Reaping the "benefits" of life at an insurance brokerage

How one executive has found his true passion

Reaping the "benefits" of life at an insurance brokerage



Beginning his career in sales and marketing, Sam Odishoo (pictured) never really imagined his future lay in benefits and client relations. Now, as SVP of employee benefits at USI Insurance Services, he’s never looked back.

However, Odishoo told IB that when he left school he wasn’t entirely certain what he wanted to do. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from DePaul University, he initially wanted to go into advertising, following his creative passions. But sales soon resonated more with the young grad.

“I started out with a Fortune 500 insurance carrier,” said Odishoo. “Here I learned a lot about individual products - it was nice to give me an overall landscape from the carrier side in terms of how the business operates. I spent two and a half years there and was fortunate enough to be one of their top producers in the Chicago metro region for two years running as a rookie producer. But ultimately, I desired to be more of a student of the industry - really wanting to dig into how the broker landscape connects to the employer group landscape and connects to the carrier landscape.”

Odishoo took this Jack of All Trades approach and ran with it, fast moving over to the broker side of the business. However, he cited his move to USI as the number one catalyst in his career.

“I had worked with more small, family-owned insurance consultancies, learning a lot [about] different areas of the brokerage side of the house - whether it be carrier relations, account management, producer leadership, a little bit of everything. However, I realized what I really wanted to do, what I was most passionate about, was working directly with clients. [I wanted to] help be that crucial advocate for them and their employees.”

What really resonated with Odishoo about USI in particular was its distinctively disrupter-led approach. Over the years, he’d become extremely studious in terms of healthcare and industry trends - earning both his CEBS and PHR designations. And that landscape scared him.

“I realized that this was going to become a very touchy and problematic item for employers,” he told IB. “Whether it be middle market employers or large group sector employers, the inflation in health care and the misaligned financial incentives that are wrought in our industry are really starting to plague employer clients – and trickle down to their employees.

“I wanted to be part of an active change agent to advocate for my employer clients, their employees and their families. And so moving to USI was perfect for me.”

Unsustainable costs

The passion for disruption is something that could define success in today’s rapidly changing benefits market – especially with increasing costs and employees already struggling amid a cost-of-living crisis.

“Insurance used to be table stakes,” Odishoo told IB. “[Employers] threw it out there and gave employees the freedom to see any doctor and provider that they wanted with no guidance. But with the healthcare trend rate increasing at such an alarming speed year over year, those costs are becoming unsustainable for the average employer. That unsustainability is trickling down to their employees.

“There’s this dynamic where health insurance is important, obviously – it’s mandated for applicable large employers but it’s becoming a pain point for so many groups, the affordability aspect of it. Employers want to provide great benefits, they want their employees to engage with those benefits, but when they do it becomes even more cost prohibitive for them to offer a great benefits program.”

And the data’s there to back up Odishoo’s concerns. According to research by WTW, employers believe that costs will be the top challenge in benefits budgets in the coming years, with 36% expressing concerns around the economic environment.

So what’s to be done? Odishoo believes that employers are the ones who’re taking the time to educate their people on the ways and means to maximize their current programs.

“Employees need to have some skin in the game in terms of how they’re utilizing the healthcare benefits that they’re providing. A big piece of that is education, which ties in directly with technology. Employers that are using a multimedia communication approach to educate their employees on the benefits that are being provided, helping them find solutions every year to better access to that care at a better price – they’re the ones that’re getting ahead.”

“I’m a fervent supporter of the insurance business - I always will be. I think our industry as a whole has a lot of improvements that can be made financially, administratively, across the board – but the insurance business has changed my life in a very positive way. I truly believe that if you are working hard, treating people the right way and operating from a perspective of honesty, that the sky’s the limit.”

Treating people with kindness

This belief in treating people with kindness doesn’t just emanate from Odishoo’s professional life, he’s passionate about helping the community as a whole. Living near a neighborhood in North Chicago, Odishoo’s family runs a mentorship group for underprivileged young men called Brothers United – and helps operate a community center called The Mosaic Hub through Mosaic House Ministries.

“I like to try to put other people first.  My nights and weekends spent in mentorship and ministry capacities are when I feel that I’m living out my true purpose.  What I’m able to do in my professional life through USI and through the insurance business is providing me the opportunity to better serve my community. And for me, that’s what it’s all about.”

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