Event Recap: Upping Your Financial Savvy–Maximizing Your Company Benefits

On 23 January 2020, HBA Central New Jersey (CNJ) held an educational event in Princeton, NJ sponsored by Sandoz. This event was the kickoff for the 2020 HBA CNJ six-part program series, “Accelerating Your Game: From Personal and Corporate Finance to the Boardroom”.

The Opening
The evening started with networking of approximately 90 HBA members and nonmembers in Sandoz’s beautiful lounge over hors d’oeuvres and drinks. The buzz in the room was vibrant and men and women from all different healthcare companies were eager to connect and meet one another. After an hour of networking, the attendees were ushered into Sandoz’s conference room, setup beautifully with flower center pieces and red and white tablecloths. Each attendee had an agenda, a pen,\ and packet of financial information ready at their chairs.

Starting off the event was HBA Central NJ President Sheila Frame, VP of marketing, market access and patient services,Sandoz, thanking the support of Sandoz as sponsors of the event and thanking all the volunteers involved with planning and organizing. She shared that Sandoz has achieved gender parity on the leadership level as well as, shared the mission of the HBA. Then she explained the value of membership and volunteering.

She promoted the topics of 2020 financial series and posed questions to the audience that will be addressed in the event series.

  • “Investments: what does it mean to be a shareholder? Do you ever vote your shares?”
  • “Let’s get CFOs together to break down financial statements, do you really understand your P&L?”
  • “What’s the role of the boards of directors vs management? Listen to recruiters in the industry.”

The Keynote
Next up was keynote Joanne Manidis, executive director- specialty products, Sandoz, who shared her personal experience as a woman managing her life and career, as a holistic picture. “Don’t separate your career journey and life journey.  Life parallels your career, so combine them.” She shared her hilarious story of outing her “meat budget” as a euphuism for her discretionary clothing budget to her financial planner. Her second point was to “be transparent” with others and especially with yourself. And her last point to the audience was to support your female and male colleagues on their journey because we all need support. It is important to find someone to help hold you accountable.


Then we progressed to the panelists, who surveyed the audience using the interactive app Slido to gauge their interest in the topic and direction of the discussion. There was a strong response around the topic of retirement savings and 401k, but also, a general want to understand financial subjects. Also, the audience was 50-60 percent in their early to mid-career stage of life with +15 years to retirement.

The Panel Discussion
Panel discussion included the following panelists:

  • Lisa Sehgal, financial consultant, Fidelity Investments
  • Hicham Choukrane, director, people and organization operations, P&O Business Partner Sandoz
  • Jane Davila, head, global policy, advocacy and government affairs, Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Moderated by Jill Bottone, director, HR – people and organization NA, Sandoz

After some personal questions and fun facts to warm up the panel, questions were asked of the panelists, such as:

 “What’s the best way to understand company benefits?

  • Answers from the panelists were: There’s a lot of info and it can be fragmented, but go into your HR portal and read what’s available to you. Everyone’s situation is different, so take advantage of your financial institution’s customer 800- hotline. And don’t overlook your benefits package, which can account for 30-40 percent of your total compensation package.

“How do you prepare for life situations?”

  • Answers from the panelist were: 77 percent of women who claim to have low stress in their lives had a clear financial plan, consider placing your money into automatic buckets, depending on your stage of life 1) emergency fund (3-6 months of expenses) 2) protection fund/ short-term needs 3) growth fund (or retirement/ long term needs), and don’t forget to optimize your tax-savings accounts, such as the Health Savings Account

And so many other questions were asked…

Audience Q&A
There were no lack of questions via the interactive app and from the floor. Over 10 questions were asked and answered.

But the most personal and vulnerable question came at the end, “What if you don’t feel that you are affluent enough to engage financial advisors, should I even try? And if I do what would be the first step?”  This question garnered applause from the audience for her courage to ask.

Answers from the panelists were

  • Just use the financial institutions -800 information line, and ask anything, there’s no question that is too basic
  • It’s never too early.  What you consider affluent may not be what someone else considers affluent
  • Look at all the benefits available to you through your company, don’t leave anything on the table.

The Close
During the closing, Stephanie Stevens shared with us the value of our community and bringing valuable talks like this together. Acknowledgements went to the Sandoz sponsors and volunteers and HBA volunteers. She also promoted the next of the series and shared the promotional opportunity to attend three events and get the rest 50 percent off.

Awards were then given to Stephanie – HBA NY/NJ regional Marie Curie award for innovation and impact and Sheila Frame received the leadership recognition for commitment and dedication to the HBA mission.