Today, Joanne Tran ’04 (marketing and economics) is vice president and senior benefits consultant for Newport Beach-based EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants. Her career in the employee benefits field began 17 years ago when she was introduced to the field by her father, who was working on the technology side of the industry.
Tran discusses her career path, what it takes to succeed in the employee benefits field, her Titan experience, and why and how professionals can maximize their LinkedIn usage.
You are an employee benefits consultant with experience in the health and welfare insurance industry. What drew you to this field? What do you find rewarding about it?
Like any college graduate, it was my first job out of college. I knew I was stepping into insurance, but at the same time, I didn’t quite understand what I was getting into.
As I immersed myself in the industry, I quickly realized it was a profession with an impact far greater than just placing quoting and placing coverage. It’s about strategizing with companies to create what I believe is one of the most important benefits for their employees: access to quality health care.
Health care is one of the biggest expenses in our nation, and at the same time, very personal to each individual. There is a human component to these decisions, and every individual is impacted by the health program designed by their employer (assuming they choose to elect coverage with their employer).
My role in this process is multi-faceted. It begins with an understanding of the employer’s workforce, what’s most important to its people, and tailoring a program that meets the needs of the business and the individuals and dependents connected to it. The programs we design impact the lives of the company’s employees and their loved ones, and it is a privilege and responsibility we approach with a great duty of care. In that process, I am called upon to leverage my critical thinking skills and negotiating ability to create the ideal solution for each employer. Over the course of my career, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work across a wide array of companies and industries, and that has provided me with the unique perspective I bring to my work with clients each day.
What I find most rewarding are my clients. The relationships that are created and fostered are the best part of my job. It’s beyond advising about health coverage since there is a high level of trust and partnership. My clients rely on me to execute their vision, and to provide cost effective benefit solutions that support the company’s overall mission. Finding the winning combination for each company and its’ employees is something that makes this career so fulfilling.
Your career in the benefits space dates from 2004, and has included roles at Wells Fargo, Alliant, Integro and now EPIC. Please tell us a little about your career trajectory. What have been some of the highlights? Where do you see yourself in the future?
Every role provides new responsibilities, new challenges and new opportunities. Each step has been an important building block in my career, and I continue to learn and grow each year. Our industry is ever changing and there is always something new to be learned.
Highlights have included working with clients to successfully navigate a seemingly never -ending changes in the regulatory environment. From the Affordable Care act, the CARES Act, and most recently the Consolidated Appropriations Act, employers are called upon to adapt to a changing regulatory landscape. An important part of our work is educating our clients on these changes, and designing strategies to help them thrive no matter what changes occur from a regulatory or compliance perspective.
We are also highly attuned to new benefit challenges that employers are facing. And as we work through pandemic-related adjustments in the workplace, one of the new pressing issues across every industry is mental health. I work with companies every day to create a holistic strategy that integrates physical and mental health, and it’s an important component of every strategy discussion we have with clients today.
Employee benefits, especially health-related, are top of mind in the business world of today, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. What should every entrepreneur or business professional know about health benefits?
In many ways, the pandemic has brought employee benefits to the forefront for corporate leaders and entrepreneurs. The challenges are multi-faceted: return to work strategies, the need to attract and retain key employees, and the economic realities of offering access to quality healthcare in a program that fits the needs of the business and its people.
The need for a strong employee benefit advisor has never been greater. Your advisor should be up to date with market trends, able to access unique markets, abreast of new compliance regulations, and knowledgeable in all facets of employee benefits.
Your advisor should be collaborative, and provide a strategic roadmap that fits with your companies’ needs and culture. Lastly, communication, communication, communication!
It’s important for companies to adequately communicate their benefit offerings to their workforce so employees have every opportunity to understand the benefit and value of the programs that are available to them.
Looking back at your student days at Cal State Fullerton’s business college, what were the high points of your Titan experience? How does it continue to impact your career?
CSUF has created a strong framework within their business class. What really helped me the most were the soft skills that I acquired in my business classes, such as working in teams, creating presentations, collaborating with different students and learning the fundamentals of business writing.
As I reflect, I find myself using those learned skillsets every day. Cal State Fullerton has done a great job implementing real-life situations in their business classes. To today’s students and recent alumni, I advise them to work hard and never give up, good things will happen to you. Persistence is key.
You are a LinkedIn Premium user with more than 500 connections. What do you like best about LinkedIn? Why should today’s professionals use it?
I gravitated to LinkedIn because it’s a dynamic platform for professionals. I like that you have the ability to connect to a broad spectrum of people with diversified business backgrounds, including my fellow alumni. LinkedIn plays a key role in that it allows me to broaden my network and provides me with a platform that I can personally share relevant industry information and also learn from others. In today’s world everyone should be using LinkedIn because it’s easy and intuitive platform that provides information, new opportunities, and the ability to stay connected in a professional setting.