Speakers Bureau

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.

PMG companies are annually awarded Speakers Bureau vouchers. Take advantage of GAMA's 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.
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Aamir Chalisa


Title: Managing Director

Company: Futurity First Insurance Group

Location: Naperville, Illinois

Aamir Chalisa is currently a Managing Director at the Oak Brook, IL branch for Futurity First Insurance Group. He leads this branch with 38 agents and was the number 2 branch at Futurity in 2016 with over $2 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, the affiliated retail distribution business of Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. He was responsible for attracting qualified sales representatives and for enhancing Nationwide’s diverse markets presence.

Aamir has 26 years of experience with a successful record of accomplishment 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 and retention and attended GAMA day in Manila in 2015. Aamir was main stage speaker at GAMA International LAMP Asia 2016 in Bangkok and spoke on agent recruiting and development. Aamir also spoke at NAIFA National convention in 2016.

Aamir is the VP of the FBI Chicago Citizens Academy Alumni Association; Board member of the Founders Council of the FBI National Citizens Academy Alumni Association, Charter member in OPEN Chicago 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 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 was named GAMA International Volunteer of the Year.  He has received GAMA’s first in class award twice in his career. He won GAMA awards in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He has also attended MDRT and LIMRA Conferences many times. He also served on the NAIFA National 20/20 task force and is a member of their National Diversity Council.

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 traveled the world.

Athan Vorilas


Title: CEO/President

Company: Signator Investors

Location: Jericho, New York

Athan Vorilas, CLU, CMFC, CLTC has been the President/Managing Partner of Lighthouse Financial Network, LLC since 2008. The firm has been recognized throughout the years from both within Signator Investors, Inc. and the industry. He began his career as an Advisor with Prudential Financial in 1987 and quickly rose to the position of Managing Director of the New York Office. During his tenure, the firm was highly recognized with many awards and by 2005 the firm received the prestigious Masters Firm Award. His passion in helping other financial professionals grow their practice is a critical part of his core values.

Athan has been featured speaker on leadership topics at many industry meetings both domestically and internationally including Greece, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines. He was featured as a Main Platform speaker at GAMA’s annual LAMP meeting in both the United States and Asia. In addition, Mr. Vorilas was instrumental in establishing “GAMA Hellas” as the first European chapter for GAMA International. Athan currently serves as the Chairman of the GAMA Foundation for Education and Research, and serves on the GAMA International Board of Directors.

Athan continues to build his personal practice with a focus on wealth management and estate planning strategies and is 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 having the “Bikes for Kids” charity event for the Children’s Aid Society which provided hundreds of 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 as the current President of the St. Nicholas Hellenic Community, Babylon, NY.

Bonnie Godsman


Title: Chief Executive Officer

Company: GAMA International

Location: Falls Church, Virginia

Godsman joined GAMA International 16 years ago, where she rose through the ranks to become vice president for corporate and business development. In this role, she oversaw all revenue departments at the association, including Membership, LAMP, Communications and PMG Corporate Relations. Since her promotion to that position in 2012, GAMA has seen dramatic growth in revenue, membership, membership retention and LAMP attendance. In June 2014, Godsman took the helm as GAMA’s first, and youngest, female CEO.

Before joining GAMA, Godsman held political appointments under the administrations of Suffolk County (N.Y.) Executive Robert J. Gaffney, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and President George W. Bush. She is also founder of Bliss, LLC, a restaurant group based in New York City. In addition, Godsman is a member of the American Society of Association Executive and the National Association of Professional Women and will sit for the prestigious Certified Association Executive (CAE) this coming May.

Born and raised on the south shore of Long Island, Godsman is a proud New York native. Having been bitten by the political bug at a young age, she attended the American University in Washington, D.C., receiving a B.A. in political science.

Godsman lives in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania with her husband Mike and yorkie poo Lincoln.

Curtis Benton


Title: Vice President of Agencies

Company: Transamerica Agency Network

Location: Franklin, Tennessee

Expertise: Recruiting & Selection; Sales & Marketing

Curtis began his insurance career in 1989 as a second generation agent with American General Life and Accident Insurance Company in a small town outside of St. Louis, Missouri. His father retired from American General Life and Accident with 41 years of service.

Curtis is proud to have spent 25 years with American General Life and Accident. He worked as an agent for three years then was promoted to an Associate Manager in 1992 and promoted to a General Manager in 1997 at the age of 26, the youngest to ever be promoted to a General Manager in the Company at that time. Curtis worked as a General Manager for the next seven years in two different cities; Wichita, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. He was then promoted to Regional Vice President of the Southeastern Region in 2004 at the age of 33 which at the time was the youngest that anyone had ever been promoted to Regional Vice President at AGLA. In 2008, Curtis was promoted to Senior Regional Vice President of the Southeastern Region which at the time was made up of 518 agents, 71 Associate Managers, and 18 General Managers. The Region was responsible for an annual sales budget of over $25 million. In June of 2014, Curtis left American General Life and Accident and accepted a position as Regional Vice President with Transamerica Agency Network. In 2015 He was promoted to his current position of Vice President of Agencies for Transamerica where he is responsible for a sales team of over 1500 reps and 260 managers with an annual sales budget of over $80,000,000.

Curtis is fortunate to have been a part of building and leading very talented teams and have qualified for many Company recognition awards. A few highlights include: six times at our highest level of Leadership Cabinet, one time as a member of the Leadership Council, and three times as a member of the Leadership Club. Curtis qualified for 14 President’s Trophy Awards and was a recipient of the Ernest E. Cragg award in 2003 for moderating LUTC classes in the Kansas City area. He was awarded the International Management Award in 2002 and 2004. Curtis was a First-In-Class Recipient in 2004 for leading my Company as a General Manager and a Regional Leader as a General Manager in 2001 and 2003. He was a Company Leader again in 2005, 2012, 2015, and 2016 as a Regional Vice President for both American General Life and Accident and Transamerica Agency Network.

Curtis is married to his wife Melissa, who is his high school sweatheart, and they have two wonderful children together; a daughter, Kaitlin, 16, and a son, Nathan, 13.

Daralee Barbera


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 GAMAweb.com.

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

Eszylfie Taylor


Title: President/Creator

Company: Taylor Insurance & Financial Services

Location: Pasadena, California

Eszylfie Taylor is the founder and president of Taylor Insurance and Financial Services located in the financial district of Pasadena, California, and serves as financial advisor to individuals, business owners , and high net worth families. He attended Concordia University on a basketball scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management. Prior to founding his own company, he was a standout financial advisor at New York Life, making Chairman's Council and finishing his career there as the highest producing advisor in the history of the African American market.

Early on in his career, Mr. Taylor had a breakthrough that centered around how to improve his market and focus on solving problems, not selling products. Naturally, he built upon this and used his successes and failures as teaching tools that would contribute to the start of The Taylor Method, a sales process for financial advisors.

Mr. Taylor has been a Million Dollar Round Table Top of the Table producer since 2011, which places him in the top 1% of advisors worldwide. In 2015, he was the recipient of NAIFA's Advisor Today Top 4 Under Forty award.

Through all the success, Eszylfie has continued to contribute to his community. Since 2003, his nonprofit, Future Stars, has been hosting a basketball camp for underserved youth in the community, instilling in them the tools he uses to achieve success: hard work, perseverance, integrity, and sacrifice.

Gary Schwartz


Title: Executive Vice President

Company: North Star Resource Group

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Gary is the Senior Vice President of Advisor Growth and Development for North Star Resource Group. North Star represents a fully integrated array of financial services and products for individuals and businesses. Over 130 advisors and their teams serve 90,000+ clients in 16 states. They are a national leader in providing financial services to medical, dental and legal professionals. Gary provides professional consulting services to associates on developing teams and composite practices, succession planning and overall executive leadership. He also specializes in providing experienced advisor coaching services and developing practice management analytics designed to improve practice productivity and effectiveness.

Practice on Purpose - Achieve the Financial Advice Practice You Desire and Your Clients Deserve was published in June 2014. Gary joined with Phil Richards and Ed Deutschlander in authoring this leading practice management resource. The book was launched at the 2014 GAMA Thailand and AFA conference in Singapore. The premise of the book is to raise the sense of purpose and value an advisor can achieve with their practice. This includes how to attract and retain clients who want a superior experience in a well run client service model, capturing financial advice as its own value, reaching a million dollar sustainable revenue practice and executing a successful business continuation plan that recognized the equity value of the practice. Practice on Purpose reframes the advisor experience.

Gary received his bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in business administration where he was active as a Martin Luther King Economics tutor, elected to the Business Board, the student governing board of the business school and was selected for the all university student leadership award. He subsequently received a master's in industrial psychology also from the University of Minnesota.

Gerry Herbison


Title: Assistant Professor

Company: The American College 

Location: Washington D.C.

Gerry Herbison, DBA, ChFC®, CFP®, CASL®, CLF® is currently Assistant Professor of Management Studies and Director of the CLF® Program with The American College. Dr. Herbison spent four years as Vice President of sales at The College before joining The College’s academic division. Prior to joining The College, Dr. Herbison worked as a Registered Representative, Investment Advisor, and Regional Vice President for AXA. During his 10-year tenure with the company, Dr. Herbison was honored as an Elite Regional Vice President.

Dr. Herbison has a Bachelor of Science degree from Ithaca College in Corporate Communications with an emphasis in Training Design. He holds CFP® Certification. Dr. Herbison earned the following American College designations: Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®) in 1998, the Chartered Advisor for Senior Living (CASL®) in 2005, and the Chartered Leadership Fellow (CLF®) in 2010. Dr. Herbison completed the Masters of Science in Management (MSM) degree at The American College in 2008.

Additionally, he completed his doctoral degree in Business Administration at Wilmington University in 2013. Dr. Herbison serves as chair of the George Joseph and Dick Liddy Chair in Field Leadership.

Gregory Powell


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.

Gregory Smith


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.

Howard Cowan


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


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.

Hunter Ingram


Title: Executive Vice President

Company: EverQuote Inc.

Location: Cambridge, MA

Topics of Expertise: Life Insurance, Marketing, Insurance Technology

Hunter’s expertise stems from a personal understanding of agency life coupled with 15 years of executive level experience in online insurance marketing. A former insurance agent himself, he used online marketing to secure the success of multiple scratch agencies, winning him various awards for agency growth as both an Allstate EA and an independent agent. With lead-generation as his primary means for customer acquisition, Hunter took his experience as an agent to create an online marketing company that really understood what agents needed. As founder of HometownQuotes, a lead-generation tool for agents, he established valuable industry relationships and insight. Under his leadership, HometownQuotes received various industry awards for company growth. Hunter was also a finalist for Inc. Magazine's Entrepreneur of the Year and was chosen as the Reader Favorite.

After a successful exit from HometownQuotes he joined the team at Reply.com to run Business Development for their Insurance division. He later joined Precise Leads as the company's Chief Revenue Officer where he was instrumental in helping the company win back to back Inc. 5000 awards for being one of the fastest growing companies in the country.

Today Hunter runs the Business Development team at EverQuote focusing on Life Insurance and the Key Accounts team at EverQuote where he has the privilege of working with the top 1% of agents in the country using his experience to help optimize and grow their agencies.

Jen Michaels


Title: Digital Content Strategist

Company: Mindset Digital

Location: Columbus, OH

Areas of Expertise: Digital Innovation, Social Selling, Storytelling

As Mindset Digital's content strategist for live events, Jen designs powerful visual stories about today's digital world. She shapes the experience of Mindset Digital's live events, including leading workshops and creating highly visual stories and presentations. In the process, she engages diverse audiences, from front-line sales teams to executive leaders.

Jen has a lifelong passion for using technology to help people connect. She honed that passion across ten years of teaching digital media at The Ohio State University and University of Michigan. And now, at Mindset Digital, she brings that same passion to broader audiences in Fortune 500 firms and healthcare organizations.

Jen has a Master of Arts in English from The Ohio State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from The University of Michigan. She is currently a doctoral candidate at The Ohio State University. Her Ph.D. research examines how professionals use social media to support their everyday work. At lunchtime, you'll find her on the Mindset Digital balcony, playing her ukulele. She's also an avid horseback rider and loves to bake pies.

John Baier


Title: Founder & CEO

Company: Baier Consulting International

Location: Hollywood, Florida

John is the founder and CEO of Baier Consulting International and cofounder and Executive Director of Vivo Mobile, Inc.

Recently retired after a storied career as a Managing Partner with New York Life, John is the creator of the industry-renowned 25-Point System. He most recently served as Executive Director of Seguros Monterrey New York Life in Mexico.

John has more than four decades of experience in the insurance industry. He was a managing partner for New York Life for 35 years also served as a company executive. A well-rounded strategic planner, he excels at recruiting within the financial services industry. He also spends his days coaching, consulting, overseeing operations, and business development. He attributes his success to his systems, hard work, training, experience, and business acumen.

As a Managing Partner, John built a basically scratch agency into one of the premier agencies in the world. He was the 2013 inductee into the GAMA International Hall of Fame, the highest distinction in the financial services industry.

As a company executive, John coached high-level industry leaders, ran a program to increase MDRT membership, and took his company from ranking 33rd in membership to 14th in one year.

John instituted project retention and increased third prior retention by 3.2 percentage points in one year. During this period, he ran the Agency Channel of Distribution, increasing the number of sales and proactive agents by 33 percent over the prior year.

John started his professional journey in the US Army as an artillery officer in 1972. He stayed active in the military for more than a decade in the National Guard. He commanded the Artillery Battery that was recognized five consecutive years with the Eisenhower Trophy for being the best unit in New Jersey. During his time in the reserves, John worked as a full-time insurance agent and then as a second-line manager. He steadily worked his way up the industry’s ranks and became a Managing Partner with New York Life in 1981.

During his tenure, John was committed to hiring and developing talented men and women from diverse backgrounds. He was able to attract, hire and retain individuals with strong business acumen and superior problem-solving skills who made New York Life a better company.

John has earned numerous awards and accolades for his work. He was inducted into GAMA International’s Hall of Fame and was named Underwriter of the Year in the financial services industry by New Jersey Life Underwriters. Also, he was honored with the Soaring Eagle Award by Kinder Brothers and the First in Class Award from New York Life, and he was named a Lifetime Member of the New York Managers’ Roundtable.

John is a past president of GAMA International and a past chairman of the Joint MDRT, GAMA Mentoring Council.

John earned a master’s degree in financial services from The American College and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Seton Hall University. Outside his professional endeavors, he serves on the board of directors of Team Walker, and he enjoys boating and golfing. He and his wife, Denise, have three children: Jack, Suzanna, and Anastasia.

John Langdon


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.

John Shull


Title: Leadership Coach

Company: First Command Financial Services (retired)

Location: Annapolis, Maryland

Expertise: Leadership & Culture; Supervision & Accountability; Producer or Frontline Leader Development

John Shull has spent three careers in leadership positions and activities, beginning with 21 years serving in the United States Army, where he commanded soldiers, and led military organizations as an Infantry Officer and Foreign Area Officer. His service included assignments in Germany, Korea, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and the United States. That was followed by a leadership position in a small management consulting firm, Meridian Ventures, Inc, where he led engagement teams in solving key client issues in international energy, manufacturing, defense aerospace, and retail. For the past 16 years, John served as a financial advisor and frontline manager at First Command Financial Planning. He was able to leverage his Army leadership experience and knowledge to serve the primary client base for First Command -- military service members and their families.

At First Command, as a District Advisor, or frontline leader, John managed three offices in two states. He grew his advisor force from 4 to 11 advisors and added an office. He created a model for district quarterly training, bringing together four districts to create greater collaboration among advisors on best practices, and build team synergies between managers. He developed a prototype for an advisor team leader, to assist the frontline manager with critical functional activities, such as marketing, recruiting, and training, and to recruit and cultivate new leaders for the company. He was able to get two advisors promoted through that process. As a result of his service, John was selected as the First Command District Advisor of the Year in 2011, (from among 65 advisors) and the GAMA International First in Class Award for 2012, for First Command.

John is currently a member of the Alumni Board of the American College of Financial Services, and is an engagement speaker for the First Command Educational Foundation. Examples of presentation titles and topics include:

  • “Top Twenty Leadership Principles for New Frontline Leaders” (adapted from a two-part article written for GAMA International Journal, published in Mar-April and May-June 2017 editions)
  • Key elements of organizational culture for frontline leaders in financial planning
  • The leadership challenges of working with high producers in financial services
  • Essential principles for assisting bereaved clients
  • Financial Readiness for Active Duty Service members
  • The New Blended Retirement System for Department of Defense personnel

John and his wife, Ellen, reside in Annapolis, MD, where they spend time with their three married children and nine grandchildren. In their spare time, they enjoy reading, swimming and beach activities, and watching youth sports.

J.R. Toland


Title: President & CEO

Company: Savage & Associates

Location: Holland, Ohio

J.R. Toland has been a member of Savage and Associates since 1984. His area of expertise involves assisting small business owners and corporate executives secure comfortable retirement plans. He specializes in designing taxefficient business succession plans and executive benefit plans that attract and retain the best and brightest people. He helps business owners design a plan for retirement that does not solely rely on the sales of the business, and makes sure that their estate plans are designed to minimize taxes.

J.R. graduated from the University of Toledo in 1985, with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He has received his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®) designation along with his Series 6, 7, and 63 securities registrations.

J.R. and his wife, Beth, live in Holland, Ohio. They have four children: Nicole, Troy, Hallie, and Scott. J.R. is very active in his children’s lives. He also strongly believes in giving back to his community. JR has served his local church as the Fundraising Chairman and was President of the Athletic Board for seven years. In addition, J.R. has been involved with the mission of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, where he has served on numerous fundraising committees and held the position of Chairman of the Board. Currently J.R. is serving on the Central Catholic High Board of Directors.

Kareem Aboul-hosn


Title: Regional Director and Branch Sales Manager

Company: Banker's Life

Location: Clearwater, FL

Kareem Aboul-hosn is a Regional Director and Branch Sales Manager with Bankers Life where he also serves as the Chairman of the Bankers Life Management and Leadership Committee. Kareem began his career with Bankers in 2002. He has been an Executive Council Member since 2013 and was a Soaring Eagle award winner in 2015. In 2017, GAMA International selected him to speak at their annual LAMP conference. Kareem holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Finance from the University of Central Florida.

Kareem resides in Clearwater, Florida with his wife, Shara Boland Aboul-hosn, their two boys and daughter Kaden / Alek & Averie, and their dog, Henry.

Leo Tucker


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


Title: Managing Partner

Company: MassMutual Financial 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 Bonnett


Title: Partner & Senior Vice President

Company: North Star Resource Group

Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Mark is a partner and senior vice president with North Star Resource Group. He has been affiliated with the firm since 1998. In his role he, with the executive leadership team, strives to provide the best strategic direction for the firm, as well as overseeing branch offices in the Southwestern United States.

Mark also maintains a personal clientele, where he provides fee-based advice to a successful group of self-employed professionals. His clients are typically engaged in the medical, dental and veterinary fields. He does however accept engagements with corporate executives and highly successful families who are in need of “Personal CFO” service and experience.

Mark serves as President of GAMA International, the premier association responsible for leadership and professional development within the financial services profession globally. Mark’s commitment to building the financial services industry and financial education is unwavering, as is his passion for preserving face-to-face relationships within the profession as a whole. In addition to his role providing strategy and direction to the leaders within the profession, he also serves as adjunct faculty at Midwestern University in Phoenix, where he is responsible for the development, content and delivery of financial education to graduate medical programs.

You may run into Mark in his adopted hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona—or in San Diego or Denver, the locations of two of his other offices. Mark also spends a considerable amount of time on the road speaking within the financial services and medical industries, where he regularly delivers keynote and breakout presentations for groups ranging in size from 13 to 3,000.

When not giving back to the profession he loves and educating others about personal finance and leadership, Mark is typically found volunteering for Make A Wish Arizona, or providing insight to the Phoenix Economic Council. He can also be found enjoying time with his amazing family. Sitting on their boat at Lake Powell, Arizona, with his wife Shawna and their daughters, Macy and Presley, is a favorite past time, as is standing in the middle of a trout steam in Colorado with a fly rod. If a TV is present, it is tuned to Denver Bronco football or supporting University of Arizona's basketball team.

Mark Rooney


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.

Marti Post


Company: Mindset Digital

Location: Columbus, OH

Areas of Expertise: Digital Innovation, Social Selling, Storytelling

As the Chief Strategy Officer at Mindset Digital, Marti Post works with leaders in Fortune 100 firms around the world -- helping them understand the power of digital communication and strategy. In addition to leading digital transformations for senior executives, she is also a national keynote speaker and leads in-depth sessions on how to write and present with clarity and impact.

Marti began her career at a time when moving into digital consulting was considered a risk. Today, she helps leaders understand that digital is not a department--it's a entirely new way of thinking.

In addition to developing digital growth strategies for clients, Marti also focuses on internal growth and talent recruitment. She developed her deep expertise in strategy and digital through her roles as: vice president of strategy at Mindstream Interactive; and executive director of social strategy for Resource Interactive, which was one of was the largest independent agencies in the U.S.

Marti has long been captivated by emerging digital trends. She studied digital messaging and gender when she earned her master’s degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. And today she serves on the Advisory Board of Women in Digital USA and as an Adjunct Professor of Social Media Marketing at the Max M. Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.

Michelle Hubert


Title: Agency Manager

Company: Farm Bureau Financial Services

Location: Oakley, Kansas

Expertise: Leadership Development; Team Building; Using Social Media for Recruiting; Whole Person Approach Leadership; Millennials in the Workplace; Women in the Workplace and Recruiting In General


Michelle Hubert is passionate about servant leadership, new agent selection and development, and leadership development for the benefit of the entire company.

She started her career with Farm Bureau in 1990 as a Sales Associate. She quickly became an agent and was distinguished by the Million Dollar Round Table, the premier association of financial professionals that recognizes the top financial advisors worldwide, as one of the industries leading advisors.

After a successful 14 year career as an agent, in 2005 Michelle was appointed Agency Manager and held that position 2 years.

In 2006, Michelle was named the Director of Agency in Kansas for Farm Bureau Financial Services. In that role, she partnered directly with the Regional Vice President to lead 10 Agency Managers and 250 Agents to success.

In 2012, Michelle stepped back into the Agency Manager role, and now leads one of the largest (48 Agents and 100 Sales Associates) consistently top performing agencies in the company.

She is a long time member of NAIFA and GAMA, holds the LUTCF and CLF designations. Additionally, she has earned a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. Michelle currently sits on the GAMA Membership Committee, and serves as a GAMA Foundation Board of Trustee.

Michelle resides with her family in Oakley, Kansas where she shares her home with husband Tim. Her sons Cayle (22) and Braydon (21) live in Manhattan, KS where they attend college.

Mickey Straub


Title: President

Company: Sales Activity Management

Location: Burr Ridge, IL

Expertise/Topics: Activity Management, 5 Habits of Success, BIG GOALS…Short Deadlines: 50 Capitols in 50 Days

Mickey Straub started his career as an agent for 16 years; 2 years as a federal agent (U. S. Department of Defense) and 14 years as an insurance agent.  Born and raised in Pennsylvania, he lived in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles before settling in the Chicago area.  Mickey is president of Sales Activity Management, Inc., an industry that he founded in 1995 to inspire confidence and success, to “make a difference” in a producer’s career and to impact on-boarding, productivity and retention.  SAM has sold over 1 million custom performance management and leadership tools and serves tens of thousands of clients annually nationwide to help them set goals, keep score and stay motivated.

Mickey recently received a CONGRESSIONAL RECORD from the U.S. House of Representatives for his patriotic pilgrimage to 50 CAPITOLS IN 50 DAYS in honor of Abraham Lincoln and our veterans, a cross-country road trip that he is the only person in history to complete. Mickey is also the author of a book called BIG GOALS…Short Deadlines that introduces activity management and outlines the 5 Habits of Success, a formula that he has used to achieve many personal and professional goals. 

On a personal note, Mickey is a husband, parent, author and patriot who is active in his church and community in which he led the effort to build a school playground in just 49 days.  He is a longtime supporter of GAMA and NAIFA, a sought-after speaker and is also in his second term as Mayor of Burr Ridge, Illinois, which earned him a nickname: Mayor Mickey. 

Mike Esterday


Title: President & CEO

Company: Integrity Solutions

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

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.

Misty Weltzien


Title: Associate General Agent

Company: Pacific Advisors

Location: Newport Beach, California

Expertise: Recruiting & Selection, Leadership & Culture, Retention, Perfomance Coaching & Mentoring, Producer or Frontline Leader Development

As the Associate General Agent for Pacific Advisors, Misty oversees talent acquisition and development for her firm’s 13 offices along the West coast. Misty is passionate about recruiting, attracting and developing experienced advisors looking to take their practices to the next level, and career changers who feel financially or intellectually stagnant. Her passion helped her grow a scratch office to 30 producers and over $3M of commission in under 5 years. Prior to being promoted to Associate General Agent, Misty was awarded the number one Managing Director spot in the country for Guardian.

Originally from Palm Springs, CA, Misty moved to Orange County to attend California State University, Long Beach, where she received a degree in Finance. She and her husband Travis live in Tustin, CA, and are both very active in their community. Misty is involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters OC, the ASPCA, Future Leaders of Our Community, and the National Association of Professional Women. She is also the Immediate Past President for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors OC.

In addition to her degree in finance, Misty is also a Certified Financial Planner, a Chartered Financial Consultant, and a Chartered Life Underwriter. Each of these additional levels of education, some taking several years to attain, enable her to better serve the needs of her diverse client base.

Paul Blanco


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


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


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 Fashano


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.

Robert Popazzi


Title: Assistant Vice President

Company: Sun Life Financial Canada

Location: Waterloo, ON

Rob started his career in the fall of 1992 as an advisor with MetLife in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario. Since that time, he has held a number of positions with increasing responsibility at MetLife, Mutual Life, Clarica and Sun Life; these roles have evolved from Sales Manager through to Regional Vice President, Western Canada to his current role of Assistant Vice-President, Sales Force Growth and Development for the Sun Life Financial Career Sales Force based in Waterloo, Ontario. In this capacity, he is accountable for supporting the Recruitment, Selection, Training, Development and Practice management elements for advisors and managers. 

Rob holds a degree in Economics from Queen’s University,  is a Chartered Life Underwriter and earned his Certified Health Specialist designation in 2012. A student of the insurance business, he has presented a Leadership workshop at GAMA International’s annual LAMP meeting in 2011, was a workshop presenter at Dreamforce 2013(one of the largest conferences of its kind) and has facilitated numerous internal leadership workshops. He reads extensively on human development and is actively involved in several study groups in Canada and the US. He is a former President of the Board of Directors for GAMA International Canada, an industry association representing managers in the financial services industry.

Rob and his wife Heather spend most of their free time chasing around their 4 year old son Joseph and they continue to talk about someday playing tennis, running and enjoying the other sports they used to partake in. 

Robert Wright


Title: SVP, Head of Sales

Company: Waddell & Reed, Inc.

Location: Shawnee Mission

Expertise: Recruiting & Selection, Leadership & Culture, Retention, Performance Coaching & Mentoring, Sales & Marketing, Supervision & Accountability, Producer or Frontline Leader Development, Business Strategy & Growth

Robert is Head of Sales, Advisor Acquisition and Transition for Waddell & Reed, Inc., directly reporting to the Executive Head of Markets, Sales and Advisor Acquisition; he is responsible for partnering with the West and East National Market Heads, while ensuring a focus on revenue growth and bringing quality advisors to the firm.

Robert began his career as a Financial Advisor with Waddell & Reed in 1994 and was promoted to District Manager in 1996. In 1999 he became Managing Principal of the Louisville, Kentucky Division covering the Eastern market until 2015 and in 2015 was promoted as one of three Regional Vice Presidents of the Eastern Region. As of August 2017, Robert serves as Head of Sales, Advisor Acquisition and Transition for Waddell & Reed, Inc. Throughout his time with Waddell & Reed, he has qualified for Circle of Champions, Crest honors and Leadership Council.

Robert Wright earned a BS in Marketing at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky in 1991. He is a 2017-2018 member of the Board of Directors of GAMA International. He is a past FPA National Chapter liaison.

In his spare time, Robert is a competitive water skier and enjoys spending time at the lake with his four kids; Kendall, Logan, Baylee and Lou, who are all very active in different sports and activities.

Samantha Clark


Title: Vice President & Managing Director

Company: National Financial Network

Location: Long Island, New York

Expertise: Recruiting; Development of Advisors; Coaching; Building Culture; Running a Practice While Focusing on Management Responsibilities

Samantha Clark is the vice president and managing director of National Financial Network and has been with the Guardian since October 2001.

Samantha started her career in Buffalo, NY and transferred to NFN in 2014 to build their Garden City, NY office. Samantha received a bachelor’s of science in finance and bachelor’s of arts in choreography from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She also holds her Chartered Leadership Fellow certification from the American College and is a Certified Long Term Care Specialist.

At NFN Samantha is responsible for training and mentoring a sales team of new and experienced advisors. In addition to one-on-one training sessions for NFN's new advisors, Samantha leads agency-wide training classes for advisors at all stages of their careers.

In 2010, she developed her Buffalo firm’s interview and selection process, training curriculum and Leadership Academy. This was integral to the firm's continued success in attracting qualified advisors to the career to serve AAG's expanding customer base throughout its Upstate New York footprint.

Samantha was the founder and past president of the Buffalo Niagara Chapter of Women in Insurance and Financial Services, which won Chapter of the Year in 2008 for membership growth. She is currently starting a chapter of WIFS on Long Island. Samantha also holds various leadership positions with Guardian including, the Women's Leadership Advisory Board, Field Advisory Council, and is a member of GAMA's Leaders of Today and Tomorrow, GAMA International, and currently sits on the GAMACAST committee and the GAMA Field Leadership Research committee.

Samantha is a member of Guardian's Leaders' Club and for the past nine years has been a member of the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table. In 2009, she qualified for Court of the Table with MDRT, representing the top 3 percent of Financial Professionals in the World. From 2009-2013, Samantha was also awarded the Presidential Citation Award Gold Level from Guardian and in 2014 and 2016 was awarded their Platinum Level. She was nominated for the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership award in 2010. In 2011, Samantha was named as one of Western New York's "Top 40 under 40" business leaders by Business First. In 2016, Samantha was named one of NAIFA’s prestigious “4 under 40” financial advisors nationwide.

In Buffalo, Samantha was an active volunteer with Child and Family Services and developed an Economic Empowerment program, which aims to increase the economic self-sufficiency of victims of domestic violence. On Long Island, Samantha actively gives empowerment messages to Women’s Bereavement groups.

Samantha enjoys spending time with her husband, Adam Cherney, who is also a leader in the financial services industry and their three children.

Susan Cooper


Title: CEO

Company: Prudential

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 is a recognized business leader and sought- after speaker on changing market trends, customer relationships, agency growth, social media services, and diversity and inclusion. Tariq’s work has been highlighted in interviews and articles that have been published in trade and industry publications nationally and globally. Global Diversity Marketing, Inc. is a management consulting firm focused on helping organizations better understand the changing marketplace. A partial client list includes AXA, Dish TV, Gerber Life, Guardian Life Insurance, MoneyGram International, Northwestern Mutual, Pacific Life Insurance Company, Penn Mutual, Prudential, United Healthcare and Wells Fargo.

Tariq is best known for his thought leadership, leading corporate diversity initiatives while creating the business case for diversity and inclusion. Throughout his distinguished twenty-year career, he held senior management roles at global Fortune companies including MetLife, Nationwide, and ING. In his last corporate position, Tariq was senior vice president and head of market development for ING, where he created and implemented their innovative strategy to expand into growing emerging markets.

Tariq has traveled around the globe and has developed, supported, and managed the largest and most diverse sales force in the financial services industry. He developed several award winning marketing and branding campaigns, including groundbreaking programs for the African American, Asian, Hispanic, and Women’s markets.

Tariq has made equally impressive contributions in the non-profit area. He serves on several prestigious boards including the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, the Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) and the National Association of Asian MBA (NAAMBAA). Tariq is also a member of the board of directors of Stratford University.

In addition to being the CEO of Global Diversity Marketing, Inc., Tariq is also an adjunct professor of marketing and public relations, teaching graduate courses at New York University. Tariq holds a bachelor’s degree in international marketing and advertising from Baruch College, an MBA in marketing and management from St. John’s University and an Executive Management Certificate from Babson College. He has spoken at many industry conferences on leadership, diversity and inclusion, cultural competency, connecting with millennials, social media trending and disruption. Tariq has been a platform speaker and has shared the stage with Fortune CEOs and a U.S. President.

Terri O'Halloran


Title: Vice President of Client Development

Company: Integrity Solutions

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Terri O’Halloran, Vice President of Client Development at Integrity Solutions, is passionate about providing value to GAMA PMG Partners! For over 20 years, she has collaborated with Financial Services clients to strategically plan, create, implement and sustain high- performing cultures.

As a leader in a Fortune 500 Financial Services organization, Terri created and delivered management, leadership and coaching solutions for a diversity of audiences including Corporate Officers, Financial Services Professionals and Chiefs of Medical Staff. Some of Terri’s client partnerships include: AAA, AIG, Athene USA, Farm Bureau, FBL Financial Group, New York Life, Pacific Life, PEMCO Insurance, Principal Financial Group, Russell Investments and State Farm.

At Integrity Solutions, Terri has been recognized for her contributions through the following awards: President’s Club and Pacesetter (Sales), Spotlight Award (Integrity, Ethics & Teamwork), Integrity Award (Living Our Mission, Vision & Values) and Fabulous Team Member of the Year (Achievement of Personal & Team Goals). She has also served as a member of the world-class Integrity Solutions certification team.

Terri has presented at PMG Symposiums, Pre-LAMP and LAMP Sessions plus GAMA Lunch & Learn Webinars.

Tim Schmidt


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


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.

Travis Hart


Title: Managing Partner

Company: Pacific Advisors

Location: Northern California

Travis Hart is a Managing Partner with Pacific Advisors. Travis overseas Career Distribution including attracting new talent and the strategic direction of the firm’s field force and management team.

Travis produced a proven track record of industry accomplishments. He quickly became a qualifying member of the Million Dollar Round Table and received a number of other industry and community awards. Travis eventually assumed a leadership role and achieved multiple management accolades. In 2007, Travis opened a new location and focused on building a production and sales team in Southern California. He relocated to Northern California and became a Managing Partner for Pacific Advisors.

Before his time in financial services, Travis built a foundational background in enterprise sales with 11 years at Pepsi Bottling Group.

Travis specializes in recruiting and operations specifically related to the standardization of systems and processes for offices with diverse geographic disbursement.

Travis has been involved in community efforts including; Chamber of Commerce, leadership positions with his local Rotary Club, board member of the local school district education foundation, board member of the local NAIFA organization, Vice Chair of the hospital governing board, and CFO of the local youth soccer program.

Travis has been married to his wife Shana for 25 years and they have 2 children, Sydnee (16) and Trenton (7). They enjoy cycling, hiking, coaching/playing soccer, and spending time with the family.

Withoon Lertpanomwan


Title: CEO

Company: IFCG

Location: Ontario, Canada

Withoon Lertpanomwan (Alan), MBA, LUTCF, RFC, FChFP, is CEO of Independent Financial Consulting Group (IFCG), Thailand’s No.1 financial advisor firm which currently has more than 200 advisors and over 50,000 clients. He has 14 years working experience in financial service industry. His family has been in the insurance business for 40 years. He is the first in his country who managed to merge insurance business with investment successfully.

Highlighted leadership roles include serving for 2 years as MDRT Country Chair of Thailand (2010-2012), Chairman of MDRT Experience 2012 in Bangkok. Moreover in 2014, he is by the
far the youngest MDRT Region Chair in MDRT History and the first Thai ever till present. In 2015, he was appointed to be the Divisional Vice President of MDRT, taking care of all countries in Asia.

Alan is a frequent speaker for many companies in different industries local and international on many topics: Marketing, Sales, Finance, Motivation, Management, and Insurance. He has been interviewed many times on Money Channel, Nation Channel, Channel 9, and other national medias. He has also been quoted in numerous business, industry and association publications