As the first quarter winds down, it’s a good time for advisers to start planning for the 2018-2019 plan year. What those plans will be will depend on the adviser’s business model.

For advisors that only focus on employee benefits, now is an excellent time to take stock of any changes to plan design, contributions, enrollment tools and the employee communication programs made on behalf of clients at the end of 2017. Specifically, the advisor should make sure that he’s set up to report results against the client’s revised goals and expectations.

Advisers who also advise on compliance-related matters should have filed 1094/1095 reports on behalf of their clients by now. In addition to the above, they should review their 1094/1095 process with an eye towards making it more efficient.

Yet under both these business models, the services that the adviser offers are strictly transactional in nature. And if these are the only services that an adviser offers, he remains vulnerable to losing his clients to another adviser that offers the same services at a more competitive price point.

Advisers who provide human resource administration and technology-related services, in addition to benefits and compliance-related work, have more synergy with their clients. They are not limited to engaging in transactions with the client, but also conduct administrative and sourcing activities on behalf of the client, helping to introduce greater structure and efficiencies into the employers’ environment. As a result, the adviser establishes a deeper and more collaborative relationship with the client, which is more difficult for another advisor to disrupt.

Beyond transactional, administrative and sourcing activities, some advisers also provide human capital management services. These advisers tend to have the strongest strategic relationships with their clients, making it very difficult for a competitor to displace them (barring any performance issues or changes in client ownership, such as a merger or acquisition). Advisers who establish these types of trusted relationships do so by engaging with their clients of throughout the year—and not just during the open enrollment period.

So, as Q1 2018 comes to a close, advisers should consider what type of relationship they have with their clients and whether they are offering them a strategic set of services. If those relationships are less enduring than the adviser would like them to be, then now is a great time to begin planning additional offerings that have the potential to deepen their client bonds and forge new ones.

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Perry Braun

Perry Braun

As Executive Director of the Benefit Advisors Network, Perry is responsible for assisting privately held employee benefit brokerage firms improve their performance and profitability.