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A PERSONAL TOUCH: Beth Robertson.

When Beth Robertson was beginning her career, she had a supervisor who was hard to please. "I would send her my reports, and everything I wrote, she would mark it up with a red pen and send it back--everything! That experience was pivotal, because it taught me how to communicate well," she says.

Those communication skills have helped Robertson, who works in the D.C. area, become a top producer at New York-based brokerage NFR Robertson says the company prides itself on its personal touch. "Our model is a little bit different," she says. "We're very client-focused. NFP has acquired many smaller firms, but we tend to maintain each office and the culture of the office that was with the original organization."

Robertson's clients range from companies with 100 employees to 5,000 employees, and two-thirds are self-funded. "I try to ensure that every client is receiving the exact same level of service, the same level of thoughtful strategy, from me and my team," she says. "I believe that because the benefit spend is usually number two or three for most companies, every organization has to put thought behind their strategies."

A NEW ERA

Robertson says the market has settled down a bit from the early days of the ACA, when everyone worried about being compliant with new health care reforms. Today's employers, she adds, are much more focused on attracting and retaining employees. "Businesses are fighting for talent," she notes. "So the employers are always trying to make sure they're offering the best benefits."

The fight for talent has led companies to become more creative and embrace disruption, Robertson adds. "Employers are becoming more and more savvy. A lot of that is because of the great brokers and consultants out there. There's just much more creativity coming from all facets of health care, and that's driving the market."

This shift toward embracing change has not come naturally for all, Robertson notes. But she sees it as essential to helping companies truly tackle benefit issues. "If you don't have a client that is willing to embrace disruption, you're not going to be able to do very much for them," she says. "One of the first things I ask a client is 'What is your approach to disruption?' I tell them we need to rip the Band-Aid off, and I ask them to consider whether it's possible to make sweeping changes without some sort of disruption."

IT COMES BACK TO COMMUNICATION

Robertson says she believes her ability to communicate, and to tailor communications to the audience she's talking to, is her strongest skill. With insurance, she adds, it's important to adopt an approach that is more fun for clients. "I love to laugh," she says. "It doesn't matter how I'm communicating, I'm always trying to make sure it's crisp and clear. And I always bring some humor to the situation; that's just who I am."

Finally, she says it's important to get out from behind the desk and meet face to face. She says that personal interaction is a great way to learn. "In my career, I don't aspire to be the president, or CEO; my first love is consulting," Robertson says. "I've been down the management path, but I always come back to consulting. My happiest days are the ones I spend with clients."

PHOTOGRAPHY BY PATRICE GILBERT

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Title Annotation:2018 BROKER OF THE YEAR finalist
Publication:Benefits PRO
Date:Apr 1, 2018
Words:558
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