Meet the benefits adviser to Silicon Valley
Benefits adviser Erik Hansen has built his career serving a rarefied group of employers. That can be both a blessing and a curse.
At the still tender age of 30, Hansen is president of Vita Companies, a family-owned business based in Mountain View, California. The firm’s clientele is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, and therein lies the rub.
“We provide our services to some of the world’s most exciting venture-backed startups,” says Hansen, “and we have to address their needs at a time of insuretech disruption and ACA confusion.”
Hansen grew up in a household where employee benefits was a frequent topic of conversation at the kitchen table. “Benefits are in my DNA,” he laughs. “My professional work began at the age of 12 or 13, stuffing envelopes and the like.”
Throughout college at Pepperdine and San Francisco State Universities, Hansen worked for Vita as a pre-tax claims analyst, and then briefly joined AEIS, another Bay Area brokerage, as a business retention and development specialist. He joined Vita in 2013 as an account executive, and later served as became vice president of client experience, before being named its second-in-command at the end of 2017.
With the majority of its clients headquartered in and around the Bay Area, technology plays an outsized role at Vita, and providing clients with custom deployments of industry-leading benefits solutions, like those developed by Maxwell Health and eCentral, is at the heart of Vita’s value proposition.
“Our customers expect us to meld best-in-class technology with best-in-class customer support,” Hansen explains. “So, one of the things that Vita does differently is that we don’t put any of our producers on commission. We tell them instead to focus on the customer experience.”
Service is coupled with technology, so that even as a client’s employees are leaving their open enrollment meeting, for example, some of them will immediately use their cell phones to complete their annual enrollments. As for the rest, Hansen explains, they know exactly where to go to sign up as soon as they’re ready. And all employees leave the meeting with the self-service tools they need to fully engage with their benefits throughout the year.
“Erik is a very forward thinker with a can-do attitude,” says Ron Bland, a principal at AEIS, where he was Hansen’s first boss after college. Today, he and Hansen both belong to the California chapter of United Benefits Advisors, where Hansen serves as technology chair. CUBA members support each other by sharing expertise and best practices, and Bland says that Hansen “brings a lot to the table, especially in terms of technology.”
Per Hansen’s vision, today all Vita clients, regardless of size, have access to paperless benefit workflows, and the Vita team has developed cutting-edge tools to help them model their benefit strategies. Efforts like these have earned Vita a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 84, indicating an outstanding level of customer loyalty.
But Hansen knows he can’t afford to rest on his laurels. His clients, he points out, “face innumerable challenges with the U.S. healthcare system being so disjointed.”
Referring to his client base of technology firms and their employees, he calls it “amazing how many of the smartest people in the world have no concept of how their health insurance works and how they should use it. My job,” he says, “is to show them the light.”