Clients of Sandy Coventry would probably be surprised to know that she overcame great shyness as a youngster to become the gregarious, helpful and dedicated employee benefits consultant she is today with Wateridge Insurance Services.
Coventry, who joined Wateridge in 2008, has more than 27 years of experience as a specialist in group employee benefits including health, dental, vision, life and disability insurance, as well as 401(k) retirement plans. She arrived in San Diego as a 17-year-old to attend UC San Diego and pursue a law degree. By that time, the New York-born, Australia-bred (her family is Australian) Coventry had already done extensive global travel.
"All that moving around makes you very interested in getting to know people, so you become more outgoing," Coventry said. "Because if you move around and want to meet new people, the only way to do that is to open your mouth and start talking with people."
Indeed, "talking with people" is a critical element of Coventry's job. On a daily basis, she helps her clients navigate through the often-murky and complex waters of a variety of employee-benefit packages.
"We work for employers to do all the employee-benefit research, quoting, implementation, and servicing of the employee-benefit programs that they offer their employees," Coventry explained. "So, it's not just service during and after the sale; it's throughout the year. My team is completely interacting with our clients and helping them determine what's the best benefits program to offer their employees and helping them implement that and helping them work with the (selected) insurance company through any kind of service issues they might have during the year."
According to Coventry, the challenges she and her team face are unique, relative to tailoring a cost-effective employee-benefits package for a particular client. She said Wateridge has clients representing a broad spectrum of industries, including law firms, manufacturers, convenience stores, construction companies, breweries, and engineering and computer software firms.
"For example, right now, we have a client who's just renewing (their employee-benefits insurance program) and we've looked at the market for them and have been able to help the client — through the market research we did, and the analysis and the negotiation with the insurance companies — save over 10 percent on their health insurance compared to their (previous) year," Coventry said. "So, it's going to be 10 percent less this year going forward than it was last year, with similar coverage, for a company of about 100 or so employees. That's really a big bottom-line difference for a company that size."
As Coventry can surely attest, employee-benefits packages are not "one-size-fits all." Additionally, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) further complicated the task for Coventry and her counterparts in the industry. Although she long ago eschewed a law career in favor of a degree in international relations with a minor in Spanish, she jokingly admits the law degree might have come in handy these days.
"It's a lot more interesting, let's put it that way," Coventry said. "I became like an ‘attorney,' even though I didn't really plan to be an attorney (laughs) because I had to learn all of the effects of the laws associated with (Obamacare) — how It interacts with the benefit programs that we offer. So, we certainly are very knowledgeable about the law through our professional association membership, because of the fact that it affects our clients so significantly and it has become a big source of concern for clients. So, we've spent a lot of time educating clients about it, answering questions, going out to clients and sitting down and going over with them how the law is going to affect them, because every employer has a different situation."
As a young gymnast, the still-athletic Coventry was influenced by Mary Lou Retton, because she "was so well-liked by people and just exuded strength and leadership in terms of being a great ambassador for the sport of gymnastics."
Today, Coventry is more than happy to do "mental gymnastics" on behalf of her diverse mix of clients, in order to achieve for them the employee-benefits package perfectly suited to their respective needs and budgets.
"I think the main thing I'd like to be known for is someone who really goes the extra mile and makes people's lives easier, like an ‘easy button' for your health insurance and your employee-benefits package," Coventry said. "I think the main thing people ought to get from being associated with my team over the years is that they're able to trust and rely on us and that we're going to make their life simpler."
10717 Sorrento Valley Road | San Diego, CA 92121 | (858) 452-2200 | www.wateridge.com
By Tony Lovitt, Special to The Daily Transcript. Lovitt is a freelance writer based in La Jolla.