Kerry Finnegan is the current chair of the Council of Employee Benefits Executives (CEBE) Advisory Committee. We sat down with him to get his take on the commercial insurance market and what to expect at this year’s Employee Benefits Leadership Forum.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing employee benefits brokers and consultants right now? How has CEBE addressed those challenges?
Effectively managing costs and the potential of huge variability of those costs is certainly the number-one challenge. And while there are a number of strategies in play through carrier partners and new entrants, a second challenge is remaining fully aware of all these solutions to verify the outcomes our clients seek. The Council, with guidance from CEBE, continues to evolve EBLF to reflect this quickly changing ecosystem and to support ways to access and leverage data to support engagement and outcomes.

EBLF is 18 years old. How is this year’s meeting different from years past?
One great thing to note is that EBLF is bigger than ever—both in terms of individual attendees and sponsors. While the talk of “total rewards” is not new, this year’s attendees and agenda truly demonstrate the convergence of life, disability, medical and ancillary benefits to reach an increasingly diverse constituency across generations, gender and race through simple, intuitive and digitally-enabled approaches. This will form a strong platform for clients as they prepare employees for the work of the future.

What do you hope attendees take away from EBLF?
One thing would be recognition of how The Council can support them in a variety of ways throughout the year, not just at EBLF. Also, that government relations is a 365-day a year effort with even more importance during an election year. Joel Wood, Joel Kopperud, Blaire Bartlett and Brittany Lindberg do a fantastic job, of course, but we shouldn’t assume that means we don’t need to be actively involved—and as appropriate, involve our clients.

What are two things attendees shouldn’t miss while here at the meeting?
We have some amazing speakers and panelists this year who are discussing topics of high importance to our industry, and some of those will require follow-up action. With our focus on the voice of the client this year, and the extraordinary efforts employers continue to apply in delivering benefits for their employees, the panel of employers during the first General Session will be highly informative. It includes Sally Welborn, formerly of Walmart Global Benefits.