“I’m making you the agent of record on all 11, starting now,” the CFO told Derek Rine, referring to a package of benefit polices that several brokerage firms had been managing for the 3,000-employee company.

With that, local independent agency David Rine Insurance won this large account over the national house incumbent and the huge regional agency that recently had received a verbal commitment for the AOR.

How this undersized David slays industry Goliaths to win a giant account is a case study in how small but smart independents are beating the big brokerages.

A fixture in the Akron, Ohio, area for more than 25 years, Rine Insurance has been focused primarily on groups of 50-200 lives. So how did this pint-sized David rip a 3,000-life account away from two powerhouse benefit firms? The story begins with benefit practice leader Derek Rine’s decision in January 2016 to attend a new, break-the-mold conference for benefit agency leaders called ASCEND – The Agency Growth & Leadership Summit.

Bloomberg/file photo

At ASCEND, Rine discovered innovative benefit strategies, unique employee engagement resources and powerful cost-containment tools. More important, he learned that he had to have a better conversation with prospects than his competition if he wanted a chance to beat the larger benefit firms.

In his better conversation with that 3,000-life group, Rine introduced creative engagement and cost-containment solutions that neither the incumbent nor the regional agency had ever shown the client.

Game-changing solutions
For employees, Rine Insurance offered a mobile benefit portal for their phone, providing 24/7 access to health and benefit concierge services, plus a telemedicine doctor with $0 copay. Employees also could get zero-copay specialty drugs.

Slideshow
Top 10 trends influencing the workplace
Employers can expect to see more technology, a bigger focus on employee benefits and an enhanced job candidate experience in the next few years.

For the company, Rine provided several cost-containment solutions, including a proven pharmacy cost-mitigation program that slashes the high cost of specialty drugs.

Most important, however, Rine quantified potential savings, showing the CFO more than $1 million in total savings in year one alone. To a CFO, that savings translates into EBITDA that he can show his CEO and board.

And to emphasize to the CFO the greater value that Rine Insurance was bringing, Rine charged double the fees that the incumbent was charging.

Key to Rine’s success was its entry point to the company. Rine avoided the operational HR department that doesn’t own the P&L statement and resists change. Instead, confident in the tremendous value he was bringing, he secured an introduction from a mutual friend to the company’s CFO for a better, strategic conversation.

After Rine provided insights into what was possible beyond the status quo, the CFO recognized that Rine Insurance — not the big national or regional agency — was bringing the innovative solutions that provided better benefits for the employees and created EBITDA from the benefit spend. Another big win for David. Another stunning loss for Goliath.

David Rine Insurance is just one of many examples I have of small but nimble independent benefit firms across the country moving into the C-suite and leveraging better solutions and better conversations to become fearsome giant killers. Goliaths beware.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access

Nelson Griswold

Nelson Griswold

Griswold is an agency growth consultant and author of DO or DIE: Reinventing Your Benefits Agency for Post-Reform Success. His Agency Growth Mastermind Network helps agency leaders reform-proof their firm. Reach him at (615) 656-5974,