“I don’t know how consultants are handling their businesses without [big data],” says Jeff Oldham, vice president of consumer strategy at Benefitfocus. “Without it they are just shooting blindly in the dark.”

John Modica, assistant vice president of regional and small business solutions strategy at MetLife, says advisers should be looking at big data to best serve their clients.

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“If I’m a new agent coming out and I do not have a very diverse block of business, [MetLife] has tools by industry,” Oldham says. “The nice thing about Met is that they can give an agent that’s brand new coming into the field data which can empower them to have sensitive conversations with new prospective clients that they wouldn’t have been able to have with their current clients because they did not have access to their own data.”

Andrew Kimmel, president of bnchmrk, says there are three key sections of big data that advisers, consultants and brokers should pay attention to when managing big data and advising their clients.

Andrew Kimmel

1) Benchmarking. All brokers and consultants help their clients make renewal decisions around plan design or cost changes and benchmarking is a very useful tool to show their clients how they compare to the competition. Ultimately, it highlights the areas where they are weak or strong and those become the target areas for changes to be made.

“At bnchmrk, we use a proprietary big data software to collect and process benefit information in real-time across thousands of employers and benefit plans across the U.S.,” Kimmel says. “This means we are able to give our clients quality insight into what is happening in the market right now, as opposed to traditional surveying techniques that have a 12 to 18 month lag.”

2) Prospecting and business development. Kimmel knows many benefit salespeople that are using publically available datasets or tools like miEdge to find out who the current broker is for a particular company, who their carriers are, even how much they get paid in commission.

3) Claims analysis. Lastly, there is big data claims analysis, which is only available to large self-insured companies. In the claims analysis, consultants must have accesses to detailed claims files and PHI information.

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“Companies like Verisk offer tools to analyze large sets of medical and Rx claims in order to find patterns in the types of diseases and diagnosis that drive high costs with the goal of designing better wellness programs to reduce future claims,” Kimmel says.

Without the use of big data, Oldham says advisers are simply being anecdotal instead of being consultative. “In this day and age, particularly in the market that my team advises on, which is 1,000 plus, to have any conversation without data is almost irresponsible,” he says.

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