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Julie Veltus is a double threat. As the CEO of Veltus Financial Services, she is CEO and business owner, but the honoree in EBA’s 2017 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising prefers the titles “employee benefits consultant” and “financial adviser.”

This wasn’t always her remit. She started out in employee benefits, following the lead of her father who originally ran the Mt. Pleasant, Wis., business until he hired her away from SG Johnson Wax in 1997. Before his death in in 2001, she not only broadened her father’s focus from small businesses with 2 to 99 employees to firms that have 100 to 1,000 employees, she also added financial and retirement service to her employee benefits portfolio.

“When I started, I just did benefits and business owners would ask me, ‘Can you handle our retirement plan too?,’” she recalls. She decided to obtain her securities license so that she could be a financial adviser.

“It made sense — why have two separate people do this? Once I started offering both services, I realized clients were looking for a holistic approach,” she recalls. “They didn’t want silos with separate people.”

This was a defining moment for Veltus, who eventually became a career agent for Mass Mutual. She noticed that her clients failed to realize that employee benefits and financial advising were closely related. “Once you tell [small business CFOs] that if their employees aren't ready to retire, that's going to affect their healthcare claims in the future. That was a lightbulb moment.”

To select this year’s Most Influential Women 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.

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Up until a year ago, Veltus says 75% of her business was employee benefits and “25% is everything else,” but by working with MassMutual’s integrated exchange of employee benefits, she is offering a wider array of services.

“Mass Mutual didn't really have a lot of products that I could sell on the employee benefits side, but now that they do, and they have the group, whole life, critical illness and accident insurance — they are a better fit for me,” she says.

She says she is known as “the employee benefits guru” inside Mass Mutual and advisers often reach out to her.

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“It might be something where a financial adviser has an individual client whose spouse has passed away and they have all their COBRA papers sitting there. As a financial adviser, they are asked if they have any recommendation and they say, ‘Let me get someone on the phone’ and they call me,” she says.

“They put me on speaker and I just explain the scenario that they are in and what their options are, and we get some [plans] together. It works so well for these advisers because they know they can get help from me,” she says.

Her clients are looking for simplified solutions for their employees. With what Veltus calls a “holistic approach to benefits,” she concentrates on four areas of customer service: identify and mitigate risk; control costs; communication and financial education; and technology via Mass Mutual’s Integrated Exchange.

In an effort to make it simpler for employees to choose insurance and retirement plans, Veltus creates custom offerings.

“That's why I concentrate on those four areas, like “this is where you have all your risk and this is what's going wrong right now. This is what I can do to control your cost,”” she says. Veltus says she focuses on areas that employers continue to struggle with: employee benefit communication and the financial education for the employees.

“I go in every month and conduct financial seminars for their employees to educate them and they can pick the subjects, [like] it might be Medicare” she says. After this, Veltus then packages the offerings with the online enrollment and communications technology, such as an app on employee’s smartphone that houses their medical and dental insurance ID.

“That helps reduce the HR burden. They're [saying], ‘We are so sick of this paperwork and this difficult process,’” she says.

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Financial wellness Practice management Advisor strategies Retirement planning Top Women in Benefit Advising