Meet the Speakers

Sharing best practices is at the core of GAMA’s mission of building leaders. Our Speakers' Bureau offers the industry’s top-performing field leaders sharing their best strategies for building distribution.

Each PMG company is awarded annually one Speakers' Bureau voucher. Take advantage of our extensive list of speakers, who will waive their usual fee when you book them through GAMA and use your voucher. Host organizations are responsible for the speakers’ reasonable travel expenses.

Because our speakers receive many invitations to speak at industry events, please submit speaking requests a minimum of 90 days before the event.

Aamir Chalisa

Aamir Chalisa

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Title Managing Director

Company: Futurity First Insurance Group (FFIG)

Location: Naperville, Ilinois

Aamir Chalisa is currently a Managing Director at the Oak Brook, IL branch for Futurity First Insurance Group (FFIG). He leads this branch with 40 agents and was the number 2 branch at Futurity in 2015 with over $2.5 Million in GDC. He joined this Company in a Sales Vice President role managing 6 branches for FFIG. Prior to this he was a Vice president of market development and diversity for Nationwide Financial Network (NFN), the affiliated retail distribution business of Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. (NYSE:NFS). He was responsible for attracting qualified sales representatives and for enhancing Nationwide’s diverse markets presence.

Aamir has 25 years of experience with a successful track record of growing diversity in corporate America. At Nationwide, he played a critical role in growing the field sales force through various recruiting programs, working closely with management and with the company’s Multicultural Marketing team to increase Nationwide’s presence in diverse markets.

Prior to joining Nationwide, Aamir was in sales and management positions with Met Life, Prudential and Mony/AXA. With each company, he was responsible for developing and managing an experienced diverse field force while increasing the business presence in the local Chicago Land communities.

His responsibilities also included marketing, advertising and recruiting activities for all diverse segments. He played a critical role in supporting and developing one of the largest and most diverse Met Life agencies in the Chicago area.

Aamir is active in many diverse communities and spends many hours promoting diversity. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences on marketing and diversity. He spoke at the GNP manager’s conference in Mexico City on Recruiting & Retention and also attended GAMA day in Manila in 2015.

Aamir is the Immediate Past President and VP of the FBI Chicago Citizens Academy Alumni Association; Board member of the Founders Council of the FBI National Citizens Academy Alumni Association and is active in many other community-based organizations. He represents his community on the Chicago Roundtable which is a group of individuals that help many Governmental Organizations learn about challenges in their communities. This is organized under the Department of Homeland Security and is represented by many Agencies such as FBI, TSA, USCIS, CBP, ICE, FEMA, US Attorney Generals office etc.

Aamir has won many sales and management awards throughout his career and qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) three times. Aamir is also on the Membership Committee of GAMA International and has attended GAMA’s LAMP conferences for the last 23 years. In 2015 he was appointed to the Board of Directors at GAMA to head up the India Task Force and also was named GAMA volunteer of the year. He has received GAMA’s first in class award twice in his career. He won GAMA awards in 2013, 2014 & 2015. He has also attended MDRT and LIMRA Conferences many times. He currently also serves on the NAIFA National 20/20 task force.

Aamir earned his undergraduate degree in Finance/Marketing and an MBA in Finance from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Aamir lives in Naperville, IL with his wife Nuzhat who is an Endocrinologist and has 2 children Farah and Amaan. His hobby is travelling and he has travelled the world.

Athan Vorilas

Athan Vorilas, CLU, CMFC, CLTC


Title: CEO/President

Company: John Hancock

Location: Jericho, New York

Athan continues to build his personal practice with a focus on wealth management and estate planning strategies and is a qualifying member of MDRT, the premier association of financial professionals. His desire for helping his clients “light their way to a secure financial future” is evidenced by the time he spends understanding his clients’ challenges, needs and desires.

Athan’s passion for involvement in community includes playing a role in upgrading the athletic fields in his community as well as running the “Bikes for Kids” charity event for the Children’s Aid Society, which has provided over 175 bicycles to underprivileged children in New York City. In 2012, Long Island Business News named him “50 around 50” business people to watch.

Mr. Vorilas is a graduate of Hofstra University where he earned a BBA in Finance and currently serves on the Frank G. Zarb School of Business Advisory Board. He resides in West Islip, NY with his wife and two children where he is actively involved in the community, including serving on the Executive Board of St. Nicholas Hellenic Community in Babylon, NY.

Daralee Barbera

Daralee Barbera, MEd, DFP, CMFC, ChFC, CLF


Title Executive Vice President of Business Development

Company: GAMA International

Location: Manhattan Beach, California

Appointed April 2017, Daralee Barbera is the Executive Vice President of Business Development of GAMA International. GAMA provides leadership development solutions globally for financial services leadership.

With more than three decades of experience in the financial services profession, she joined Waddell and Reed in 1982 as a personal financial advisor, became a manager four years later, remaining in leadership as a Managing Principal until her early retirement from Waddell and Reed in 2016.

Daralee served as 2014-2015 President of the GAMA International Board of Directors. She serves on The American College Board of Trustees, as well as on the Board of Advisors of the Northwestern Mutual Granum Center for Financial Security at The American College. She is Chairman Emeritus of the Orange County Chapter of the FPA (Financial Planning Association), which is formerly the IAFP (International Association of Financial Planning). She is also a member of NAIFA (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors), and WIFS (Women in Insurance and Financial Services).

Daralee holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics (summa cum laude), as well as a master of arts in secondary education from California State University, Long Beach. She is presently a doctoral student in Leadership and Organizational Change at the University of Southern California.

Daralee was awarded the “2013-2014 Woman of the Year” for WIFS (Women in Insurance and Financial Services). In 2013, she was also named by Life Health Pro as one of the “20 Women in Insurance You Need to Know.”

Daralee has been featured in the GAMA International Journal, GAMA’s “Best Ideas” series, National Underwriter, Life Health Pro, Advisor Today, The Wall Street Journal, Business Wire, Yahoo Finance, MarketWatch, The Wealth Channel, World News, International Business Times, Orange County Register, The Buffalo News, California Broker, Financial Planning, Investment News, and KPPC and KNX Radio in Los Angeles.

Daralee is a member of GAMA International’s Speakers Bureau and is a frequently requested guest speaker for both domestic and international audiences.

She has co-authored two books; Women Matter – The Why and How of Gender Diversity in Financial Services and What You Can Do…When You Can’t – 21 Days to Personal Success. Both books were released in 2016 and are available now on Amazon and on

Daralee is a Los Angeles native and lives in Manhattan Beach, California. She can be contacted at

Greg Smith

Gregory Smith, CLU, CPCU

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Title: Statewide Sales Director

Company: Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan

Location: Port Huron, Michigan

Greg Smith began his career with Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan in 1983 after graduating from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s in Financial Institutions and Real Estate with an emphasis on insurance. He spent 4 years as a multi-line insurance advisor before being promoted to agency manager. Greg spent 22 years in that role while also serving as a regional field director. During that time he was instrumental in building strong agencies while also developing and mentoring those he came in close contact with. In 2009, Greg was promoted to Senior Statewide Sales Director where he reformatted the agency structure to a more unified managing partnership team. In 2011, he successfully obtained his Master’s Degree in Insurance Management from Boston University. Greg resides in Port Huron, MI with his wife Shari on beautiful Lake Huron, where you can often find him paddle boarding. Greg has two children, Josh and Kristin, who both live in New York City.

Gregory Powell

Gregory Powell CFP, CHS, EPC, CD, BA (Psych)

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Title: Financial Centre Manager

Company: Sunlife Financial

Location:Surrey, BC

Greg Powell was born and raised in Vancouver, BC and is a graduate of Simon Fraser University with a Double Major (Psychology and Criminology). He served a thirteen year Canadian military career as a Combat Engineer which included leadership in domestic missions such as ice storms, floods and forest fires, as well as participating in international military operations. Greg is a seven-time decorated veteran including the prestigious Governor General of Canada Commendation for his involvement in the Battle of Medak in the Bosnian War 1992-1993.  Greg retired a Sergeant in 2001 to seek out new challenges.

In 2004 Greg began as a financial advisor in Surrey, BC with Sun Life Financial. Within a year he was selected for sales management. In 2007 Greg became the Regional Manager where he assisted over 400 advisors and 40 managers in BC. Within 5 years of joining the company Greg became the Branch Manager of the Surrey office where he has remained and enjoys success. Greg and his team have repeatedly been in top ranking both regionally and nationally. From 2012 to 2016 his branch qualified for “President’s Circle” for being a top branch nationally for sales quality, production and consistency. He continually wins annual industry recognition such as “National Management Award”, Agency Builder Award” and “Agency Achievement Award”.

For 4 years Greg was the President of GAMA International Canada, an association for leaders and managers in the Canadian financial services industry. He is a regular contributor to industry publications such as FORUM, Money Magazine, BC Business, GAMA International Journal and Advisors Edge magazines. Greg is a successful international public speaker having spoken in Canada, USA and Asia on topics such as sales leadership, recruiting and retention strategies. In 2015 he wrote a best-selling book “The Financial Manager’s Survival Kit” which became #1 on Amazon in five different book categories and is being used in many countries around the world.

Having traveled by foot across the Arctic Circle in 1989, he hopes to travel to Antarctica to complete his pole to pole experience. In 2010, Greg and his wife Julie Cook, another long-time industry manager, travelled to Kazakhstan to adopt their wonderful daughter Lucy; his proudest and happiest achievement of all.

Howard Cowan

Howard Cowan, CLU, ChFC

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Title: President

Company: MassMutual

Location: New York, New York

New York, NY--Highly regarded as one of the country's leading experts on financial planning and insurance services, Howard B. Cowan is Founder and President of Cowan Financial Group.

Mr. Cowan formed Cowan Financial Group in 1985 because he wanted to assemble an expert team of professionals that could provide the highest quality financial expertise and superior service to clients. The company grew quickly, and employed over 150 professional associates and legal experts with strong and varying areas of expertise including securities, accounting, real estate, and estate planning. In 2009, Mr. Cowan retired as head of the organization, and now runs a brokerage unit for Fifth Avenue Financial. Mr. Cowan mentors general agents and career agents to help grow their careers.

Mr. Cowan is a Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant. He has been awarded many prestigious industry honors including the MassMutual Life Insurance Company's highest honor, the National Chairman’s Trophy, for an unprecedented 20 years for managing their number one agency. Mr. Cowan holds the National Management Award for being responsible for the growth and success of new associates entering the insurance field. Other prestigious awards and accolades for his achievements include the Masters Club, Leaders Club, GAMA Master Agency Award, GAMA First In Class Award, and Master Agency Growth Award, and GAMA Hero Leadership Award.

Prior to forming Cowan Financial Group, Mr. Cowan was the leading Assistant General Agent at Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co. for five years. He received the President's Trophy as leading manager all five years. Before that, Mr. Cowan was an insurance consultant and leading sales manager for the Home Life Insurance Company for eight years. He was also a member of the President's Council.

Frequently called on to speak at industry meetings, seminars and symposiums, Mr. Cowan is a former instructor of the American Management Training Council and a former faculty member of The New School. He is regularly called on by the print and broadcast media to comment on various issues dealing with insurance and investment planning.

A graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University, Mr. Cowan attended Brooklyn Law School. He currently serves on the Advisory Council of USTA Serves, a foundation dedicated to awarding educational grants and scholarships to children, and The American College Foundation Board. He resides in New York City with his wife, Roni.

Howard Elias

Howard Elias

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Title: CEO

Company: The Guardian Life Insurance Company

Location: New York, New York

Howard is the CEO of Wealth Advisory Group (WAG), a New York City-based Guardian® Agency whose long history of success dates back to 1933. He has been with the firm and Guardian® for more than 30 years. WAG now has more than 70 Associates and has recently expanded its operations in Albany, NY.

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a major in economics, Howard joined Guardian®, serving as a financial representative from 1984 to 1998. He was also a Sales Manager with the company from 1987 to 1998. Since Howard became the General Agent of Wealth Advisory Group in 1999, the agency has won numerous Guardian® awards.

As a member of GAMA International since 1993, he has received numerous industry awards, including the Master Agency Award and National Management Award. Howard joined GAMA’s Board of Directors in 2008. He was elected and served as President of the Executive Committee of GAMA International from 2013-2014. Howard has been a supporter of the GAMA Foundation for Education and Research and the Life Foundation for many years. In addition, Howard is a member of many other industry associations, including the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU) and the Society of Financial Service Professionals (SFSP). He is a life and qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), also qualifying for MDRT’s prestigious Top of the Table from 2012 -2015.

Howard lives in Manhattan with his wife Jamie. He loves to fish and practices yoga in his spare time.

John Langdon

John Langdon

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Title: Managing Partner/CEO

Company: Securian Financial Group

Location: Parsippany, New Jersey

John Langdon graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1984 earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a Marketing concentration. John was a member of and competed on Notre Dame’s varsity track and field team.

While still attending college, John joined Langdon Ford Financial, now Allied Wealth Partners, as a case planner. In the summer of 1983 he became a broker for the firm and a full time advisor in November of 1984. John was later appointed Sales Manager in 1988. For six years John recruited, trained, and helped develop new advisors. He was appointed Managing Partner in March 1994 and continues to lead the firm with President Marc Del Gaudio.

Since becoming CEO of Allied Wealth Partners, the firm has won many major financial services industry awards for firm management including, GAMA’s National Management Award and has been consecutively recognized as a Master Firm since 2000, placing the firm in the top echelon of all financial service firms worldwide. In 2011 and 2014, AWP was honored with GAMA’s First in Class Award.

The firm has consistently been recognized by its affiliates. Since joining Securian Financial Services in 2004, AWP has finished in the Top 5 of all Securian firms nationwide. Under John’s leadership, the firm has won the Builder’s Award five times for New Advisor Development and was Securian’s Top New Firm in 2005. Every year for the past 11 years AWP has been recognized as a Premier Club Firm, the highest award level given by Securian for firm production. In 2014, AWP was Securian’s Gold Firm of the Year.

John was elected by his peers to Securian Financial Group’s National Advisory Board (NAB) from 2005 through 2009. In 2009 he served as its chairman. He was re-elected in 2012 to the NAB and is currently Chairman. He also was a member of Securian Financial Services Advisory Board from 2006 to 2009, also serving on its chair in 2009.

John is active within his community and charitable organizations. He is a Trustee of the St. Joseph High School Endowment and has sat on the board of the Our House Foundation as Treasurer.

He and his wife Mary Janine live in Martinsville, New Jersey with their three children, Katelyn, Molly and John.

Leo Tucker

Leo Tucker, CLU, CLF

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Title: Managing Partner

Company: Northwestern Mutual

Location: Washington, DC

In April 2003, Leo Tucker assumed managing partner responsibilities for Northwestern Mutual's Washington, D.C. office and is responsible for sales and service operations in the District of Columbia, Western Maryland and Northern Virginia, with offices located in McLean, Fairfax, Reston, Rockville, and DC.

As one of Northwestern Mutual’s exciting young leaders, he brings proven management experience, personal energy, and a deep commitment to service to this position. The Washington, D.C. office has over 85 full-time financial representatives specializing in financial planning, investments, and business and estate analysis.

Professional Accomplishments

Leo joined Northwestern Mutual as a financial representative with the South Florida office in 1991. He quickly distinguished himself as a very successful member of the office’s sales force. In his personal practice, he earned numerous honors on both the company and industry levels, including qualifying for the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table (1997-2000). He also worked to earn the professional designations of Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and Chartered Leadership Fellow (CLF).

In 1995, Leo entered management as a field director and he built a strong sales unit. Due to his outstanding performance, he was promoted to the position of Assistant Managing Partner for the South Florida office. In this role, he was responsible for recruiting, training and new representative development, as well as the day to day running of the office. His increasing responsibilities led to his 1998 appointment as Managing Director in Naples, Florida. There, Leo developed one of the company’s top producing district network offices.

In 2001, Leo was selected to join the Northwestern Mutual Home Office as an Assistant Director of Agency Development, a position designed to prepare talented candidates for managing partner assignments. Leo worked as a liaison between the home office and other managing partners around the country to assist them in the development of their network offices.

Leo’s home office experience and his success in sales, recruiting and agency management makes him an ideal choice to lead the Washington, D.C. Network Office.

Leo has served on the board on many organizations including The Wolf Trap Foundation, The Tiger Woods Foundation, and The American College. Leo's fund-raising efforts on behalf of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society led him to receive the 2013 Man of the Year honor for the LLS National Capital Chapter. 

Personal Accomplishments

Leo and his wife, Marilyn, reside in McLean, Virginia and have two adult children named Colby and Sloane. In his off-hours, he is an active volunteer in the community and enjoys playing golf and collecting wine.

Manuel Amezcua

Manuel Amezcua


Title: Managing Partner

Company: MassMutual Finacnial Group

Location: Chicago, IL

Professional Specialties:

Manuel specializes in helping executives and corporate clients create financial security for themselves, their families, and their businesses. He leads a practice team that provides innovative recommendations in managing risk, accumulating sufficient assets for retirement, and providing solutions for all areas of employee benefit needs. In Manuel’s role as Managing Partner he is also responsible for talent acquisition, development of associates, and leadership development within the firm.

Professional associations

  • Registered Representative– MML Investors Services, LLC
  • FINRA Series 26 Registration, Investment Company
  • Products/Variable Contracts Limited Principal
  • Member of NAIFA– Chicago Region
  • Member of Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
  • Member of Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA)
  • Member of Society of Human Resources Management
  • Member of Hispanic Dental Association


At the forefront of Manuel’s personal life are his wife, Samantha, and two children, Ava and Atlas. They live in Munster, Indiana, where they share a passion for community involvement. They maintain a commitment to the Melanoma Research Foundation, Center for Economic Progress, Junior Achievement, Concordia Place, Faith Church, Posse Chicago and Children’s Memorial Hospital. Manuel has been selected for MassMutual's 2015 Community Service Award. He is one of seventeen national winners of this prestigious award.

Mark Rooney

Mark Rooney, CFP, ChFC, CLU

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Title: Senior Executive Vice President

Company: AXA Advisors, LLC

Location: Irvine, California

Mark began his career in the financial services business in 1973 in Beverly Hills, California. He has been with Equitable (now AXA Advisors) his entire career, but has played many roles in many areas. In addition to being a producer, front-line manager and agency head, he was President of Equitable Variable Life Company; Chief Marketing Officer; Chairman of the Brokerage Company (now AXA Network/Crump); Chairman of Frontier Trust Company; and board member of the Broker-Dealer.

Mark is a graduate of the University of New York and did his advanced studies at the London School of Business.

Mark has won numerous company and industry awards, including building five different MAA-winning branches for AXA, being named a 2014 GAMA International Management Hall of Fame Inductee, serving on the GAMA Executive Leadership Cabinet, the GAMA Foundation for Education and Research Board of Trustees and as Chairman of the GAMA Foundation. In addition, he is a member of AALU, NAIFA, LIMRA RAG Study Group, and The American College Board of Trustees. He is also a founding member of the Center for Investment and Wealth Management, connected with the University of California in Irvine.

Mark currently runs one of the largest branches in AXA Advisors, with approximately 350 associates. His offices are in Los Angeles and Orange County. Mark lives with his wife, Diane, and son, Shane, in Newport Beach, California.

Mike Esterday

Mike Esterday


Title: President and CEO

Company: Integrity Solutions

Location: Nashville, TN

Over the past 40 years Mike Esterday has experienced a wide variety of business success in sales, management, and training.

In his first sales position he was the number one salesperson out of 6,000 and then recruited and managed over 500 salespeople. Next, he founded a company that grew to 36 franchised offices.

Since 1985, through Integrity Solutions he has helped sales organizations from over 130 countries improve sales, customer service and coaching skills. Thousands of financial advisors have enhanced their careers through the Integrity Selling® process which impacts both skills and the emotional issues of selling.

Mike lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Terry. They have three grown children.

Paul Blanco

Paul Blanco, LUTCF

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Title: Managing Partner

Company: Barnum Financial Group, MetLife

Location: Shelton, Connecticut

Drawn by the desire to help people become more financially secure as well as the entrepreneurial nature of the business, Paul Blanco began his career in the financial services industry as a financial services representative with MetLife in 1991.

In just two years, Paul moved into management, taking over a small, seven person MetLife office in Trumbull, Connecticut.  As its Managing Partner, Paul oversaw the expansion of Barnum Financial Group to the industry leading firm it is today.  With 30 offices in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, Barnum Financial Group has clients in all fifty states and employs over 400 people.

In recognition of his efforts, Paul became the youngest inductee into the MetLife Managers’ Hall of Fame in 2003.  In 2006, he became the youngest winner of its Top of the Tower award, and in 2010, Paul became the youngest manager in MetLife’s history to reach Golden Laureate status. He achieved Platinum Laureate in 2015.

A consistent top performer, Paul has qualified for eight consecutive Management Leaders Conferences and fifteen America’s Council Conferences.  He received MetLife’s prestigious Triskelion Award for outstanding management leadership in 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2014.  Paul led the team at Barnum to be recognized as MetLife’s Firm of the Year in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, and 2015.

In addition to his key role at MetLife, Paul has made substantial contributions to his industry.  He has written for GAMA’s Great Ideas book series and served on the GAMA Foundation’s Board of Trustees.  He has qualified for the Master Agency Award and the International Management Diamond Plus and Diamond Awards. Paul was also awarded the First in Class GAMA International award in 2015. GAMA named his firm one of the top 100 U.S. financial agencies multiple times.

Paul has appeared on many radio and television programs as well as in national and local publications, providing advice on leadership, philanthropy, recruiting, and financial services. A noted industry speaker, Paul has presented at numerous MetLife and industry events and at GAMA International’s LAMP conference.

A prominent philanthropist in his community, Paul’s ultimate dream is for 100% of his employees to give back to the community in some way.  Barnum employees volunteer in support of “Bikes for Kids”, raising funds and running events which donate hundreds of new bikes and helmets annually to underprivileged children in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  Through the “Backpacks for Kids” program, over 75 disadvantaged children were provided with school supplies and clothing.  Paul and his team have volunteered with KaBoom! to sponsor and construct five playgrounds in Connecticut. 

Paul was named Philanthropist of the Year in 2007 by the Fairfield County Remodelers and Home Building Association, and he was inducted into the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame and Junior Achievement Hall of Fame. His firm was awarded “Best Places to Work in Connecticut” by the Hartford Business Journal in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015 and Fairfield County Business Journal in 2012. Barnum Financial Group also won “Best Place to Work in Rhode Island” by Providence Business News in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2016 New York State SHRM (NYS-SHRM), The Business Council, and Best Companies Group named Barnum a “Best Company to Work for in New York”. He received the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Growth of the Year award, the Westchester County Chabad Lubavitch Corporate Leadership Award, and the Valley United Way Community Impact Award.

Paul’s passion for sports and youth in the community has inspired him to support a local football camp, little league team, adult softball team, Junior Achievement, and the “Make a Difference Day” campaign.

In 2006, Paul and his wife, Mindee, started Foundation for Life, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization established as a vehicle through which Barnum volunteers could provide financial support to charities throughout their local communities. Since its inception, Foundation for Life* has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support many local charities.

Paul and Mindee live in Fairfield, Connecticut with their three children, Jennee, Sydnee, and Paul and their dog, Sofee.

*Foundation for Life is not affiliated with MetLife or any MetLife affiliate

Phil Richards

Phil Richards, CFP, CLU, RHU

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Title: Ceo

Company: Securian Financial Group

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Phillip C. Richards, CFP®, CLU, RHU is the Executive Chairman and founder of the affiliated companies that comprise North Star Resource Group. North Star represents a fully integrated array of financial services and products for individuals and businesses of all sizes and has over 120,000 clients with offices in 22 states with client assets under management exceeding $6 billion dollars.

Phil received his BS in 1962 from Temple University where he served as study body president. He also received the prestigious Sword Award as outstanding senior classman.  A recipient of a four year wrestling scholarship, he served as team captain and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010 and the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010. Phil was elected to the Temple University Board of Trustees in 2009 and was the 2016 commencement speaker for Temple University and awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.

Phil began his professional career in the insurance industry in 1962 with the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company in Philadelphia. In 1965, he joined Hartford Life where he led the company in brokerage sales. In 1969, Phil acquired North Star Resource Group which has received the prestigious Master Firm Award every year since 1988 from GAMA International, and which is celebrating over 116 years in business. North Star was awarded the Community Service Award from Investment News in 2010 and the Better Business Bureau’s Integrity Award in 2011 and again in 2016. It was voted one of 100 Best Places to Work in Minnesota in 2015 and received the Minnesota Business Ethics Award in 2015 as well.

A winner of numerous industry awards, Phil was the 2005 inductee into the GAMA International Hall of Fame and is the only firm leader in the world to have received the International Management Award from GAMA International each and every year (43 years) since the inception of that award. In 2007, Phil was named recipient of the 66th annual John Newton Russell Memorial Award, the highest honor in the insurance industry by The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.  Phil’s first book, “25 Secrets for Sustainable Success”, was published in March 2007. He co-authored his second book, “The Sky Is Not the Limit”, in 2014, and “Practice on Purpose” in 2015.

North Star has been the leading outlet for its largest partner, Minnesota Life, for the last 25 years. North Star has been ranked one of the 3 largest organizations of its kind in the world by GAMA International for the last five years and has over 300 associates in the firm. Combined gross revenues were in excess of $55,000,000.

Phil is an Adjunct Professor Emeritus for the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and former Adjunct Professor at Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, China. He is also a four-time Chairman of Securian’s National Advisory Board and was inducted as its 19th member into its Hall of Fame. He served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Minnesota Council for Quality; and is past president of GAMA International (2002-2003). He is a 45-year arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau; is a past Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota/North Dakota Better Business Bureau, and served on the Board of Directors of the Arizona Quality Council. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for The American College in Philadelphia. In addition, he is a past Chairman of the LIFE Foundation and currently serves on the Mayo Clinic of Arizona Leadership Council as well as the past treasurer of the Arizona Heart Foundation’s Board of Trustees. He chairs the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation which annually receives 10% of all of North Star’s profits and has given over $3,000,000 to charities in the last ten years.

Phil has been a featured speaker in over 15 countries on topics including strategic planning, leadership, and alternate distribution systems in the financial services industry in the 21st century. He has addressed the annual meetings of over 150 major companies. He was a main platform speaker at the GAMA International LAMP meeting in 1998 and its Canadian counterpart in Toronto in 1999, as well as in Singapore, Taipei and Manila in August 2000, at the Asian Pacific Conference in Bangkok (where he co-founded GAMA Thailand) in 2001 and 2010 and in Singapore in 2011 and 2015. He has also spoken in Crete, Greece in 2002, Athens in 2006, 2010 and 2015, Sidney, Australia in 2005 and Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has also lectured numerous times in China at Beijing University and Shanghai University for Finance and Economics.  He was a main platform speaker for MDRT in Vancouver in 2010 and in Ireland in 2012, as well as GAMA LAMP Asia in 2014. He will be a 2016 LAMP Asia main platform speaker in Bangkok this year as well as being featured in Vietnam and Singapore in August.

Richard Cleary

Richard Cleary, CLTC, LUTCF

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Title: President and CEO

Company: FSEdNet - Financial Services Educational Network, LLC

Location: Coral Springs, Florida

Dick is the Founder and President of FSEdNet - Financial Services Educational Network, a online, on-demand video based training platform which helps launch, retool, and re-energize new associates and staff into the financial services industry. This experience can be facilitator led or completed via a self-study curriculum which compliments any company or firm's training and/or sales system. Through foundational knowledge, FSEdNet builds confidence through competence.

Dick retired as the Managing Partner and President of The Partners Network in 2015, which was comprised of seven offices covering Central and South Florida with locations in Boca Raton, Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, Miami, Wesley Chapel and Melbourne, along with detached affiliates located throughout the state.

Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dick was fortunate to be able to serve over seven years in the U.S. Navy, living and serving overseas, aboard ship, and across our country. He completed college while serving at the University of Laverne. Following his service, he enjoyed 19 years with Jefferson Pilot (answering a blind ad in the local newspaper). From 2002 through 2015 Dick’s primary affiliation in that capacity was with John Hancock Financial Network.

Dick is a ten - time qualifier for the GAMA International’s Master Agency Award (accomplished in two companies), as well as 29 time recipient of GAMA’s International Management Award and a first year recipient of GAMA International’s First in Class Award representing John Hancock Financial Network.

Very active in the industry, Dick is a member of GAMA’s Executive Leadership Cabinet. He also serves as the Past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the GAMA Foundation for Education and Research and chairs both the International Committee and Nominations Committee for the GAMA Foundation. Dick just finished his four year service on the GAMA International Executive Committee and the Board of Directors for GAMA International and is an active member of LIMRA’s Research Agency Group (RAG), which is the oldest industry study group. He remains active within other industry associations and affiliations as well.

He lives in Parkland, Florida with his wife, Cheryl (which is a true testament to his selling abilities) and his two sons, James and Jack.

Robert Clements

Robert Clements

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Robert (“Bob”) Clements is Co-Founder, Vice-President and Marketing Director for Benchmark Business Group, LLC, founded in 1999. Benchmark is the only global licensee of E-Myth Worldwide, and is a business coaching and consulting company, with current and past clients in most of the 50 States and eight other countries. He also serves as the Company’s CFO, and is a senior certified E-Myth consultant. In February of 2011, Benchmark acquired the name and certain assets of The Henderson Business Group, Inc., and Bob serves as its general counsel. The brokerage division is a business evaluation and brokerage service, primarily representing sellers of business, but also working with buyers seeking acquisition opportunities, and a broad range of succession and exit planning issues within the businesses it serves.

History and Education:

Bob holds a Juris Doctorate degree, having graduated from Creighton University School of Law in December of 1973. Since 1974, he has been a member of both the Iowa and Nebraska Bar Associations, and for a significant period of his fulltime practice, a member of the American Bar Association, the United States District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa, and the United States Tax Court.

As a practicing attorney from 1974 through 2005, when his full migration from practitioner to business owner was complete, he was engaged in general practice, ultimately specializing in business, commercial and banking law, estates and trusts, and real estate law. Beginning in 1980, Bob was the senior managing partner of the firm until 2005, when he became and continues to be of counsel to the firm.

Bob served for over 10 years as a board member of a multi-bank holding company, and served as their outside general counsel. As a lawyer, his specialty involved him in numerous merger and acquisition transactions, business formations and organization, business restructuring, workouts and reorganization, tax and succession planning, commercial litigation, estate planning, and real estate transactions and development work, including underwriters opinions on over 100 multi-family development projects.

He has served his community as president of the local Chamber of Commerce, president of a community improvement association in the retail and business sector, founding president of a not-for-profit elderly housing facility, and president of a community venture capital group.

Robert Fashano

Robert Fashano CLU, ChFC, MSFS

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Title: General Agent

Company: Guardian

Location: Buffalo, New York

Bob has been a general agent with Guardian and the CEO of Alliance Advisory Group since 1979. The firm has been a consistent leading agency with Guardian, and has received the award for runner-up to the President’s Cup twice and is a 10-time GAMA Master Agency recipient.

Within Guardian, Bob has served as a member of the Field Advisory Board three times including as chairman in 1998. Currently, he has been a founding faculty member of the Guardian Leadership Institute and the new Associate General Agent program, which aims to develop frontline and first line leaders.

In the industry, he has taught a variety of courses including, GAMA’s Agency Management Training, Field Leadership Series and CLU certification for the American College. Bob is a certified facilitator for the John Maxwell Company’s Leadership Programs as well as the Integrity Systems Sales Manager’s Coaching program.

He is the past president of both his local GAMA organization and Society of Financial Services Professionals, and the past chair of the GAMA Foundation for Educational Research. Currently, he serves as past president of GAMA International.

He is an active member with the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Million Dollar Round Table, American Society of Financial Services Professionals and the Association of Advanced Life Underwriters.

He has spoken nationally and internationally to industry and non-industry organizations on leadership development and coaching techniques. Bob has had the opportunity to speak at LAMP four times including twice on the main platform in 2004 and 2010. He is also the co-author of the book The Power of Coaching.

In the community, he has served on the board of trustees of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Forest Lawn Cemetery Heritage Foundation, and currently serves as past chairman of the Buffalo/ Niagara Chapter of the American Heart Association.

Bob and his wife Patty have two children and six grandchildren and reside in Buffalo, New York.

Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper, CLU, ChFC, CFP, MSM


Title: CEO

Company: Penn Mutual

Location: New York, New York

As someone who spent her formative years as an athlete, Susan understands hard work, commitment, taking risks and team work. It is that mentality and those skills that proved the most effective for her after college graduation. Obtaining her teaching degree from Keene State College gave her a great education, but with a job market cutting teaching jobs she had to figure out how to leverage her strengths and skills into a career where those same skills would help her excel, compete and win. Soon after graduation over 30 years ago, Susan accepted a position in the financial services industry and has never looked back. Her passion, her purpose, in her career has been to educate, advocate and help advisors and clients achieve their goals.

Susan joined Penn Mutual in 2009 as Managing Partner of its NYC agency, Empire Wealth Strategies, located on Park Avenue in New York. She quickly achieved success, winning the prestigious Penn Mutual Chairman’s Award as well as the coveted Penn Mutual President’s Award. Both awards recognize individuals who have attained the highest levels of performance and leadership. Under Susan’s leadership, Empire Wealth Strategies is continually recognized by Crain’s as one of the best places to work in New York City.

As an active member of the industry, Susan has served on The Board of Trustees for the American College since 2008, and is a member of LIMRA’s Research Agencies Group (RAG). Additionally, she has qualified for GAMA’s Master Agency Award and International Management Award at the Diamond Level for five consecutive years. Most recently Susan won both the 2015 GAMA International Master Agency Award and the 2015 GAMA International Frontline Leader Award. As an individual producer, Susan has been a qualifying and life member of The Million Dollar Round Table since 1985.

Continuing education has always been a passion for Susan, making sure she stays up-to-date so as to provide the latest information to her clients and advisors. This drive has led her to achieve the following designations: Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP). In 2014 Susan earned her Master’s Degree in Management (MSM) from The American College.

Susan continues to be a sought after speaker in her industry, most recently being a featured speaker at LAMP and has been featured in LIMRA’s MarketFacts Quarterly, the Wall Street Journal and various blogs. As an ongoing contributor to her community, Susan has supported many charitable and industry organizations, including Women in Financial Services (WIFS), GAMA, AALU, The United Way, UJA Federation of New York, The American Cancer Society, and the United Service Organizations (USO).

Susan resides in New Canaan, Conn. with her two sons, Michael and Matthew.

Tariq Khan

Tariq Khan

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Title: Founder & CEO

Company: Global Diversity Marketing

Location: Shaska, Minnesota

Tariq Khan is the founder and CEO of Global Diversity Marketing. He is a recognized business leader in innovative marketing, strategy, digital marketing, social media, and diversity and inclusion arena. Tariq has had a distinguished twenty-year career, mostly working at global Fortune companies including ING, Nationwide, and MetLife. Tariq has held several senior management roles with the major Fortune companies. In his last corporate position, Tariq was senior vice president and head of market development for ING, where he led ING’s strategy to expand growing target market with multichannel distribution. Tariq Khan is also credited with developing and supporting the largest and most diverse distribution channel in the financial services industry. He has launched several award winning branding campaigns, D&I program, and social media campaigns for the African American, Hispanic, Asian and women’s market. Tariq’s work, interviews and articles have been published in several trade and industry publications. He is a sought-after keynote/notable speaker on marketing, branding, diversity, distribution and sales growth. Tariq has appeared on global mainstream media including CNN International LIVE.

Tariq has equally impressive contributions in the non-profit world. He is a board of director at the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, the largest U.S. organizations devoted to scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander American students. He conceived and managed several scholarship events for APIASF students that generated significant fund-raising for APIASF. Tariq is also a board of director at the Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), a national non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Asian Pacific American participation and representation at all levels of the political process, from congress services to elected office. In addition, Tariq is also a board of director at the National Association of Asian MBA (NAAMBA) and Ascend, the largest Asian American professional organization. In addition, Tariq is also board of director at Stratford University. Tariq is also an adjunct professor of marketing and public relations at New York University graduate school. His expertise/courses include Integrated Marketing Communications, Competitive Intelligence, social media, Public Relations and C-Suite Leadership. Tariq teaches at the graduate school of professional studies and recently celebrated his 10th anniversary at New York University. Khan earned a bachelor’s degree in international marketing and advertising from Baruch College, New York, an MBA in marketing and management from St. John’s University, New York, and an Executive Management Certificate from Babson College, MA. He is a frequent speaker at many industry conferences on global marketing, leadership and changing trends.

Tim Schmidt

Tim Schmidt, CLF, LUTCF, FIC

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Title: Managing Partner

Company: Thrivent Financial

Location: Shaska, Minnesota

Tim Schmidt grew up in Hong Kong as the son of a missionary. He graduated from the Hong Kong International School and then returned to the United States. He attended Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois and graduated with a BA in Education. After college, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona and became a teacher and coach. In 1986, Tim joined Thrivent Financial (formerly Aid Association for Lutherans) as a financial representative (FR). Within 5 years, Tim ranked among the top 5% of all representatives in the company. After 8 years in the FR role, Tim moved to Texas to take over the leadership of the North Texas – Oklahoma Regional Financial Organization. In 1997, Tim moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota to take over 4 merged firms for Thrivent. In that role, Tim achieved the GAMA Master Firm Award and ranked among the Top 250 firms in the world. From 2008 – 2011, Tim served as the Divisional Vice President for the West Division. Today, Tim is the Managing Partner for the Two Rivers Region, which has recently expanded and now includes the northern portion of Iowa and eastern South Dakota.

In January of 2011, Tim achieved a life-long dream and published a book, “What Really Works? Blending the 7 F’s for the Life You Imagine,” with his friend, Paul Batz.

Tim is currently the President of GAMA International. Past commitments also include serving on the Board of Directors for Lutheran Social Service and Concordia St Paul’s College of Business and Organizational Leadership. In 2012, Tim’s firm ranked #1 in overall sales.

Tim has a passion for travel, philanthropy, living a blended life, and the outdoors. In September, 2010, Tim and his son summited the 14,400 foot Mt. Rainier in Washington State. He and his wife, Jeannette, live in Chaska, Minnesota and have two grown children. Tim and Jeanette are members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Waconia, MN.

Thomasina Skipper

Thomasina Skipper, MBA, ChFC, CLU, CLF


Title: President/Owner

Company: Thomasina Skipper, Business Growth Specialist Consulting Firm

Location: Jonesboro, Georgia

Thomasina Etheridge Skipper was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 1976 from Syracuse University with a major in Political Science and a minor in Economics. Thomasina began her career with Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company in Cleveland, Ohio as a Personal Lines Underwriter.

In 1981, Thomasina left Fireman’s Fund Insurance Companies to become the Vice President and General Manager of Citizen Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency.

In 1986, Thomasina joined State Farm Insurance Companies. In 1992, Thomasina was transferred and promoted to Atlanta, Georgia, as an Agency Manager. In December 1995, Thomasina became the Agency Field Executive for the Metro West Agency Field Office (AFO) in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2004 Thomasina transferred to Omaha, Nebraska. April 2013 Thomasina retired from State Farm. Today she is President/Owner of Thomasina Skipper, Business Growth Specialist Consulting Firm.

In 2001, Thomasina completed her MBA degree from Kennesaw State University (KSU) with honors. Thomasina held a license in Property, Casualty, Life, Health and Annuities. She was NASD licensed for Series 6, 63. She is a Charter Financial Consultant, ChFC, a Charter Life Underwriter, CLU and a Chartered Leadership Fellow, CLF, and working on her CASL designation.

Thomasina is a Certified Representative of the One Page Business Plan. She has helped Business owners build and execute Business Plans for Non-profit and for profit Organizations.

She has presented from the main platform at the 2010 GAMA, International LAMP conference and to the Sales Management staff of the Farm Bureau Insurance Company and Woodman of the World Insurance Company. She is a member of the GAMA speaker’s bureau and a visiting lecturer for the American College.

Thomasina was a Keynote Presenter at the Caribbean Agents & Managers TTAIFA South Chapter Annual Meeting September 2016 in Trinidad.

Thomasina co-authored the book “Women Matter” with Daralee Barbara and Linda Witham.

Thomasina is involved and an active participant in her local community and industry. She is:

  • Past Chairperson of the Urban League of Nebraska Board of Directors
  • Past Member of the Board of the Women’s Fund of Omaha
  • Past President of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Metropolitan Omaha Chapter
  • Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
  • Past Member of the Board of Directors of GAMA, International and Women in Leadership Taskforce Chairperson
  • Board Member of GAMA Foundation
  • NAAWLI Fellow 2007-2008
  • 2008 Recipient of the GAMA First in Class Award in Leadership
  • 22 Year Qualifier for State Farm’s Ambassador Travel Program
  • Member of Links, Inc. Omaha Chapter
  • Member of three (3) Professional Study Groups
  • 2010 Master Multiline Award Winner
  • 2010 International Management Award Winner – Diamond Level
  • 2013 Cy Pick Awardee of GAMA, International

Thomasina is married to Benjamin Skipper and is the mother of four adult children and four grandchildren. She resides in Jonesboro, Georgia. Her hobbies are reading, traveling and swimming.


SBussell.pngSherrye Bussell

Leadership Development Coordinator

GAMA International’s Partners in Management Growth enjoy a corporate solutions package, second to none, to honor their commitment and financial support to the industry. These solutions provide you with a wealth of opportunities and resources that can be both customized and integrated into your existing training and professional development. I invite you to contact me to discuss in greater detail how you can, and will, maximize your return on investment as a PMG company with GAMA International.

email Sherrye | 571-499-4298