Developing new products for a changing workforce

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Many employers seek to fill the gaps left by high-deductible health plans by offering traditional forms of supplemental medical, such as critical illness, disability or accident. Others are seeking an increasingly popular way to retain younger talent by offering benefits around debt assistance or identity theft protection.

Katie Dunnington, vice president of group product solutions at Lincoln Financial Group, and Alvin Heggie, AVP for product management at Mass Mutual Financial Group, plan to address advisers and brokers at the 2017 Workplace Benefits Renaissance March 1-3 in New Orleans on how the voluntary benefits market is changing and what products are most sought after by consumers.

Dunnington intends to focus on financial security, millennial participation compared to other generations and general trends around employee-paid benefits.

“We’ve been doing quite a bit of consumer research on product design and concept testing, as well as on the buying process,” Dunnington says.

Heggie wants to answer the question, “How do you innovate for the changing landscape of needs?” One approach he plans to address is the trend of financial wellness.

“The current buzzword is ‘financial wellness’ and that comes on the heels of everybody talking about how you save for retirement,” Heggie says. “Whether you’re a baby boomer, Gen Xer or a millennial, your no. 1 exposure today is no longer how to protect your 401(k), but how you pay for medical expenses when you have a high-deductible plan and a full-deductible expense early in the plan year and your HSA is not funded.”

Ensuring financial security
Dunnington plans to intersect with Heggie on the topic of saving for retirement while battling current medical expenses by educating the audience on to ensure they are providing the products their clients need.

“There are a lot of choices and tradeoffs people need to make such as, ‘Do I save more for retirement; do I save more just for day-to-day expenses or do I protect my long-term financial security,’” Dunnington says. “The other piece is related to the buying decision and how [employers] want to enroll [employees] while handling these tradeoffs.”

Heggie wants to approach the conversation from the benefit carrier’s perspective by identifying what products and what features will work best for a client’s needs.

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“When you look at the changing landscape and the very real needs [of clients] that are different from what they were 10 years ago, what do we see from a carrier’s perspective as the best way to solve those needs,” Heggie says. “Is it through easier-to-understand products, a new product or how we are reaching the employees?”

Dunnington says the one thing she wants advisers and brokers to come away with is a robust understanding of the current trends so they can translate that to the employers. “I think there is a really important role that the benefit advisers play in helping an employer appreciate the role of voluntary benefits in their portfolio and how much employees really do look to them,” she says.

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