From the (Virtual) Desk of Meryl Rosenthal

This fall, I had the privilege of speaking at a breakout session at the Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS) 2018 national conference in Austin, Texas. The theme this year was “Leading the Way,” and the energy was palpable! My session, “Getting Ahead of Workplace Challenges & Dynamics,” was an interactive module designed to inspire and engage participants around new ways of thinking – both big and small – and to set an intention for positive change.

About 50 advisors and leaders from financial services and insurance companies attended the session, including Ameritas, Cambridge Investment Research, Charles Schwab, Forresters Financial, Lincoln Financial Advisors, Securian, Symmetry Financial Group, and Thrivent Financial, as well as other independents.

I started by asking attendees to categorize their workplaces and share their responses.


With this context in hand, I then shared key findings from the FlexPaths report, ‘Building the Bridge for Culture Change: A Mandate for 2020.’ This study, spearheaded with major North American insurers, shed a great deal of light on the current and future state around critical areas: space, culture and work practices.

We then discussed some newer agency models – in particular, those that view space as a people optimizer to enhance culture, inclusivity and create downstream business benefits. Agencies that prioritize how people work are reporting benefits such as:

  • Faster ramp up for new hires;

  • An enhanced work environment that leads to organic team creation, business collaboration and mentoring; and

  • Greater ability to attract talent and buyers across gender, generation and background.

I challenged the group to come up with some practical day-to-day actions that leaders and advisors can implement – or influence others to implement – specific to space and culture. This discussion included how to brand/stage one’s office for better appeal, taking a more positive tact in resolving differences, and advocating with intention.

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With regard to work practices, I emphasized the importance of reframing the conversation a bit: I proposed that we NOT to speak about flexible work, but rather to recast this as mobile work – to think about what their business would need to do to provide a work ‘anytime/anywhere’ environment that is responsive and accessible to colleagues and clients. This conversation should ALWAYS be about business – around how mobile work creates win-wins for the business – not a personal, subjective discussion.

My closing call to action was for each person to make and share 2-3 commitments as to what they will do differently to improve their workplaces – in areas of physical space, culture and work practices. I am delighted to say that the responses were truly inspiring across the board – great ideas, both large and small, that are sure to have a positive impact going forward!

As 2018 draws to a close, I want to extend my warmest wishes to you and your families for a safe, happy and productive holiday season. I look forward to connecting with you in the New Year!


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