Technology Adviser of the Year: One simple question makes all the difference

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Sean Clem, VP, technology, marketplace and engagement solutions at Chicago-based Pacific Resources, starts every client meeting with a simple question: “What is the strategic goal you are looking to accomplish?”

Clem knows that benefits technology and employee communication go hand-in-hand, but he also realizes that technology is not a solution by itself.

It is something he has learned in his career spanning from consultant to revenue account manager before joining Pacific Resources in January 2015.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to look at the benefits marketplace from both perspectives,” he explains. “As a consultant, from a strategic prospective, but also working with an administration and outsourcing practice as well.”

Also see:Who are EBA’s 2016 Advisers of the Year?”

Deploying technology is about being able to “marry those two perspectives together [to find a solution] that I firmly believe is going to deliver the best outcomes for our client,” he says.

“If you have great strategic programs in place and a great strategic vision, but your systems can’t execute on those strategies, that will feel like a giant miss to the employees,” he adds.

“Conversely, if you have robust technology in place but you don’t have a strategic vision for where organizationally you need to take that technology to deliver the right benefit plan design, the right decision support tools and other things for the employees, again, it will feel like a miss.”

That’s why every meeting begins with that question: What is the client’s strategic goal?

Working with Clem is a “very positive experience,” says Pacific Resources’ Senior Vice President of Global Products and Services Chris Judd. “He has a client first mentality,” Judd explains. “Sometimes in the consulting world, I see people try to find a quick solution, but Sean does a good job of asking all the right questions and making sure clients are ready for changes they might want.”

“He does a really good job of keeping the client grounded,” Judd adds. “I can trust if [a client] goes through Sean, [they] are going to be taken care of. I have worked with people in my lifetime where if you hand some things off … you feel you need to stay involved. Sean is the opposite of that.”

Close relationships
Clem explains he works very closely not only with his clients but also vendor and industry partners to understand collectively where the market is going. “As new vendors are continually coming into the market, we try to find those that are best positioned directionally where we believe the market is strategically going,” he says. That is done through affiliations with organizations, such as the National Business Group on Health, Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers, reading magazines like EBA and attending industry events.

Also see:EBA’s top pick is a hands-on broker.”

By starting with the strategic goal question, Clem says he wants to make sure he is addressing an underlying business need for its clients and not just looking to add a piece of technology of top of what they already have.

“We want to make sure that everything we bring to the table is strategically working in harmony to achieve their benefit strategy and their goals,” Clem says.

But key to that is also recognizing each client is unique and has their own value proposition. “We get asked regularly, ‘What is the best technology vendor in the marketplace?’” he says. “And we are very quick to say, ‘That really depends on the needs of our clients.’”

“There are a lot of folks that bring strengths to the table, but at the end of the day it is about a technology solution but also a long-term partnership and … that [requires] a culture fit beyond the technology,” he adds. “The reality is, in the benefits administration business, something can and will go wrong at some point in the partnership. We want to make sure the people behind the technology are there to support our clients.”

The bottom line is it is all about listening to clients and making sure to address a specific challenge. “We cannot do that myopically. We cannot do that through looking at one specific technology vendor,” Clem says. “We need to do that by looking holistically at the market and figuring out the best way to leverage technologies that ae out there to supplement plan design and other decisions employers have made to reach the overall strategic goal.”

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Technology Advisor strategies Practice management HR Technology Private benefit exchanges