Slideshow 10 key tips from EBA’s Workplace Benefits Mania

  • July 27 2016, 12:26pm EDT
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10 key takeaways from EBA’s Workplace Benefits Mania

Addressing the realities of today’s employee benefit market, speakers at the conference shared tips for advisers to improve sales and better leverage client relationships.

Know your customer

The average age of an employee benefit broker is 55, but the audience using employee benefits consists of one-third millennials, said David Reid, CEO of EaseCentral. “The customer buying is … different than our customer (employers) and ourselves,” he explained. “A millennial buyer is a completely different buyer than the rest. … They will shut a message down very quickly.”

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Know your client

Brokers need to understand their employer clients and service their needs with tools, said Lisa Free-Martin, managing director of U.S. Employee Benefits Services Group. However, a broker needs to know what their client can support and what carriers they want to work with. “Believe it or not today, every carrier is not as easy to work with from a technology standpoint,” she added. “[There are] a lot of moving pieces.”

Know your technology

Michael Lujan, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Limelight Health, made the case that there is room for disruption in an industry that still uses fax machines. “[Technology] will change the way we do things,” he said. “We are at a crossroads because of the ACA, Internet of Things and millennials.”

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Move down-market

Online enrollment is moving “down-market rapidly,” said Gene Tyler, managing partner at U.S. Employee Benefits Services Group.

“Technology is available to everyone. You don’t need to have 500 people anymore,” he explained. “Carriers are bringing it down-market and forcing small employees to use technology.”

Improve your voluntary knowledge

“Everyone selling voluntary for the next couple of years is … selling it today,” said Gil Lowerre, president of Eastbridge Consulting Group in a keynote address. “That means the broker population will go the opposite direction in terms of sophistication. More experience each year, more cases that they deal with, place greater demands on carriers.”

“This is a fundamental issue for everyone that serves the industry,” he added. A mediocre offering is no longer a choice. “Those days are gone. The bar has been raised,” he explained.

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Look into market segmentation

Focusing a specific market has created a world of opportunity for Sher Sparano, president of Benefits Advisory Service. By focusing on hospitals and non-profits in the New York City area, her company has expanded through word of mouth. She began to deeply understand that segment and tailored her firm to it, raising employee satisfaction and in return making employers happy, she said.

“When you do market segmentation, you really understand what is in the market, what is unique about them,” she said.

Don’t give things away

Want to succeed? “Get out of the business of giving things away,” said Jack Kwicien, principal of Baltimore-based consultancy Daymark Advisors. “You can’t define yourself as an access point to products or services. If you define yourself that way, you will be disintermediated by an exchange. Everyone has access to products. Your differentiator has to be your expertise.”

A simple way to become a consultant is to create a multi-year strategic benefit plan for a client, Kwicien, an EBA columnist, said. “You have to find unique services and processes that you bring to your clients.”

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Get employees engaged

Consumers see engagement as empowerment to make better decisions, Tom Chamberlain, CEO of EdLogics, said. Advisers need to activate that power by encouraging employees to “have an ah-ha moment, take the first step,” toward self-empowerment in healthcare through “simplification, gamification and personalization” of health information, he said.

Learn from other markets

Neil Davison, CEO of MWP Digital Media, gave the European perspective on benefits, where he mentioned the U.K. is “on the edge of opportunity” with video marketing and communication capabilities. As only 11-12% of companies use video marketing, and as Davison put it, “99% of everyone who does video is doing it wrong.”

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Understand private benefit exchanges

Are private benefit exchanges the future of benefits? That’s a “tough question” that is yet to be answered, said Dan Lathrop of Liazon. “It depends on how a private benefit exchange is going to be [defined] in the future,” he said. “There are aspects of a PBE such as choice and decision support that … has grown and blossomed” outside the PBE market,” he said. “We end up in a gray area where many employers take a look at a private exchange and might not like all of it, they like parts. What defines an exchange?”