When Jim Powell was growing up in Missoula, Montana, he has clear memories of his father’s work as an employee benefits broker. While much of it didn’t interest him initially, one experience made an impression: accompanying his father while he delivered a life insurance check to a grieving family.
“It was something my dad really didn’t have to do,” Powell recalled. “The insurance company could have mailed the check directly or had it overnighted. But he was just a very personal individual and he wanted to make sure his client’s family was cared for. That left a pretty significant impact”
Later, when Powell was looking for a first job after finishing his business administration degree at the University of Montana, he remembered his father’s moving example and asked him for introductions in the industry.
In 1981, he joined what was then Great West Life in Seattle, eventually moving to Tampa, Florida with the company. Seven years later, he moved over to the brokerage side with Arthur J. Gallagher
“I moved my way up the ranks, doing some regional work in Louisiana,” Powell said. “Then, I decided I wanted to be in a consultant role rather than management and asked to be able to handle existing clients and find new ones.”
Powell’s commitment to customer care then took him to Hilb Rogal & Hobbs, which was later acquired by Willis. He recently joined Alliant, where he works as First Vice President over employee benefits in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region.
Over the years, he’s had the chance to work with a variety of outlets, including those in the public, private and educational spaces. While each requires its own unique approach, Powell says he enjoys the opportunity to be become a trusted business advisor to each.
“I would contrast this versus the majority of my competitors that are more insurance product salespeople, selling employers a particular product rather than learning about the employer and bringing a solution that is better for them than for the insurance broker,” he said.
It’s this commitment to customer care that made the industry transition under the Affordable Care Act an exciting opportunity for him. While Powell admits to doing “more hours of work for each and every client,” he has risen to the challenge of understanding the law, spending more time with in-house counsel and advising clients on regulatory compliance requirements.
“It’s a whole new discipline – almost like we’ve become attorneys to our clients as well as brokers,” he said.
And every day is a new opportunity to learn.
“I love that every client is so unique and different, and finding out what is important to them and how they want to be treated is great,” said Powell. “There’s no cookie cutter approach to this, and that personal element is what I find so rewarding.”
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