James S. Garbina is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, obtaining his Bachelor of Science degree in business finance. He joined the Employee Benefits Department of The Koch Co. in 1987 as an Account Executive and was named Vice President in 1992 and Senior Vice President in 1999. He currently manages this division for The Koch Co., now FNIC.

Jim is a part of FNIC’s strategic planning committee, and a director. He is a current member and previous board member of NAIFA (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors), earning his Fellowship designation (LUTCF) in 1994. He is a current member of NAHU (National Association of Health Underwriters). In 2011, The Koch Co. joined the Benefit Advisors Network; and in 2013, Jim was chosen to lead the strategic planning team for the national organization made up of international agencies, managing benefits for 10,000 employers and 8.5 million employees.

Jim also donates time to a number of nonprofit organizations, serving as the Board President for Midwest Child Care, past Board member for the UNO Alumni Association, Finance Chairman for his local parish and board member for the Papillion LaVista School Foundation.


What is your background, and how did you get in the EB business?
I was a Finance Major and Graduated from the University of Nebraska. I was referred to the Harry A Koch Agency by the University Career Placement Director. He made me keep the interview, even after I found out it was for insurance! I still thank him!

What are your leadership principles?
I believe in leadership by example and that success is not easy but rather you become lucky when you work hard. Be honest and ethical in the hard times and be ready to step back and rework your strategy.

What are you looking forward to achieving as a BAN member?
I look forward to the professional exchange of ideas and thoughts, as well as market knowledge. I am also looking for partners that can help see the market changes and develop strategies for tomorrows needs in the market.

How are you advising your clients regarding ongoing inflation, higher interest rates and a shaky economy? Are you concerned about a recession?
I am concerned about recession and think it will affect industries differently. Head count drives our revenue, so when markets are in retreat we have to drive new sales. Inflation and interest rates affect our clients overhead, and this also drives head count decisions, which drives us to find efficiencies within the products we manage. We try to lead the discussion, so they rely on us as a solution and not a vendor.

What is your outlook for your agency in 2024?
I think growth on existing books will be more tough to come by, expecting 3% growth (net after head count losses). We need to win on new business to achieve overall growth of 8%.

What is this industry’s largest challenge?
Utilization trends, High Cost Claim inflation trends, along with the continued concern for Rx inflation and new therapy cost. These are driving up the year over year (PMPM) cost at a faster pace than solutions can be implemented.

What are two lessons that you learned during your career that you can pass along to future leaders in the insurance industry?
First, advising and consulting is a long game. Developing and creating as many centers of influence within business circles and carrier partners will pay dividends. Don’t be afraid to donate time to boards and key organizations, as these are the future decision makers and a great investment for the future (but remember you need to bring value)! Number two is be a true student of the business.

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