Becoming the ‘True Trusted Adviser’

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Over the past decade, Braden Monaco, co-founder and managing partner of Blue Horizon Benefits, has dedicated his career and his Danvers, MA-based firm to turning the traditional sales-centric approach to benefits on its head with an entirely new model driven by working in true partnership with clients.

Monaco is one of 20 benefit brokers age 35 or below who was recently nominated as one of Employee Benefit Adviser’s Rising Stars in Advising. He seeks to embrace creative benefit outcomes for his clients rather than offering minor solutions such as small reductions in an employer’s healthcare premiums as a means to grow and retain business.

“Our jobs, as brokers, are to go out negotiate rates and find alternative designs in the marketplace; that’s what clients pay us for,” Monaco says. “What sets us apart from other agencies is being that day-to-day partner supporting clients via the technology side, offering a service team that manages changes in enrollments, terminations and claims, to support clients with compliance issues such as ERISA, ACA and even basic notifications and updates.”

With a $750,000 book of business and an expected $870,000 book projected for 2018, Monaco is developing a new-breed concierge service platform that adapts to each client’s needs and wants.

“It combines nimble, proactive management and client communication with state-of-the-art technology tools,” he says. “We are much more than benefits consultants. Rather, we become integral to our clients’ business operations to give them a competitive edge.”

Also see: 2018 Rising Stars in Advising

Andrew Graff, CEO of Allen & Gerritsen, an ad agency based in Boston and Philadelphia, says Monaco has always been on the relentless pursuit for his company’s business. He eventually earned it back in 2016 because of his determination and insight into the benefits industry, which Graff did not find to be interesting prior to working with Monaco.

“As a CEO, benefits and benefit renewal is not my no. 1 priority — I actually find it quite annoying, because we have to discuss it every year — but Braden brought a different perspective to an industry that I find to be all too commoditized and of low interest,” Graff says.

“Culture is a big part of my agency — being competitive in benefits is important as well but it is not enough to keep employees here — but Braden has always managed to bring innovation and continues to make the category way more interesting than anybody before him,” adds Graff.

Monaco wants to be seen by his clients as a “truly trusted adviser,” by utilizing the knowledge and tools at his disposal to not only give employers more profit and success when it comes to their benefits, but also allow employees to understand what the company is delivering in terms of benefit offering.

“One of the biggest things we approached with Allen & Gerritsen — as we do with many of our clients — is utilize benefit technology and utilize custom education platforms to help employees understand the value of the benefits,” Monaco says. “While I wish I could say we’ve saved employers hundreds of thousands of dollars on health insurance premiums, I think we have done a good job mitigating the marketplace and mitigating the challenges that have arisen with two different offices on two different benefit platforms and keeping things consistent and keeping packages affordable.”

Graff says because of the relationship he has gained with Monaco and his firm, he is pleased with the benefit plans he has available to his employees. “

It’s like a game for customers in the benefits market,” Graff says. “I could constantly be switching out plans for the best rates, but the difference is the creativity and commitment that we crave that Braden has been able to deliver for us in an industry that is known to be historically slow.”

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