The benefits industry has a new competitor! Financial services behemoth Fidelity has launched a private health insurance exchange to target small and midsized companies. Their news release indicates they will act as both the insurance broker and administrator for businesses and their employees, providing varied benefits offerings, along with wellness programs and other services.

Joe Laurin, president of Fidelity Health Marketplace, believes his unit can leverage Fidelity’s scale, technology and other business units to grab market share from smaller, independent brokers.

Bloomberg/file photo

That is not the only challenge facing advisers. Carrier consolidation continues apace, what with Anthem acquiring Cigna and Aetna acquiring Humana. This can only accelerate the ongoing trend towards commission compression.

But there’s some good news too. Clients—particularly smaller clients—need more assistance with ACA compliance plus general administrative support, which creates opportunities for payroll and ben admin companies to expand their footprint.

Is the glass half empty, or . . .

So . . . one could move into the doom and gloom mode, or one can look at these changes as our opportunity to capture market share. This is especially so because technology, systems and processes are becoming increasingly important for employers, who are struggling to do more with less.

Yet if history provides any lesson, it is that technology can never replace relationships, empathy and a true understanding of our client’s needs. Our challenge as advisers is how to integrate all of our resources into compelling, holistic services that benefit our clients.

What do we need to do to survive and thrive? Ease employers’ administrative burden? Be there for them in their time of need? I believe it boils down to focusing on the needs of our clients. We need to do more than just solve their problems; we need to make them aware of problems they didn’t even know had.

Advisers are only replaceable if we fail to do what we should.

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