It is great time to be a broker —if you are prepared for change, said Carlo Mulvenna, vice president of Pan-American Life Insurance Group, Tuesday during the opening keynote address at EBA’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance in New Orleans.

Eighty-four percent of employers are open to change, meaning they are willing to talk to brokers and hear about opportunities, according to a LIMRA study cited by Mulvenna.

Carlo Mulvenna, vice president of Pan-American Life Insurance Group, speaks March 2 in New Orleans during EBA’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance.
Carlo Mulvenna, vice president of Pan-American Life Insurance Group, speaks March 2 in New Orleans during EBA’s Workplace Benefits Renaissance. Elizabeth Galentine/EBA

But, for a broker to take advantage of that opening, they need to be resilient and a trusted adviser. That means being a coach, confidant, consultant, counselor and instructor, Mulvenna said. “That’s what 84% of employers want,” he explained. “There is a huge opportunity for everybody in this market.”

“If you can be resilient to change and focus on relationships not just when there is a check,” he added, “[you will be] seen not as a victim but as a trusted source and solution.”

Market changes
The last few years have not been easy for brokers. When the Affordable Care Act was first introduced, there were discussions of brokers going away. But, it turned out they were more needed that ever, he said.

There are “always winners and losers in disaster,” Mulvenna said. “The question is … when you don’t win, how do you survive and thrive?”

Mulvenna shared the story of New Orleans, which went from a major pre-industrial revolution city to nearly irrelevant to now almost in the top five of every economic category post-Hurricane Katrina. “That didn’t happen without collaboration and an individual focus,” Mulvenna, who is based in New Orleans, said.

For brokers to thrive, they need to know where they fit and understand building a relationship is not something only done at renewal, but throughout the year. “Innovation is critical,” Mulvenna said. “Service as a strength.”

Pan-American decided early on that product was a “fool’s game” and invested into their administrative platform, “because the product changed every month and those who were able to adapt and serve this business thrive,” Mulvenna added.

Resilience really is key, said Warren Benoit, principal at New Orleans-based brokerage Benoit & Associates Inc. “We are spokespersons for employee benefits,” he said in impromptu comments at the end of Mulvenna’s session.

Relationships also matter. “I’ve met a lot of people through the U.S. and those people come forward and have been true friends,” Benoit added. “Our industry is becoming more compact and compact. … You need to build relationships.”

“Be resilient, be different, be unique and be special in what you do,” Benoit concluded.

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