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IRI’s 2023 Annual Conference Opens with Award Winners and Record Attendance

Insurance Forums Staff

The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) kicked off its 2023 Annual Conference in Miami today with record attendance and sponsorship for an in-depth exploration of business, technology, political, and regulatory issues facing the complete supply chain of the insured retirement industry.

Additionally, IRI celebrated outstanding member representatives through its Industry Champion of Retirement Security Award, a new Leadership Award, and a Chairman Award.

IRI President and CEO Wayne Chopus welcomed the nearly 600 attendees saying, “We are a member-focused, first-call organization for this industry that understands that we must deliver value for your membership dues.”

Chopus noted recent successes, including passage of the SECURE 2.0 Act, a comprehensive retirement security law enacted in December. The measure included 15 IRI-advocated priority issues to expand access to workplace retirement plans and facilitate lifetime income solutions for workers and retirees.

He also listed other critical industry strategic objectives that IRI is leading, including an industry effort to advance and adopt digital solutions across the annuity lifecycle to modernize distribution channels and ensure consumer expectations are exceeded at every opportunity.

Chopus noted IRI’s leadership in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. He mentioned several partnerships IRI has formed with key organizations, including the Coalition for Equity in Wholesaling, EveryIncome, the Financial Alliance on Racial Equity, and other industry trade associations. “In all we’re doing, we are embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion principles,” he said.

Sammons’ Bill Lowe honored as Champion of Retirement Security

From left, IRI President and CEO Wayne Chopus, Bill Lowe, President of Sammons Institutional Group, and Terri Fiedler, President of Retirement Services, Corebridge Financial, and Chair of the IRI Board of Directors.

IRI honored Bill Lowe, President of Sammons Institutional Group, as its Industry Champion of Retirement Security at the association’s annual meeting today. Lowe also serves on the IRI Board of Directors.

IRI’s Industry Champion of Retirement Security Award recognizes individuals who work to enhance retirement security in the United States. The award is bestowed upon an individual who has demonstrated leadership to advance IRI-supported public policies through advocacy, communications, education, and other initiatives that help Americans plan for and save for their retirement years.

IRI created the Champion of Retirement Security Award in 2013 to recognize policymakers who have contributed significantly to advancing ideas and policies that enhance retirement security for all Americans. IRI expanded the program to recognize private-sector individuals who have made valuable contributions toward expanding retirement security.

“Bill is a visionary leader committed to advancing our industry,” Chopis said. “He is among the longest currently serving IRI Board Members, and his knowledge, experience, and energy have made him a forceful advocate and a vital force in establishing strategic goals for IRI.”

Leadership and Chairman Award recipients

Wayne Chopus, IRI President & CEO, Helene Rayder, Vice President, Director of Federal Relations at Lincoln Financial Group, Rhonda Wolverton, Director of Operations, Relationship Management at Jackson, and Terri Fiedler, President, Retirement Services, Corebridge Financial and Chair, IRI Board of Directors.

IRI presented its inaugural Leadership Award to Helene Rayder, Vice President, Director of Federal Relations at Lincoln Financial Group, and Rhonda Wolverton, Director of Operations, Relationship Management at Jackson. IRI Chief Government and Political Affairs Officer Paul Richman received the association’s first Chairman Award.

The awards were presented during IRI’s 2023 Annual Conference in Miami. The IRI Leadership Award recognizes industry leaders who have made exemplary contributions towards advancing one of IRI’s strategic pillars in advocacy, operations and technology, diversity, equity, and inclusion, member engagement, and other critical areas.

Those nominated for the award must be a chair or vice chair of an IRI committee or working group. Nominees must demonstrate leadership skills that facilitate and encourage favorable outcomes for the industry and IRI and be committed to IRI’s mission and vision to advance policies to help America’s workers and retirees achieve a dignified retirement.

Helene Rayder chaired IRI’s Government Affairs Advisory Committee, where she played an active role in the development of two of IRI’s annual Federal Retirement Security Blueprints.

Additionally, she has been a trusted advisor and counselor to IRI’s government affairs team in formulating strategies to advance Blueprint objectives before Congress and the Biden Administration.

Her leadership and participation during meetings with congressional staff and members of Congress enhanced IRI’s advocacy efforts. Her work helped IRI achieve its Blueprint legislative goals, notably the enactment of 15 of 33 Blueprint proposals in the SECURE 2.0 Act.

Rhonda Wolverton has been a highly engaged member of IRI’s Operations and Technology community and an instrumental leader who breaks down silos to effect and motivate change across the industry. She has bridged the business, operations, technology, and regulations communities and has chaired many initiatives at the task force, working group, and committee levels.

Her leadership has delivered solutions that streamline processes, reduce reliance on paper records, and decrease processing times from weeks to days. She has helped to pave the way to a streamlined, digital future.

“Our industry has a great wealth of talented leaders,” Chopis said. “Today, we celebrate and congratulate Helene’s and Rhonda’s achievements and many contributions that have moved our industry forward. Their efforts have benefited their companies, our industry, and millions of America’s workers and retirees seeking a financially secure and dignified retirement.”

Wayne Chopus, Paul Richman, Chief Government and Political Affairs Officer, and Terri Fiedler.

The IRI Chairman Award recognizes an IRI team member who has shown leadership and commitment to facilitate outcomes that advance the mission and vision of IRI and the industry to help America’s workers and retirees achieve a secure and dignified retirement.

“IRI is grateful for Paul’s advocacy and leadership in championing retirement security for America’s workers and retirees,” said Terri Fiedler, President of Retirement Services at Corebridge Financial, and Chair of the IRI Board of Directors. “Paul’s accomplishments, professionalism and strategic thinking have significantly advanced the IRI mission and vision.”

“Without a doubt, Paul’s contributions to IRI and our industry over the past year have been nothing short of spectacular,” Chopus said. “His leadership of IRI’s legislative advocacy program scored major accomplishments in the SECURE 2.0 Act, which includes 15 specific IRI policy proposals. He is a consummate professional dedicated to IRI’s mission. We’re proud of Paul for this well-deserved recognition.”



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