencies that ultimately result in more revenue, lower costs, higher profits, or a combination of all three.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
SR: What excites me most about insurance industry today is the new career agent. There is a wave of young producers that, although fewer in number, will have an advantage of a fresh look and of challenging the status-quo. These young producers are going to make a lot of money and help a lot of people!

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
SR: In the next 10 years you will see more virtual underwriting. We are working with a carrier that is raising the bar on simplified issue underwriting, where they are able to confidently rate people with preferred status and up to $1 million face value without fluids or medical. This is a direct correlation to the virtual profile that is created through our MIB and Rx history. That sort of data will only become more accurate, and we will see massive efficiencies created for what is currently a fairly archaic process.

sNorm Trainor
Founder, President, CEO, The Covenant Group

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
NM: I started as a life insurance agent right after graduating from university. I spent two-and-a-half years in sales and three years in sales management. I really enjoyed the business and did well at it. At age 26, I hired a coach who had a significant impact on my career direction. He asked me three questions, which we still use today in our coaching.

  1. What will you be doing 10 years from now? (I answered that I will be doing what you are doing.)
  2. How much income will you be earning? (My response was: Ten times what I am earning now.)
  3. How would you describe the quality of your life? (At the time, I was married and my wife, Wendy, was in graduate school at the University of Toronto. We were living in downtown Toronto near the university. We both grew up in a beautiful area of Toronto called the Beach. I answered that we would be living in the Beaches area of Toronto and raising a family.) 

All three of those things came true. The future drives the present. The clearer we are about our future direction, the more likely we are to achieve it.

LHP: Describe what you do.
NT: I educate and coach entrepreneurs. My mission is to enable entrepreneurs to achieve and sustain peak performance. Insurance advisors and other financial services professionals are entrepreneurs who have chosen to be in financial services. Yet, most start out as salespeople. As they grow, they are required to learn the art and science of building a practice or business. My role in educating and coaching insurance advisors is to assist them in engineering the practice or business that best suits them. I work with advisors to build the business model they need to grow their income and the value of their practice.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
NT: Over the last 15 years, it is exciting to share that we have worked with 13 of the top 20 life insurance companies in the world. We have educated and coached thousands of insurance professionals, many of whom have experienced dramatic growth in their business. In 2003, I was asked to speak at MDRT and I was particularly proud of how that presentation went. I was excited to return to speak again this year, over 10 years later. It is an honor that our strategies and tactics continue to resonate and create value for our audience.

LHP:  Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define "creativity" as it relates to the work you do?
NT: Most coaches who work with insurance advisors are craftspeople. Craft is art grounded in experience. Art is the application of creativity and intelligence. Most coaches teach their "craft" to others. The problem is that their experience and application of it might not fit the advisors whom they coach.

Engineering combines art and science. Science is concerned with the identification of cause and effect relationships, and measurement is essential to scientific work. Art is subjective. Science is objective. An engineer has to understand the laws of nature and apply experience, creativity and intelligence to build a bridge or building. In our work with advisors, we combine art and science to assist financial services professionals in designing the right business for them. Our coaching is customized to the individual and organization.

Creativity in the insurance industry is demonstrated everyday by the way in which advisors help their clients achieve financial security and independence. It is also demonstrated in the ways in which advisors build successful and sustainable businesses and live fulfilled lives. Lastly, insurance companies demonstrate creativity in product design and in their ability to meet financial obligations that span decades in uncertain times.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
NT: There has never been a greater need for insurance advisors than there is today. However, to be successful, advisors have to be able to redefine performance and continually grow, personally and professionally. The advisors and companies with whom we work are up to the challenge. That is why I am so excited about the future.

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
NT: We live in an Integrative Age. By definition, integration means completeness, wholeness, oneness. The insurance industry is becoming more integrative. Insurance companies describe themselves as wealth management companies. Banks see great potential in offering insurance products to their clients and customers. Technology companies are seeing an opportunity to penetrate the market. Today, people don't buy products or services, they buy an experience. It is the experience that advisors and companies offer that will set them apart. The integrators will be the leaders over the next decade and beyond.

sDave Vick
President, Vick & Associates

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get started in the industry?
DV: After about 14 years in pastoral ministry as a youth pastor, I burned out and took six months off in 1990. Here I am “6 months” later. I sold cars for two years and found out I had some innate sales skills. One of my friends on the lot left and got a job with Banker’s Life & Casualty and came and showed me his commission statements. So, I thought I’d give it a try. I always had a high opinion of insurance advisors, though I’m not sure why. It was a big change for me getting into the senior market and then eventually in the boomer/senior market, but I loved it. Developing plans that would meet their needs in retirement became a passion.

LHP:  Describe what you do.
DV: I’m currently the head of an FMO I started two years ago, Vick & Associates Financial Marketing. Most FMOs are product-centric; we are marketing and sales-process centered.

I have a saying, “Do the most what you do the best, and find someone else to do the rest.” So, I know what I’m good at and that’s creating marketing and sales processes and tools. We focus on that and let our power partner FIG focus on the products, contracting, administration, etc. That way we can increase our effectiveness on behalf of the advisor.

I created the ABC Planning Model, which thousands of advisors across the country use in some form or another. It’s a simple and effective way to help the prospect/client understand how much liquidity, protection, and risk they have and want in their portfolio. We believe in starting simple and then layering on complexity. That way when a prospect’s eyes glaze over with too much financial jargon from the advisor, they run back to the basics and don’t check out of the appointment.

We are known for our educational classes for boomers and seniors. We have largely gone away from dinner seminars, and brought the advisor on college campuses to be an educator. The advisor is positioned in a totally different light. Trust is developed over a period of weeks in a classroom, while the advisor demonstrates his competence and passion. I was the first to bring this style of marketing inside an FMO some five years ago. Prior to that, it was offered through outside marketing organizations. The challenge was that they had the material, but didn’t understand the advisor as well. We combined fresh new material and an understanding of the advisor’s needs, which made it highly successful.

Business is done through relationships. Yes, technology can set up a relationship, but when it comes to financial planning, the advisor sitting down with a family is still what America wants. We are working on the next level of innovation of tying in technology with educational marketing in the classroom. Should be very exciting!

LHP: Share an achievement that you are especially proud of.
DV: You mean other than being married for 36 years (though that’s probably more my wife Diane’s achievement), or raising a terrific son who’s in our business (and our company), who cares deeply about his agents and is passionate about “doing it right!”  What a kid! What a family! Now that’s an achievement!

Yet, I’m sure you want a business achievement. I guess I don’t really think in those terms, I usually just stay focused and work hard and let others talk about achievements. However, the one thing I’m probably most proud of is helping the thousands of advisors over the years accomplish what they wanted to accomplish. It’s really been the best experience of my life, working with, mentoring, teaching and learning from the men and women in the trenches of financial planning. I tried to put a number on it a couple of years ago and figured that I had impacted over $5 billion worth of premium by teaching guys the ABC Model and Planning Process. But, the number isn’t the big thing, it’s how their lives have changed. It’s so rewarding to have advisors call me and write me and use those words, “You’ve changed my life.” Very humbling, really.

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define “creativity” as it relates to the work you do?
DV: Years ago, when I was in Youth for Christ in Seattle, I had a review done by the then Director, Ralph Fry. He told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said that I was the most creative guy he’d seen, but that I’d have to learn how to “put wheels on my ideas.” I’ve come to believe that creativity is “putting wheels on possibilities.”

I think insurance has to be one of the most creative industries to work in. Think of it, we have nothing physical to offer. We sell the promise of protection. And the creative juices it must take to think up the incredible amount of different insurance policies and services … you must be kidding, right? Actuaries, vice presidents, salespeople come up with ideas to innovate centuries-old concepts of life, health, PC, and income insurance (known as annuities). Every year there are new offerings that are beating the old and creating new markets. It’s getting more creative each year! Sure we aren’t creating a cure for cancer, but we’re creatively finding ways to pay for it or the sad result of it. It has to be one of the most creative industries out there.

LHP: What excites you most about the industry today?
DV: I think I’m excited about the industry in three areas: product, technology, and advisors. While I think the innovation on products is only beginning, and the effects that technology will have in the next ten years will be staggering, I think I’m most excited about the advisors.

The advisors really are incredible people. I’m excited to see how an aging advisor force will impact a new breed of young advisors, and how those young advisors will answer the call. We operate with a sacred trust. People have saved all their lives and bring their savings and hopes for the future into our offices and ask for our help. What an incredible responsibility!

LHP: How do you anticipate the industry will evolve in the next 10 years?
DV: It’s hard to say, but some things are obvious. Technology will create even more dynamic ways to communicate to new prospects and current clients that would have seemed impossible 10 years ago. Products will take new roads into retirement. Annuities and life will continue to morph into bigger and better solutions for income needs.

How to use technology and the Internet to get advisors in front of highly qualified prospects with a high probability for success will be the biggest change, I think. Currently, there are some very successful online marketing programs that lead the class, but they are still very young and playing the “numbers game.” I think the next wave of online marketing will change the industry by not playing the numbers game, but by integrating online with TV, radio, social media and educational marketing to put the advisor in front of prospects that will be highly informed with a high probability for success. Now that project needs some wheels!

sSusan Winkler
Executive Director, Connecticut Insurance & Financial Services

LHP: Why insurance? How did you get your start in the industry?
SW:
I actually fell into the industry by chance. I think like a lot of folks, I fell into an opportunity that allowed me to expand what I think is a creative function that I have. The opportunity that really intrigued me was the chance to look at the industry as a whole more creatively and holistically. This really appealed to me, to use some of my strategic training and my creative energy for the larger industry. I did work at The Hartford for five years previously, but in business development and strategy. I am not trained as an accountant or an insurance advisor.

LHP: Describe what you do. 
SW: For the business association, we look at Connecticut as the insurance capital. There are a number of different areas we focus on. The first is workforce development. We ask questions like, “How do we build and sustain a pipeline of labor? Then, legislatively, we work on public advocacy and work with our legislative system here to make sure we’re educating the legislature about the strength of the industry. And then, we focus on business development and work toward bringing new companies into Connecticut. Across all these initiatives, we try to increase the economic benefit of insurance in Connecticut.

LHP: Share an achievement you are especially proud of.
SW: I’m looking at one of my achievements right now, our intern, Jessenia Valentin! One of the initiatives that the CT IFS is very engaged in is our work with High School Inc., which is a four-year public high school here in Hartford for students interested in pursuing careers in insurance and financial services. I co-chair the advisory board of the school, and am so pleased to support young students and tap an untapped labor market. We built, literally from scratch, a public high school designed to teach on insurance and financial services. It’s in its fifth or sixth year, and it’s one of the achievements that means the most to me.

Another is our annual actuarial boot camp, which we host every summer. Keeping a skilled workforce is paramount in the CT IFS cluster; it’s one of our focus areas. We did data research about 10 years ago and established that Connecticut rates No. 1 in the concentration of actuaries. We’ve spoken with HR directors, and realized it’s an expensive proposition to recruit young actuaries to come into the market. So we determined that we should grow our own. We set out to showcase these very, very highly proficient students in math, and educate them on what an actuary really is. We have two days of probability (basically a semester’s worth in two days) and also teach soft skills, negotiation skills, and all of that. We also have them meet with actuaries in the league who can share what a day in the life is like, what they do, what they love. We’re currently in our seventh year. Every year we have a different host; this year, it’s The Phoenix Companies. We’ve recently expanded to host two summer camps rather than one, due to high demand. Each camp has 16 kids, each of whom go through a rigorous application process.  

LHP: Insurance is not widely recognized as a creative industry. How would you define "creativity" as it relates to the work you do?
SW: Everything we touch has creativity in it because we have the broad experience of so many people that we can tap into. This wealth of experiences allows us to really look holistically at a gap or a need, and to develop some really great ideas on how to get there. In my work specifically, our actuarial boot camp has been so successful that our board is asking what else we can do. We’re creating a banking boot camp, trying to get young students interesting in what’s behind the walls of banking. We haven’t even designed it yet other than on paper.

Another thing we do is coalescing against the idea that you don’t want to lose your talent. A lot of students in Connecticut go to other states or even abroad for the last part of their post-secondary education, and we don’t want them to get jobs in other marketplaces. So we created Get Hired, a career fair that happens in early January for when students are home from holiday break. It has been very successful, and now, when many of these students go back to an out-of-state school, we’ve already secured their employment for the next year.

LHP: How do you anticipate the insurance industry will evolve in the next 10 years?  
SW: The insurance industry will continue to face difficult challenges ahead and is running on a fast course of evolution like never seen before.  Domestic and international regulation, climate change, geopolitical unrest, breaking economies and technologies are forcing new business models, innovative products and more efficient companies. Coupled with today’s workforce which is smarter, more educated and motivated — the industry is leading a revolution of change.  Young professionals should not ignore the enormity of today’s global challenges and must understand how they are all connected.  A firm understanding in globalization is the foundation for a successful career in the industry.

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