This year’s nominations for the National Underwriter Life & Health Industry Elite Awards were stronger than ever; a who’s who of the best and brightest in the realms of market innovation, industry awareness, community outreach and young talent.
Our winners and honorable mentions this year stand out at a time when the industry is undergoing unprecedented challenges and needs the kind of leadership, drive and brilliance that only the Industry Elites can offer.
Read on to see who's chaging the insurance industry for the better.
CATEGORY: INDUSTRY AWARENESS
STEPHEN D. FORMAN
Senior vice president
Long Term Care Associates, Inc.
Most in the insurance industry, especially the long-term care segment, are well aware of his name. Stephen Forman has spent the last 20 years assisting producers and clients plan for their future long-term care needs, helping agents throughout the country. Forman’s LTCA, Inc. producers rank in the top 1 percent of specialists nationwide, as recognized by the AmericanAssociation of Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI).
Long-term care insurance, possibly more than any other line of insurance, has needed a transparent advocate in the face of public scrutiny. Forman adopted the mantle of the “voice of long-term care insurance” and began a campaign to both assert positive awareness and combat negative misinformation.
“In my family, our first experiences with long-term care insurance were as children — and I’m in my 40’s now,” says Forman. “So my passion probably stems from the many ride-alongs I took with my dad. When we left a house and he hadn’t sold someone, he taught us that we hadn’t done them any favors. Now, I don’t want this to sound like high-pressure sales, cause he wasn’t a high-pressure salesman. Rather, the lesson was that if someone could’ve and should’ve bought insurance — and they didn’t — how had we helped them? On the other side, our drawers are full of testimonial letters from policyholders whose one regret is that they hadn’t bought more coverage when they had the chance.”
Forman’s thought leadership in the LTCI arena has transpired in numerous ways, including the publication of “The Advisor’s Guide to Long-Term Care, 2nd Edition” and his more recent work on behalf of NAHU’s LTC Advisory Council, to spreading the positive word of the Society of Actuaries’ LTC Pricing Study. Furthermore, he has served as Consultant to Congressional Research Service, “CLASS Provisions in the PPACA,” Co-sponsored a study of RI Medicaid Reform “Doing LTC Right” and served as Regional Representative, Center for Long-Term Care Reform.
Many could say there is no larger advocate for the field and no one more well respected by not only industry marketers but also government and industry academics.
“Stephen is not afraid to speak the truth, whether that means calling out the Washington Insurance Commissioner, taking on the powerful Bipartisan Policy Center or rebutting Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research,” says Gary Forman, senior vice president of LTCA, Inc.
ALANA KOHL, founder and president, AdvisorPR
Alana started her boutique PR agency for agents and advisors in 2005. Since then she has proved to be a leader for individual advisors, financial corporations and major industry influencers alike with the mission of helping those doing right in the financial services industry gain a prominent voice in their communities.
CATEGORY: COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
West Insurance & Financial Group, Inc.
Leasha West's family traces its roots back to the American Revolution. She grew up hearing incredible stories of heroic relatives and idolizing those in her family who served in the Marine Corps. Following in her family’s footsteps, Leasha joined the Marines and in less than two years was promoted to Sergeant, a feat rarely seen.
After her service in the Armed Forces ended, Leasha joined a large national brokerage house as an investment advisor. After just five years, she branched out on her own to form West Insurance & Financial Group, where she could offer more personalized and varied services to seniors and baby boomers in need of financial advice.
But West didn’t stop at providing tailored money management and planning services to her clients. To her, giving back to the community is even more important. In 2011 West helped organize and run the Veteran Aid Task Force, a community outreach that assists veterans and their spouses in a variety of services, including identifying and processing claims for benefits; senior companionship; coordinating military homecomings and assisting families with military funeral details to name a few.
Even more humbling, West sits on the launch team for JoeVolunteer, a revolutionary volunteer initiative rolling out nationwide that connects volunteers and organizations via a mobile app, which is currently undergoing a soft launch in the Austin, Texas area. West is charged with bringing this technology to the Midwest. As a result of her outstanding volunteer efforts, she was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award by President Barack Obama.
“Leasha is not only a highly decorated Marine Corps veteran, she is also a respected community leader and philanthropist,” says Paul Lampinen, a close associate to West.
West also sits on the board of directors for Pretty Lake Camp, a cost-free summer camp for at-risk youth from Kalamazoo County, Michigan, and serves on the national board for the Women Marines Association. West is also actively involved in mentoring college students as they prepare for their chosen field.
“Just as I served my country, I believe it’s my duty to humanity and my obligation to society to continue to serve others,” says West. “Let’s face it, there’s no shortage of people who need help. I encourage everyone to go help someone everyday or give back in some way.”
GINA MCKAGUE, president and CEO, McKague Financial
Gina McKague and her financial services firm give back to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Susan G. Komen and local school districts in Livonia, Michigan, along with local police and firefighter forces. McKague and her firm also support Wreaths Across America by collecting wreaths to lay on veterans’ grave sites each year.
CATEGORY: MARKET INNOVATION
Senior vice president, growth and business improvement
Crump Life Insurance Services
Ron Alexander has been with Crump Life Insurance Services for eight years. He now serves as vice president of growth and business development. Early in his career, the producer saw a need for more personalization for agents in the industry. Prior to joining Crump in 2008, Ron held a number of high-tech business leadership roles at a major insurance company, a global financial services company, and a start-up that was eventually acquired by Crump. He also serves as chief innovator with the creation of Crump’s new technology.
As Crump’s online brokerage and direct-to-consumer platform, InsureNOW Direct’s mission is to enable the future of life insurance distribution by making it as easy as possible for producers to sell and consumers to buy the products that Crump supports.
In minutes, producers can enter orders (aka “drop-tickets”) for InsureNOW Direct to make sales or take applications on their behalf for any product Crump distributes (life, LTC, DI and annuities). InsureNOW also offers private labeled websites and quoters that can be available within 48 hours for use directly with consumers.The leads from these sites can route back to Crump’s producers or call centers where we call the leads and potentially make sales within minutes of receipt.
These new services give Crump the ability to offer support for any-to-every step in the distribution process, which helps existing producers compete more effectively and opens the door for enabling emerging channels such as robo-advice, social media and online retail.
“We surveyed our producers and found that the majority of them wanted us to provide online tools for consumers and the ability to rapidly request direct-to consumer services for tasks they’d prefer to outsource — such as taking applications and selling unfamiliar products,” says Alexander. “So, we built InsureNOW Direct to do just that.”
Whether it’s offering direct-to-consumer services, consumer websites, mobile apps, consumer marketing services or one-stop advisor portals, Alexander believes that market innovation can make it significantly easier for producers to sell — and consumers to buy — the products Crump supports … and perhaps start to redefine how life insurance is distributed.
“Ron has spearheaded our company’s growth in the direct-to-consumer market- ing space, while enabling us to stay true to our value proposition of providing industry leading client experience and services to independent producers and institutions,” says Sherri Lindenberg, senior vice president at Crump.
JERRY AND MIKE MAINARDI, president and vice president, Selling Technologies, Inc.
Brothers Jerry and Mike Mainardi are transforming the way advisors can interact with existing clients and prospects with the launch of a proprietary system for targeted marketing called AMANDA (accelerated marketing for agencies, networks, distributors and associates).
BEST RISING STAR:
David Simkowitz, a 38-year-old industry professional based in Brooklyn, New York, serves as president of SimkowitzCo, a financial services firm catering to high net worth individuals. Since 1999 Simkowitz has helped hundreds of clients with estate planning, life insur- ance coverage, wealth creation and many more aspects of holistic financial planning.
Known for his action-oriented, get-it-done approach, Simkowitz has earned a stellar reputation for applying creative strategies unconsidered by the everyday financial firm. Simkowitz has earned the trust and respect of high net worth attorneys, accountants and other professionals, as evidenced by a steady stream of client recommendations.
“I greatly respect David’s service to others,” says Kurt Shallow, senior vice presi- dent and head of agency distribution for Guardian Life. “He is relentless in his pursuit to do the right thing. Clients sense his desire to help, and they quickly trust him with the things that matter most.”
And whether or not he realizes it, Simkowitz also plays an important mentoring role to his staff.
“As someone who has benefitted from David’s mentorship for the past 12 years, I can tell you firsthand that David achieves more than most because he cares so deeply,” says Levi Landau, associate at SimkowitzCo. “He truly steps into each client’s shoes, listens to what is spoken and unspoken, and leaves no stone unturned in his quest to create and execute a thorough plan that performs as intended.”
Clients, colleagues and carriers have taken notice. Guardian Life recognized Sim- kowitz with its Life Quality Business Award in both 2013 and 2012, for generating the largest volume of persisting, proprietary individual annual premium business over the past five calendar years.
In 2012, David was honored as an outstanding advisor by NAIFA’s magazine, Advisor Today and was one of four professionals selected for the magazine’s “Four under Forty” award. In addition, he was invited to join the NAIFA Member Benefits Committee, and to serve as a “Four under Forty” judge in 2014.
In 2010-2011, David served as the president of the Executive Committee of Guardian’s Leader’s Club, acting as the senior appointed representative for Guardian’s 3,200-member national sales force. In addition, he consistently earns recognition as a top-ranked leader and innovator on Guardian’s team of financial representatives. Remarkably, David is self-taught, having learned far more from personal experience than many ever learn in a classroom.
“David’s approach to the business is very unique,” says Mark Murphy, president of the AALU. “His personal commitment, attention to detail and comprehensive 360-degree package of financial services stands out in our industry.”
JERRY MANNING, founder & president, J. Manning & Associates
As the founder and president of a national independent insurance brokerage and consulting firm specializing in LTCI, Manning has marshaled the implementation of more than 300 employer-sponsored LTC programs and has also received numerous AALTCI sales achievement awards. At only 35, Manning is one of the largest producers of LTCI.