Consumer-driven platforms continue to drive business in the benefits market. For brokers to stay relevant, knowledge of the most up-to-date technology is a must.

Mercer’s acquisition of Thomsons Online Benefits is an example of this trend and how brokerages are working to stay ahead of the curve. Christine Mahoney, global strategy leader of retirement and health benefits at Mercer, says clients are continuing to ask for innovation and updates, and it is clear technology will be at the heart of the next evolution in the way benefits and employee relationships are managed.

“We started to see it in RFIs and RFPs and having a combined offering that takes consulting and brokerage capabilities and delivers it on a common platform, we think, is the direction the market is headed in,” Mahoney says.

She adds that Thomsons brings a “fit for purpose” global system to the industry which contains an engine that is very flexible to the needs of the employer and the employee, no matter where the business is located in the world.

Also see:10 companies that made big benefits changes in 2016.”

“[The acquisition] brings speed of execution because the bottom line is two companies cannot collaborate the same way that a joined up entity can,” Mahoney says. “The other thing is that it allows us to explore innovation in our consulting as well as the innovation that Thomsons was doing with Darwin on its own.”

A wholesale change
Wendy Keneipp, partner and coach at Q4intellignece, says Mercer’s acquisition of Thomsons is just more evidence of a wholesale change taking place within the health benefits industry.

“This isn’t a new message; it just puts Mercer and Thomsons as the main characters in this one, and it definitely won’t be the last such announcement,” Keneipp says. “It’s further evidence that all benefits are moving to a more consumer-centric platform.”

Mahoney says over the next 60 to 90 days Mercer will need to build a technology roadmap that will explain how Thomsons technology will integrate into the Mercer business routine, which will be headed by a team comprised of both Mercer and Thomsons experts.

Also see:Top 10 EBA stories of 2016.”

“In the short run, within those 60 to 90 days, we have a pipeline already and we will accelerate our emphasis on filling the pipeline and closing it out,” Mahoney says. “We have already built a joint value proposition from a go-to-market perspective, but we will probably continue to hone that as well in the short term, even before we make that long-term technology roadmap decision.”

Keneipp says this acquisition sends a loud and clear message to the entire consulting community and should strongly be heeded. “Get comfortable with technology or be ready for irrelevance,” Keneipp says.

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