NAFA Annuity Leadership Forum Speakers

Keynote Speaker

Amy Walter

For more than 20 years, Amy Walter has built a reputation as an accurate, objective, and insightful political analyst with unparalleled access to campaign insiders and decision-makers. Known as one of the best political journalists covering Washington, she is the publisher and editor-in-chief of the non-partisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, where she provides analysis of the issues, trends, and events that shape the political environment. A contributor to the PBS NewsHour, she provides weekly political analysis for the popular “Politics Monday” segment. She is also a regular Sunday panelist on NBC’s Meet the Press and CNN’s Inside Politics, and appears frequently on Special Report with Bret Baier on Fox News Channel.

Named one of the “Top 50 Journalists” by Washingtonian magazine, as well as one of its “50 Most Powerful Women,” Walter was dubbed one of the most powerful people in politics in George magazine for her insights into the mechanics that make the political machine run. She is frequently quoted in leading newspapers and known for her spot-on election predictions.

The keynote speaker presentation is proudly sponsored by:

Featured Speaker

Michael Tanner

Michael Tanner is a Cato Institute senior fellow and heads research into a variety of domestic policies, with an emphasis on poverty and social welfare policy, health care, and Social Security and entitlement reform. Hailed as one of the nation’s five most influential experts on Social Security by Congressional Quarterly, Michael has been featured in nearly every major American newspaper and is a frequent guest lecturer and featured guests on network and cable news.

More recently Tanner has undertaken a major project to develop innovative solutions to poverty in California, which is widely seen as a model for building bipartisan consensus around innovative ways to reform government‐imposed barriers to economic participation by the poor and marginalized groups. The Project on Poverty and Inequality in California builds on Tanner’s most recent book, The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor, a comprehensive look at the ways government contributes to poverty in the United States.

Featured Hill Guests

Senator Ben Cardin

A third-generation Marylander, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has been a national leader on health care, retirement security, the environment and fiscal issues while representing the people of Maryland in the U.S. Senate, and before that in the House of Representatives. He has worked across party lines to further U.S. national security and to ensure that good governance, transparency and respect for human rights are integrated into American foreign policy.

First elected to the Senate in 2006, Senator Cardin currently serves as Chair of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, which is at the forefront of rebuilding our economy. He is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Finance, and Environment & Public Works committees.

Jamie Cummings

Jamie Cummings serves as Tax Counsel to Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID). He advises the Ranking Member on tax issues relating to retirement, charitable giving, exempt organizations, health care, and estate, gift, and generation skipping tax. Jamie previously served as Tax Counsel to former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA).

Jamie is a graduate of Louisiana State University and received his J.D. from Tulane University Law School and LL.M. in Taxation from New York University Law School.

Cliff Andrews

Cliff Andrews has nearly 20 years of political experience as a federal legislative strategist and advocate. He heads CapCity Advocates, LLC, a federal government relations business that he started in 2004. He offers extensive experience in legislative issues management and coalition management for trade associations and corporations. In particular, he consults with clients on advocacy plans, legislative and regulatory conferences and fly-ins, policy paper and testimony preparation, policy issue monitoring, grassroots and grasstops development, PAC strategy, and building strategic relationships with third-party groups.

In the past, Cliff served as the Director of Government Relations for Butera & Andrews, a Washington D.C. law firm, and at one time was a staffer for Senator Harry Reid. He also worked in the financial services sector for Equitable and New York Life, where he secured investments and insurance for small businesses and families.

Laurence Black

Laurence Black is the founder of The Index Standard® and an index advisor to Robert J. Shiller, Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University. The Index Standard is a provider of ratings, insights and forecasts. Their ratings aim to identify robust and well-designed indices, ETFs or annuities that will deliver on their performance objectives over the long term. Their forecasts assist clients in product selection and asset allocation.

Previously, Laurence was a Managing Director and Head of Quantitative Indices and Strategies at Barclays where he oversaw the development of the Barclays index family. In addition to designing some of the first smart beta/factor indices, he spearheaded Barclays’ index partnerships with Professors Robert Shiller and Nouriel Roubini, as well as Novus Partners. He was also formerly Head of Indices at ABN AMRO in London, where he successfully launched indices with well-known investors such as Jim Rogers and Joel Greenblatt. Before ABN AMRO, Laurence worked at Lehman Brothers, Deutsche Bank, and Credit Suisse.

Phillip Brzenk

Phillip Brzenk is senior director, global research and design, at S&P Dow Jones Indices. Phillip is responsible for quantitative research and development of index strategies covering global strategy, alternative data, multi-asset, smart beta and thematic equity indices.

Prior to joining the R&D team in 2013, Phillip was involved in the management of strategy and custom indices for five years in the Index Management and Production Group at S&P Dow Jones Indices. Phillip is a CFA Charterholder and is a member of the CFA Society of New York and the CFA Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Bradford Campbell

Bradford Campbell, partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, advises financial service providers and plan sponsors on ERISA Title I issues, including fiduciary conduct and prohibited transactions.

A nationally recognized figure in employer-sponsored retirement plans, Brad is the former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits and head of the Employee Benefits Security Administration. As ERISA’s former “top cop” and primary federal regulator, he provides his clients with insight and knowledge across a broad range of ERISA-plan related issues. He also serves as an expert witness in ERISA litigation.

Brad has been listed as one of the 100 Most Influential Persons in Defined Contribution by 401kWire and has been listed as one of the top 15 ERISA attorneys in the country by a poll of the National Association of Plan Advisors. He has testified before Congress on employee benefits issues 11 times, including testimony before four different Congressional Committees regarding the effects of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary regulation.

Kevin Cloud

Kevin Cloud is the chief actuary for Product One, the product development division of Creative One. He has been in the insurance industry for 25 years, having worked at several insurance companies and as a consultant in the design, development, implementation, distribution and marketing of insurance products, with a particular emphasis on fixed indexed annuities.

At Product One, Kevin and his team use their actuarial, product, and industry knowledge across the Creative One enterprise – partnering with insurance carriers on the design and distribution of unique insurance products, serving as the product knowledge expert for Creative One’s insurance technology endeavors, and offering advanced underwriting, case design and product expertise to Creative One’s life insurance and annuity wholesaling consultants.

Chuck DiVencenzo

Chuck DiVencenzo joined NAFA in 2019 as its president and CEO. As a lawyer and tax professional who has a wealth of experience in the retirement planning industry, Chuck is poised to leverage his sales, marketing, advanced markets and leadership capabilities to guide NAFA in its quest to protect the future of fixed annuities, as well as those who develop, distribute and market them.

With experience working for premier insurance carriers such as Allianz Life and The Hartford, in addition to time spent with Edward Jones, M&T Bank and National Benefits Group, Chuck has developed deep relationships across the industry that will help propel the new vision he is laying forth for the association. Using his years of experience presenting on everything from advanced tax and legal concepts to marketing and education best practices, he is poised to enjoy a candid conversation with attendees at this year’s event.

Sarah Garrity

Sarah Garrity is the National Sales Manager of BlackRock’s Retirement Insurance Group (R.I. Group). She is responsible for maintaining relationships with insurance clients and supporting annuity wholesalers as National Sales Manager.

Sarah joined BlackRock in 2017 as a Market Leader for Retirement Insurance. Prior to BlackRock, Sarah was an External Wholesaler at Oppenheimer and began her career at Jackson National. She is a regular speaker at industry conferences, national sales meetings, retirement income symposiums and end client seminars.

Steve Kraus

Steve Kraus, a shareholder at Carlton Fields, advises clients on a broad range of tax and ERISA matters relating to qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, IRAs and IRA annuities, health, and other welfare benefit plans. He has extensive experience dealing with the fiduciary and prohibited transaction provisions of ERISA, including the newly issued Department of Labor “investment advice” regulation and accompanying exemptions. He also advises life insurance company clients on the tax qualification of annuities and life insurance contracts. He has experience dealing with the issues surrounding synthetic annuities, including securing private letter rulings for clients; advising clients with regard to issues surrounding bank-owned life insurance; and advising clients regarding mutual fund taxation issues.

Steve has represented clients on numerous matters before both the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor. He was chief counsel, Retirement Security for the American Council of Life Insurers, where he worked for 25 years.

Luke Loewen

Luke Loewen leverages more than 13 years of industry experience to lead in his role as vice president of Gradient Annuity Brokerage, an independent marketing organization that is part of the Gradient Financial Group family of companies.

Founded in 2005 with a vision of empowering financial services professionals to expand and elevate their businesses through powerful tools, technology and support, Gradient’s mission is to connect both consumers and financial services professionals to a confident financial future.

Rudy Mehl

Rudy Mehl is the vice president of sales at SILAC and serves as head of distribution. He leverages more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry in setting and implementing SILAC’s sales and distribution goals.

Prior to joining SILAC, he was the director of sales for institutional accounts at Crump and as sales vice president for independent agents for the Midwest and Western regions. He was responsible for revenue growth across all lines of business, including life, annuities, long-term care and disability insurance.

Rudy is a graduate of the University of South Africa and received his degree in Business Administration. In a prior life, he served as a Warrant Officer in the South African Police. Currently, he lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Debora, and their two dogs, Jameson and Ginger.

Carol McClarnon

Carol McClarnon has more than 20 years of experience covering all aspects of compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) from both the employer and the retirement services industry perspectives. Carol routinely advises financial services companies on ERISA and federal income tax matters that impact their business operations. She often works together with our Financial Services lawyers in providing legal advice for financial product development.

Carol also represents employers and service providers in ERISA litigation and in administrative proceedings before the United States Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). She is skilled in working with clients to proactively resolve compliance issues through obtaining prohibited transaction exemptions, private letter rulings and IRS voluntary compliance relief and closing agreements. Her experience covers the full range of retirement solutions, including employer-sponsored qualified pension and profit-sharing plans, 403(b) plans, IRAs, 457(b) plans and non-qualified annuities.

Kevin Mechtley

Kevin Mechtley is a Corporate Attorney for North American Company for Life & Health. He has been in the index annuity industry since 2005, where he has held positions with multiple carriers, as well as an outside consulting firm, where he ran the annuity practice. Kevin’s expertise includes index annuities and life insurance and the legal and compliance challenges applicable to both.

In addition to his roles as DOL Compliance Officer, Vice President of Legal and Director of Government Affairs, he also collaborates on government relations, lobbying strategy, grassroots efforts and coordinating with trade and industry organizations. He is a member of the NAFA Board of Directors and Government and Legal Affairs Committee. Kevin is admitted to the Bar in Kansas and serves on the Kansas Bar Association’s Insurance Law Executive Committee.

Brian Peterson

Brian Peterson is the architect behind the design and construction of TruChoice Financial Group, LLC (TruChoice), founded to join the forces of separate field marketing organizations into one company that could leverage the combined resources and experience to gain scale in the marketplace.

In addition to his president and CEO duties with TruChoice, he serves on the board for Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, and also serves as chair of the Allianz Life Financial Literacy Committee. Brian previously served as Senior Vice President of the Allianz Distribution Group, a division of Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America (Allianz). Prior to joining Allianz in 2001, Brian was a financial advisor with Prudential and still holds Series 7 and 26 securities registrations.

Mark Williams

Mark Williams is the president and CEO of Brokers International. Over his more than 30 years of financial services experience, Mark has been both a producing independent agent in the field and a home office leader consulting to agencies and field marketing organizations. Currently, Mark is focused on the future of the insurance industry, from the disruptions of InsurTech and robo-advisors to the changing demographics and needs of customers. He also is an avid mentor, helping financial professionals navigate the industry.