Growing the female broker force
For over a decade, Susan L. Combs, partner at The Capacity Group, an EPIC company, has been a leading example in the employee benefits market. From serving as the youngest national president of Women in Insurance & Financial Services in the 81 year history of the organization, to helping forge the national advocacy relationship between WIFS and NAIFA, Combs continues to push her achievements forward—including being selected as one of EBA’s 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising.
To select this year’s honorees, EBA editors asked readers to submit the names of thought leaders who are making their mark on the benefit business through their unique approaches to client relations, benefits technology and/or mentoring other women. From the dozens of submissions received, the editors chose 30 benefit advisers to recognize for their outstanding achievements.
“Susan is an advocate for women in our industry,” says Andrea Racanelli, marketing communications manager at The Capacity Group. “She has spoken all across the country on how to attract more women to our industry. That seems to sit at right around 14% in our field.”
As an instrumental piece of overseeing the development of the National Mentorship Program that WIFS offers to their membership, Combs works with national directors in developing the curriculum and process that is still in place today. “It is the only industry mentorship program that matches women in the insurance industry all across the country based on personality testing and goals,” Racanelli says.
Combs consults with carriers on how to make their environments women- and millennial-friendly to create a successful workforce and keep them on task. Robert Salem, president of The Capacity Group, says she has been a valuable resource and contributor to the team in this endeavor.
“She understands the market and makes it a point to serve as a partner and mentor to those around her and within the benefits community,” Salem says.
One of Combs’ biggest struggles starting out was the need to take everyone on as a client and not having the option to be selective, due to financial reasons. “She has mentored a lot on this and encouraged women to have greater confidence sooner rather than later,” Racanelli says. “Once you realize that the client needs you more than you need them that confidence will shine through.”
What makes Combs such a dominate force in the benefits space is her ability to be 100% mobile. She has allowed her staff to have the flexibility of working remotely or in the office as they see fit. “It allows the mothers of the office to have a happy home life and be able to be involved in their school programs as well,” Racanelli says.
Combs’ team considers her to be a driven and enthusiastic self-starter with a thirst for knowledge and sharing. She takes pride in helping other to learn about the business and acts as a mentor to those around her.
“It is a difficult dance to do, but knowing the types of clients that will make your work environment a happy one for the entire staff is crucial in preserving your corporate culture,” Racanelli says.