Editor’s note: This blog is the third in a series of posts from new adviser Brian Murphy as EBA follows the rookie through his first year in the field.

As we prepare for the January 1 renewal season, it’s “all hands on deck.”  Being a new member of the Willis team, I was eager to pitch in and found myself tackling a medical, dental and vision marketing project.

Just before heading out for vacation, my co-worker sent out an RFP to our carrier partners. Proposals started coming in before she returned, and it was then that I saw an opportunity to jump in and take the reins.

‘Trial by fire’

Immediately, I was copied on a barrage of emails about rate concessions, package discounts, geo-access reports, network disruption, plan designs and much more. While working with senior account managers, it was the first time I was able to see the entire proposal process and all that goes into our renewal recommendations. It occurred to me that this was the best way possible to learn — trial by fire.

Also see: "My first new client implementation meeting."

It started with dental. The proposals came back with a wide range of competitiveness which showed me how much the carriers can vary in their underwriting practices. I was floored to learn how intricate the system of provider and payment practices could be. Several carriers provided strong quotes, but based on network and benefit analysis we were able to immediately eliminate some of the competitors. The ins and outs of dental procedures and benefit maximums were something that I worked on piecemeal, but without doing a full analysis. In the end, we had two or three strong proposals we were prepared to show our client.

Finding medical and vision coverage was a bit more complicated than dental, which is limited in the range of services it provides, especially when compared to medical coverage. I analyzed the carriers’ proposed benefit summaries line by line. Following similar network and benefit analyses, we were able to eliminate a handful of carriers and focus on a few strong quotes. This is where I learned the value of package discounts — packaging several lines of coverage with one carrier. While it was very important to make sure the network and benefit designs were comparable to the incumbent carrier, the added savings of package discounts made one particular carrier a very clear front-runner.

Also see: "Rookie adviser finds career opportunity has 'doubled' with Willis/Towers Watson merger."

Overall, this was a holistic way of experiencing the marketing process. Instead of marketing one line of coverage, I was in the position to market three. I also had the opportunity to review the competitors against a range of considerations: Are they buying the business? Are they intentionally lowballing to get the client on their book of business? Are they matching current plan design? Are there any major differences in coverage? Is their network strong in our client’s geographical area? As advisers, these are some of the things we need to be on the lookout for.

Murphy is a risk management analyst in the human capital practice at Willis of Greater Philadelphia. Reach him at Brian.W.Murphy@Willis.com.

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