Written by Sam Del Rowe of Employee Benefits News and Employee Benefits Adviser
For adviser Kieran Pittman, going above and beyond in her communication strategy makes the difference with clients, and has helped launch her to the top of her industry, as the director of strategic growth at BeniComp Health Solutions.
In a key meeting where she and broker Dennis Hartin were negotiating a deal with a new client, a charter school in Florida, the duo faced reluctance from top level executives. While Hartin was preoccupied with addressing concerns from the top HR executive, Pittman engaged directly with the CEO.
“She walked around the desk, sat down next to him and showed him where the math adds up,” says Hartin, president and CEO of Hartin Dynamics. “As an organization, there was $10,000 worth of fixed cost savings and potentially $100,000 to $200,000 in claim savings over the next year. That’s a huge win.”
Pittman, who is one of Employee Benefit Adviser’s Top Women in Benefit Advising for 2020, says she was not always so confident with clients.
“My role is not to influence someone to a certain decision — it is to deliver all of the pertinent aspects that will empower the business leader to make their best decision. This approach has taken practice and constant evaluation, then doing it again, but doing it better every time,” she says.
Pittman wanted to combine her passion for technology and health sciences, but it took her 12 years and several roles at four different organizations before she landed her current position. Before arriving at BeniComp, she worked as a territory manager for garbage and recycling company Waste Management, and then as a sales representative for HR technology provider Paycom.
While these roles made Pittman a skillful salesperson, she didn’t want to abandon her passion for health science.
“The health and science component was something that I always missed in my work,” she says.
In 2016, Pittman finally found her chance to bring together her skill for sales and technology with her knowledge of healthcare when she was offered a position at BeniComp, a health insurance technology provider in 2016. She says it was “the opportunity of a lifetime” for her.
“It was not until the opportunity with BeniComp that I was able to combine my two passions: technology in business and health science,” she says. “My experience leading up to this company prepared me by teaching me how to grow a business, understanding how decisions are made and the impact of technology on business. That has given my passion some power.”
As director of strategic growth at BeniComp, Pittman draws upon her sales experience to provide clients with health solutions aimed at increasing value for employees while reducing costs for employers. Yet the transition to BeniComp presented her with new challenges.
“I knew technology and I knew health, those are my two strengths, but I did not know insurance. There are so many acronyms in the industry that it was almost as if I was listening to a foreign language,” she says. “At first it was intimidating, but what I realized was that there are a ton of ways to get myself educated and up to speed very quickly.”
To close that knowledge gap, Pittman reached out to industry experts and researched on her own. Going through this learning process has changed how she advises.
“It was my mindset, not my knowledge, that helped me through this learning curve. I had to humble myself and ask exhaustive amounts of questions and learn from people that have made mistakes and were willing to tell me how to not make those same mistakes,” she says.
Pittman is determined to provide her clients with as much information and transparency as possible at the start, says BeniComp Health Solutions digital operations and marketing specialist Francisco Oller Garcia.
“She's always focused on giving as much information on the front end by creating packets, brochures and different materials so that the employer feels comfortable going into a meeting and understanding what the conversation is going to be based on,” he says. “That’s the first step, personalizing the interactions that she has with the client. Then she follows that up by asking them if they have questions or if there's anything she can do.”
Garcia credits Pittman’s advising approach to his own success in the field. This year, he was recognized as one of Employee Benefit Adviser’s 2020 Rising Stars.
“I attribute that to her leadership, to the lessons that she has taught me by having open communication and striving to create an organization and a division that is collaborative and that is focused on the development of the people within it,” he says.
While the industry has faced challenges adapting to needs presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pittman says it “would be a mistake” for companies to just maintain the status quo with their health plans. Instead, organizations should see this as an opportunity to make their health plans more efficient and beneficial.
“Business owners are saying, let’s take this as an opportunity to look at it in terms of what we want to create instead of just making reactive decisions, because now is the chance to do that,” she says. “CEOs and CFOs realize that there's a lot that can be done to protect their workforce, to give their employees the best opportunity to fight off something like this virus or something that comes down the line in the future.”
Like her clients, Pittman knows there’s more for her to learn from this crisis, and as she continues on the road as an adviser.
“I am not through to the other side of the learning curve; I will consistently learn something every day,” Pittman says. “It is the same mindset of being humble and hungry that helps me continue to build my knowledge base and I feel that is so important to being an adviser.”