STEVE JOBS ASKED US TO “THINK DIFFERENT”
Over the last few months I have spoken to over 100 groups of brokers, consultants and employers across the country about the results of two critical pieces of recent research that MetLife has conducted with employees, employers and brokers that demonstrate the need to think differently about the future. Especially true for professionals in the “trusted advisor” business faced with distinct revenue challenges in the near future will be the need to “THINK DIFFERENT.”
In this regard we would do well to consider the legacy of Steve Jobs which includes the passion and foresight to innovate.
MetLife research confirms, to no surprise, that, in the face of a grim economy and shrinking government safety nets, employees are feeling mounting pressure and panic about their financial prospects. But they are clear about what they want. They want help and 73% say they would welcome this help in the form of financial advice and guidance from their employers.
But the research also revealed that providing this help is not high on the priority list for most employers, or for their benefits advisers. Only 20% of brokers and consultants see potential in financial education programs and only 19% of employers identify providing financial/retirement education programs as a very important benefits strategy.
The “so what” insight provided by this research is that employees know what they want. And the market is ready for a good solution.
Our research suggests that some brokers and consultants could be overlooking a significant opportunity to help their employer clients not only to hear this message but also to recognize the cost of ignoring employee financial insecurity. There is now plenty of research to show that a substantive relationship exists between financial stress and health risk, and financial distress is one of the strongest predictors of illness-related absence from the workplace. In other words, financial education could help increase productivity and reduce health costs. Hence, the buzz around “financial wellness.”
This is a new area for many intermediaries. One way for brokers and consultants to deliver highly credible financial advice and guidance solutions to their clients without significant investment on their firm’s part is by identifying a strong partner with these specialized skills. Many programs do not involve cost to employers, and educating employees can boost interest for other products, and help brokers and consultants introduce voluntary and supplemental products to the workplace as part of a long-term strategy.
By paying close attention to the research brokers and consultants can help employers deliver what their employees want and also their own needs for new profit paths and competitive differentiation. Thinking differently is probably necessary for survival. Mr. Jobs certainly believed that to be so.
Leopold, MD, MBA, MPH, is vice president and national medical director of MetLife U.S. Business.
 9th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends, 2011
 Where Do We Go From Here? Prospering in a Post-Health Care Reform world. Findings from MetLife’s Broker & Consultant Study, 2011T
 The relationship between perceived stress and self-reported illness-related Absenteeism, Jacobson et al Am J. of Health Promotion 1996
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