Nick Rockwell, a senior consultant at Eastbridge Consulting Group, has 14 years’ experience in benefits sales, distribution and marketing. Before joining Eastbridge in January, he ran LifeLock’s Benefits Solutions Group. Now, as a voluntary business consultant, he advises clients on how to enter the worksite market and how they can build up their businesses. Rockwell spoke at Employee Benefit Adviser’s Workplace Benefits Mania event earlier this month, where he sat for a quick interview with Editorial Director John McCormick. What follows is an edited version of their conversation.

Nick Rockwell

EBA: It seems like competition is heating up in the voluntary space.

Nick Rockwell: Voluntary used to be an area where, if you were a voluntary centric producer, you could really hone in and build some relationships. You could build a block of business that would last a long, long time. But now brokers who might have handled health are coming into the space. For them, voluntary is new revenue. For the broker who’s been in the voluntary business maybe 10, 15, 20 years, they’re feeling a little bit of a squeeze. The benefit competition today is all on the voluntary side. The question now for all brokers: How are you going to differentiate yourself?

EBA: How can brokers stand out and be successful?

Rockwell: One of the things we see when somebody is first coming into the space is that they sometimes choose a carrier that can be a one-stop shop. They can get all the insurance products they need. They can get enrollment. They might even be able to get a consolidated billing component. It’s all in one place.

But if you really want differentiation, you have to become differentiated. And that requires you to become more comfortable with each individual aspect of voluntary benefits. You have to go and get the best life insurance product, the best critical illness product, the best accident product — and they might come from three different carriers. But if you pull them together with your own enrollment … that’s differentiated. That combination is going be different from the one offered by the guy down the street because it’s unique to you.

EBA: In terms of differentiation, what are some of the interesting products coming on the market?

Rockwell: The non-traditional category is seeing quite a boom. You’ve got things like identity theft protection, legal plans, even pet insurance. You also have things like student loan repayment plans. Student loan repayment has been primarily an employer program, but we’re starting to see it become voluntary. So that’s a very interesting one. Then there’s telemedicine in some instances being employed as a voluntary mechanic rather than employer paid.

Today, it’s more common for an employer to offer three to five or even six or more kinds of voluntary benefits where they just used to have one or two.

For brokers, having a deep portfolio that they’re able to represent is important for success.

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