The bend-over-backwards approach brokers have used in the past — agreeing to do most, if not all, of what a client asks — will no longer be sustainable with the reporting requirements of the Affordable Care Act, forcing advisers to integrate the use of online systems and obtain useful data.

Every broker says they provide good service and most provide the same examples of what they provide, said George Reese, founder and CEO of Employee Navigator at EBA’sWorkplace Benefits Summit in Boca Raton, Fla. on Wednesday. While “insurance agents are great salespeople [they] sometimes lack strategy,” he added.

He recalled his earlier days working as an agent and traveling a 4-hour roundtrip just to conduct benefit fairs, as well as agreeing to handle everything his clients asked for, including HR consulting, retirement consulting and COBRA support. Now, however, “the size of the market impacted by the Affordable Care Act is staggering and needs to be automated,” he said. “This is the scary part of the ACA. There are 5.5 million businesses in the United States,” and most are small businesses.


As a critical part of that automation, advisers need to work closely with employee data, he said, although most agents lack access to their customer’s data. The many complex and time-consuming ACA requirements, including tracking employee hours, Reese said, “will force the need for automation in … benefit agencies.”

“Take a look at what you are doing as insurance agents. The whole thing wraps around the delivery of [services] and that is what is happening with online delivery services,” he said, stressing the importance of using online tools.

Another part of the ACA, rate transparency, allows anyone to create a quote engine and Reese predicts that will be built into enrollment. “Human resources departments had to go to a licensed agent to get a quote,” he said. “Now anyone can get a quote and you may lose customers.”

Once data is acquired it can be used to sell any service, including onboarding and voluntary. “Whoever controls the data is the winner. I don’t care about your relationships,” Reese said. “I know my Dad [a former agent] had great relationships. They still need that person, but the person who has all the data is the winner.”  

When brokers insource system management and access to data, they will be the first system used by new hires, they can manage and sell products in a store, and they can efficiently deliver voluntary, Reese explained. With that data, they can also effectively cross-sell, when a birth takes place, marriage pay raise, etc.

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