5 ways to grow your brokerage with a remote service model

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OneDigital, formerly known as Digital Insurance, grew from a 40 employee company at its founding in 2000 that almost went bankrupt to one of the largest independent agencies in the country with $150 million in annual revenue.

Speaking at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Summit in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Brett Rosen, the company’s EVP, M&A and strategic partnerships, shared that growth is possible for any brokerage nationwide, as long as they are innovative.

Initially, the company raised $30 million. But it was not a good start, as they tried to bring small group online, a model to this day that does not work well, Rosen explained. The company went through that $30 million and had about $7 left in the bank.

In 2002, the company moved to broker partnerships model and then in 2008 started acquiring blocks of business from agencies, in very small groups (10-15 employees) with a split commission model. In 2010, OneDigital started acquiring larger agencies, making its first acquisition for $50,000. Recently it closed a $13 million acquisition.

But Rosen said the company’s greatest and most valuable innovation has been segmenting customers. “From a customer prospective, they didn’t expect the same things,” he explained. “Once we realized that, we really started to take off.” With its team call center model, OneDigital has a 95% retention rate.

Under a team-based approach, One Digital currently has 12,691 accounts managed by 17 people.

Best practices
For other agencies to replicate that success, Rosen shared best practices on how to move to a remote service model, allowing agencies to do more with less.

  • Rather than focusing on clients one-on-one, a team model gave OneDigital the ability to answer 100% of phone calls, meaning no client receives a voicemail. By taking detailed notes and using the same processes, it provides services quick. “For service, [clients] don’t have to ask for Sam or Julie. That is kind of revolutionary in our business,” Rosen said. “Relationships are huge, but it can’t help someone faster and more efficient.”
  • Shared services allow OneDigital’s benefit consultants to spend all of their time taking with clients about strategy, changes in business and relationship building.
  • But, they still maintain a direct relationship with a client. “We can’t have the partner or sales person involved as a middle man,” Rosen said. “Producers need to be convinced on this. Let the account manager do their job.”
  • No one-offs on service. “The model works because it is efficient, constituent, scalable and a balance of process/technology and people,” he explained.
  • Rosen said that the firm learned setting expectations up front is key. “It will be a different experience for a client if their current broker/consultant was visiting them face-to-face and hand-holding,” he explained. “We touch the clients as many or more times via e-mail and phone, but we don’t visit face-to-face.”
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