Nominations for the National Underwriter Industry Elite Awards grow stronger each year. They are a who’s who of the best and brightest in the categories of market innovation, industry awareness, community outreach and best rising star. Our winners and honorable mentions this year stand out for their leadership, drive and brilliance that only the Industry Elites can offer. It was an especially difficult selection process, as each and every entry stood with great merit. But alas, only one can be chosen. With that, we present to you the 2015 National Underwriter Industry Elite Awards.
View last year’s winners: The 2014 NUL Industry Elite Awards
President, The Corporation for Social Security Claiming Strategies
Returning to the workforce after taking 10 years off to focus on raising the first four of her five children, former labor and employment attorney Cheryl Robertson earned her insurance and securities licenses to become a financial services professional and partner at Commonwealth Financial, a MassMutual general agency located in Boston.
Immersing herself in that realm and working almost exclusively with current and prospective retirees, she quickly realized that the vast majority of those with whom she met lacked the proper information, advice and resources for one of the most critical issues regarding their financial future: when and how to claim their Social Security retirement benefits.
Once Cheryl learned nearly 10,000 baby boomers were retiring each and every day — all of whom could benefit greatly by working with advisors that possessed Social Security retirement benefits expertise — she embarked on the course to create that which was to become the Corporation for Social Security Claiming Strategies (CSSCS).
Cheryl’s company is an outgrowth of the cottage marketing industry that has sprung up in recent years thanks to the new filing strategies made available as part of the Senior Citizens Freedom to Work Act, passed into law in 2001. In 2015, CSSCS engineered itself to provide financial professionals with the expertise needed to help the boomer generation plot the course to a better retirement.
The only comprehensive retirement training organization in the financial services industry focused exclusively on educating professionals on the nuances of Social Security retirement planning, the organization creates and provides a training course on Social Security retirement benefits and claiming strategies and provides advisors with the opportunity to sit for a comprehensive exam that, if completed successfully, will provide them with the Certified in Social Security Claiming Strategies designation.
“Her course teaches advisors to help their clients avoid the devastating consequences of making poor decisions about, quite possibly, their greatest retirement asset: Social Security,” said Andrew Wood, Director of Marketing at the Social Security Optimization Network.
HONORABLE MENTION: MITCHELL CAPLAN, CEO OF JEFFERSON NATIONAL
Caplan played a leading role in creating Jefferson National’s Monument Advisor, the first flat-fee, no-load Investment-Only Variable Annuity (IOVA) — unique for its low cost, the largest selection of funds, and proprietary portfolio management and trading technology. Designed for sophisticated investing and holistic wealth management, the IOVA supports new approaches to asset location, legacy planning, volatility management and retirement income — helping advisors create more tax-alpha and helping their clients build more wealth.
Image credit: Shawn G. Henry Photography
Jerald L. Tillman
Owner and founder, National African American Insurance Association
Jerald L. Tillman is Founder of the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA). In an effort to give back to the industry and increase the numbers of minorities within it, he created NAAIA in 1997. Professional development is also a high-priority goal of this association, which has expanded to 14 chapters throughout the United States. NAAIA has collaborated with many industry associations and corporations over its 18-year history on providing forums for recruiting talent, professional development and networking opportunities.
Through the NAAIA, Tillman was driven to educate others — especially youth — on the many career opportunities there are within the insurance industry. The NAAIA JL Tillman Scholarship Fund was created to promote higher educational opportunities for students interested in careers in insurance.
Tillman also set out to build and sustain strong careers by being a support group for African American professionals and business owners in the insurance business who go on to become visible role models and success models in the communities in which they live. Tillman continues to build NAAIA chapters in multiples cities (currently in 13 cities) throughout the United States to focus on education and careers, and also to organize annual local community service projects.
But of all his accomplishments, he is most proud of this effort to give back to the industry. Tillman noted it was not just him but a unified “team” of people made up of all races, creeds and religions that came together over the last 20 years for this unique cause.
“Jerald is a visionary,” said Margaret N. Redd, NAAIA national executive director. “His recognition of the need, the possibilities and the intrinsic value of NAAIA in the early years of his career led to the formation of this country’s largest organization dedicated to expanding business and career growth for African American insurance professionals. He is a committed professional, humble in spirit and fearless in his efforts to drive meaningful change — in and out of the industry.”
HONORABLE MENTION: DR. BOB POKORSKI, VICE PRESIDENT AND MEDICAL DIRECTOR, PRUDENTIAL INDIVIDUAL LIFE INSURANCE
Pokorski has made more than 600 presentations to audiences worldwide on the topic of possible health issues and their related expenses that individuals need to consider in retirement. He is an expert on longevity and works to raise the awareness of issues surrounding health costs in retirement and ensuring these conversations take place when advisors meet with their clients.
Image credit: Jonathan Robert Willis Photography