Self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie Tina Conte says that her days as a daredevil are over.
In June 2021, she was visiting a friend in Colorado when they decided to take all-terrain vehicles to explore the area’s gold mines. Conte was taking a sharp turn when her ATV fishtailed and threw her off the side of a cliff. The vehicle revved up and propelled itself flush across her right leg while she was dangling upside down. After nine surgeries and thirteen months of physical therapy, the adventurer with a passion for adrenaline unofficially retired from her favorite hobbies. Now, she sticks to seeking thrills in her full-time role as a benefits consultant.
Conte is comfortable operating as a rebel and renegade. The New Jersey native and daughter of Italian immigrants studied at William Paterson University. While her fellow graduates mostly headed to Manhattan, she bucked trends by moving to Philadelphia and then back to the Garden State. Soon, the young professional landed a job as a global account executive at a large, international reinsurance company.
It was a role that would test Conte’s ability to go against the grain and challenge cultural norms. Leaders routinely sent her to foreign countries to conduct their business and participate in meetings. She recalls interacting with intimidating CEOs and other C-suite leaders in the first years of her career.
“I was new in my job but still had very important responsibilities with people who ran massive, big-dollar companies,” Conte says. “I never had time to be afraid, because business moves fast, and it was all I knew.”
After five years, Conte was ready for a new experience. She moved to the domestic side of her industry in a financial services company that furnishes insurance and employee benefits. There, she worked mostly with 403(b) retirement plans and accounts for employees in public institutions. Conte found herself helping financial advisors identify and execute cross-sales opportunities.
During this journey, Conte was still looking for her niche. She found it inside a global brokerage in the world of consulting. “I love the challenge of listening to what clients do and don’t say, and then discovering what their real needs in the benefits space are,” she says.
Like the rugged backroads Conte used to drive, her career has taken some surprising twists and turns. After three years as the head of benefits for the North American arm of an $11 billion company with forty thousand employees, she is back in consulting once again.
Back where she is at her best, Conte is working on her employer’s most complex accounts. It’s fast paced, unpredictable, and exciting. “No two days are the same in the world of benefits,” she says. “I love this kind of engagement, and I thrive in this challenging environment.” Conte never knows what’s going to come her way. She may solve a COBRA issue one day and help a client buy a new company in Asia-Pacific the next.
The veteran benefits and business expert always has her eye on emerging trends. Today, she’s eagerly watching whether Amazon will step into drug sales and how the worldwide giant may disrupt existing pharmacy benefit managers.
At the same time, Conte is interested in how regulations may impact these activities. Lawmakers have proposed regulations to address licensure requirements for manufacturers and other companies in the drug supply chain. New storage procedures, screenings, bonds, and reporting practices may make manufacturing and distribution more complex as the government seeks to apply additional safety measures and oversight.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Tina for the last decade,” says Dominic Viglione, VP of account management at Cigna HealthCare. “It’s clear she is a natural leader in the health benefits space and is a true advocate for improving the health and wellbeing of the organizations she serves. We’ve worked together to create healthy workforces armed with the vitality to help each company achieve their business goals.”
Today’s clients have numerous issues to steer through. Employers, Conte says, are more aware of the value of healthcare in the post-COVID-19 world. Her international exposure and status as a first-generation American help her navigate the changing landscape as domestic companies merge and expand outside their existing borders.
For others looking to find a rewarding and fulfilling career in benefits, Conte’s advice is simple. “Find a mentor and challenge yourself, and you can go far,” she says. While the fearless risk-taker may have off-roading and other action-packed recreation in her past, she sees more action and adventure in her future as an expert in the excitement and chaos of benefits consulting.