Congratulations to Bill Pragalz, named Rising Star by Employee Benefit Adviser

Congratulations to Bill Pragalz, named 2016 Rising Star by Employee Benefit Adviser.

There’s a lot of talk among preceding generations about how millennials — now the largest employed population in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau — are impacting the workplace. But employers don’t often hear from the youngest working generation themselves. EBA’s 2016 Rising Stars in Advising — 10 industry standouts age 24-34 — are incorporating that valuable firsthand perspective into their role as benefit advisers, and changing the scope of the profession in the process.

“The value of a new perspective cannot be overstated,” says Scott Brown, 34, managing director, healthcare at Accenture in Chicago. “Every new generation brings new ideas to solving challenges and innovative approaches to deliver value to their clients. This could include introducing new employee engagement methods, network management designs, or private benefit exchange solutions.”

Because of young advisers, the way the average healthcare consumer interacts with their benefits is changing, says Annie Durkin, director of sales & business development at benefitsContinuum, Inc., in New York City. “Accessing care with ease and being able to interpret benefits information has become increasingly important as individuals are assuming more costs and responsibilities associated with their coverage,” says Durkin, 24. “The next generation of benefit advisers has already begun to welcome and incorporate new technology into the benefits landscape like never before.”

An adviser who’s been in the field for 20, 30 years has “spent many years in an industry without a ton of change” and made high commissions for less work, says Taylor. “In today’s environment, young producers that come in only know this chaotic, aggressively changing environment we find ourselves in today. I feel this gives them an edge over the seasoned competition.”

Not all employers are easily open to a new perspective. “I think the biggest challenge we face as young advisers is asking businesses to change the status quo,” says Bill Pragalz, principal partner and consultant at 360 Benefits LLC in Chicago.

“The benefits industry is increasing in complexities and costs, yet many businesses today still manage their benefits inefficiently. Because of that, I get excited about the opportunity to help. But as a young adviser, I also get frustrated when I see businesses out there accepting mediocrity (status quo),” says Pragalz. “I think this happens because it’s easy and because they fear change, or because they are just comfortable with their current broker relationship.”

It’s natural that with change comes fear, says Grindem, and a young adviser can be seen as a risk. But “In reality the opposite is true,” he says. “To build a business for the future, you always need to be looking forward. The needs of benefits program 10, 15, 20 years down the road are best understood by those of us is position to be there at that time.”

It’s easy to get absorbed in language of “doom and gloom,” but those who understand the business and know what they bring to it will continue to succeed, says Taylor. “As an adviser, you should constantly ask yourself, what value do you bring? If you don’t have a good answer, you better go back to the drawing board and define what that is.”

The immediate impact and relevance of the job excites Pragalz. “Our job is extremely relevant and important. Our industry is always in the news, whether it’s about legislation, healthcare technology, or news about carriers and hospitals,” he says.

And it is always innovating. “I really enjoy learning about new and viable services and ideas that can help my clients,” Pragalz adds. “There are many great companies out there developing new technologies to help our industry become more efficient and provide a better benefit experience for employees.”

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