Brokers gathered in Las Vegas for EBA’s Workplace Benefits Mania for three days of education and networking. Here are some key takeaways from the event.
Private exchanges are not a silver bullet to reduce costs
When first implemented, many employers looked at private exchanges as a way to reduce costs, but they have not been a silver bullet, instead they give employers realistic budgeting for benefits, said TJ Revelas, managing partner, of brokerage Lawley Benefits in Buffalo, N.Y.

His firm’s private exchange, Lawley Marketplace, runs on technology from private exchange provider Liazon. “It’s a different budgeting process that what you normally have,” he finished.
Success comes from a positive mindset
Just as athletes are strengthened by their teammates, advisers benefit from a resilient support staff, 1980 gold medal Olympian Mike Eruzione told attendees in a keynote address.

“You have to believe in yourself. But surround yourself with people whose goals and objectives are the same,” he said. “Little things separate good teams from great teams. It’s the same in business.”
The way to sell technology is changing
When Lawley first rolled out its private exchange, Revelas found that his employees didn’t know how to sell it and companies didn’t know what benefit administration was.

“It’s a challenge for all firms, especially mid- and small-market to provide the right infrastructure, technology and education to have that work with clients,” he said. “[Clients and employees] didn’t know what questions to ask.”
Employers are demanding more from their broker for free
Revelas said Lawley “is being resourced to death” and “it stinks.” With 100 people working in benefits and $20 million in revenue, there is pressure on all firms, including his, to keep up resources clients are demanding, often for free.

“It is harder and harder, you need more productivity out of your salesforce,” he said.
Student loan debt is creating opportunity for advisers
In 2017, just 4% of companies offer student loan repayment assistance, but the industry is expected to grow to 26% by 2019, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

“This market is set to grow and you can be in the beginning,” Chris Walters, CEO of GradFin, said to a room of brokers. “This is a new thing you can talk to clients about.” His company’s biggest client is retailer Urban Outfitters, but they have RFPs with a few companies in the Fortune 50.
Strong, year-round communication can move the bar on benefit participation
LIMRA found employees are open to taking a closer look at voluntary benefit offerings with the right communication and planning ahead of the open enrollment process. “The biggest takeaway is peoples’ minds can be changed,” Ron Neyer, the firm’s associate research director said.
LinkedIn can increase sales
Using LinkedIn shortens the sales cycle when made part of a practice, Megan Chiarello, principal and head of marketing, at P3 Workplace Solutions, said.

“It takes away the stigma of the cold call,” she explained. “You are taking away that cold introduction, even some of that discovery call, …. When you develop a soft relationship by seeing their profile.”
Social media builds sales connections
One of Marty Traynor, vice president of voluntary at Mutual of Omaha’s employees posted a picture of him climbing a building in a Spiderman suit on social media in Tampa. Someone commented on that picture and said, ‘let’s talk.’ That introduction led to closing a deal.

“We want to be of as thought leaders and someone that brings value,” he said.
Innovation in benefits should be focused on the consumer
Innovation in insurance is about the relentless focus on the consumer in today’s world, Wes Thompson, founder and CEO of insurance tech platform Emerge said.

“It can’t be internally driven … internal is incremental,” he said. “Real innovation happens with the end consumer in mind. It happens with every company is truly innovating and making a difference, their focus is on the customer.”
Private benefit exchanges continue to evolve
The private exchange of tomorrow is based on education, explained Sima Reid, president of Long Beach, Calif.-based brokerage twentytwenty Insurance, who created her own exchange.

“Technology based on information to help employees not only understand all of their options but also give them education on what might work for [them] and allows them to pick something meaningful,” she explained.