Benefits administrative work presents opportunity for adviser help
Employers are struggling to meet the “overwhelming” compliance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, according to Chris Schutt, managing principal of the Virginia office of Digital Benefit Advisors. In a discussion with EBA, Schutt said administrative level challenges can create opportunities for benefit advisers.
EBA: How big is your firm?
Schutt: Digital Benefit Advisors has 700 employees in 24 or 25 locations around the country. We have clients in all segments of the business.
EBA: What size and makeup is your typical client?
Schutt: We have a large presence with a team that works on clients that are under 50 lives and we have a large team that works on clients over 50 employees. Probably our biggest growing area is in the mid-market which is between 50 and 500 employees.
EBA: What are your firm’s product offerings?
Schutt: We do everything around the employee benefits needs. So we work with clients around product needs such as medical, dental, life, long and short term disability. All the core products in benefits we manage, but we also have a lot of resources around settling claims for clients and their employees around compliance and regulatory issues and around analytics.
EBA: How do you interact with the client?
Schutt: We have a lot of live dialogue usually by phone or face-to-face and keep them updated through regular communication, webinars and other educational opportunities around emerging trends that affect them.
EBA: What do you see as your top two to three challenges?
"One of the big challenges for our clients is that they are faced with an unprecedented amount of administrative work when they are trying to stay in compliance with the ACA and running their HR and benefit programs."
Schutt: One of the big challenges for our clients is that they are faced with an unprecedented amount of administrative work when they are trying to stay in compliance with the ACA and running their HR and benefit programs. Everything from hiring and onboarding to payroll and benefits management used to be a lot simpler and they have now gotten much more complicated for our clients.
EBA: How are you trying to overcome these challenges?
Schutt: One of the systems we have invested in, for our clients, is a team in our company to help manage benefits and HR systems. We help to make sure carrier feeds are up and running and client information is being utilized correctly.
At a broader level, we have bought an equity stake in a company called “GoCo.” This is a human capital management software system we are offering to our clients that we can match-up with the broker advice and consultation we offer. Clients have an easy way to address HR and administrative needs.
EBA: What do you see as the biggest changes happening in the benefits market?
Schutt: I certainly think the conversion of a lot of different systems and solutions have been big changes in the benefits market. I also think the regulatory and compliance requirements employers are faced with now cause them to be consumed by which aspects of the ACA apply to them. That trend is going to continue and what used to be a more straight forward benefits buying experience, is now a much more daunting task to try and keep up with this vast array of regulations and compliance issues.
An example of this is the ACA reporting requirement or the potential for Department of Labor audits. The change is in benefits management and how it has gotten much more complicated.
EBA: How do you think those changes will play out?
Schutt: I think we’ll continue to see in the broker/agent world, companies needing to align the resources and support that we provide with challenges in their benefits management systems. It is a different need than your traditional program placement negotiation need that we used to have.
Brokers and agents are going to need to have the legal and technological knowledge to assist clients in this more complex way employers have to go about choosing their benefits.