SAN ANTONIO—In front of a crowd Thursday afternoon at the Benefits Selling Expo, Brandon Scarborough was named 2012 Benefits Selling Broker of the Year.
Scarborough, co-founder of Power Group worksite division and PowerEnroll at Power Group Companies in Overland Park, Kan., beat out the year’s other finalists, David Goldfarb, Joe Milano, Rina Tikia and Brian Ward.
“Your job is made much more difficult by the current economy and health care reform,” David Hewitt, Aflac marketing vice president, told the audience before announcing the finalists. Aflac sponsored the event.
The three finalists in attendance talked about what made them stand apart from others in the industry.
“I’m a big believer in health savings accounts,” said Goldfarb, president of DSG Benefits Group in Dallas. With only about 10 percent of the population having HSAs, he said, it’s important for brokers to talk about its importance.
“We try to provide a long-term solution, which is what HSAs do. It puts the employees in the driver’s seat. [HSAs] creates change and it creates savings.”
When Hewitt asked what was the most important of an enrollment, Scarborough said “showing up.”
“Getting the employer to actually buy in—and having them want to provide benefits and understand its importance for their employees—that’s a big thing,” Scarborough said.
Scarborough also mentioned the importance of voluntary benefits, adding that he was excited about the emphasis on the products during the expo.
When it was Tikia’s turn, she joked that she had to answer a phone call in the middle of the presentation—because that’s what her business is all about. “I’m available all the time, to every client. They all have my cell phone number,” the president of Tikia Consulting in Metairie, La. said. “I like to say that you can make your clients your friends.”
Ward and Milano were not in attendance.
When Scarborough was announced the winner, he thanked his colleagues as his mentors.
Last year’s Broker of the Year winner was Mark Lacher.
[Find out what Lacher has been doing this past year]
Scarborough first entered the health care business at Healthcare Services Group where he focused on offering benefits services to housekeeping and dietary employees in nursing homes. But he saw a problem.
He quickly learned many of these employees made little in wages and couldn’t afford the benefits that were available.
“I found out these employees got offered basically nothing because they didn’t make enough money and couldn’t afford benefits, so I made a couple phone calls to friends I knew were in the insurance industry to see about figuring out a way to offer these employees some sort of benefits,” Scarborough told Benefits Selling. “I decided I knew enough people in the nursing home industry that I could start a company and be successful at offering benefits.”
So in 2005, Scarborough founded Benefit Design Group, which allowed him to focus strictly on providing voluntary benefits to low-wage workers employed by nursing homes. Scarborough continued his business until he merged with Power Group companies in 2007 when the company wanted him to run a new worksite division.
Since Scarborough joined Power Group Companies, enrollment has become a large part of his portfolio.
Though setting up the enrollment, working with the carriers and implementing the most effective technology are all part of Scarborough’s responsibilities—which keeps him plenty busy—he said he also takes the time to personalize each enrollment approach.
For some employers, sponsoring wellness fairs and conducting biometric testing helps increase enrollment engagement while distributing prefilled applications works for other populations, he said.
“The goal at the end of the day for any employer is to have their employees understand exactly what benefits are being offered and to help them make the educated decision as to what they need and don’t need,” Scarborough said. “Enrollment is the time to provide the right education and communicate in the best way possible. Every single enrollment is different, and it’s so much more dynamic now. Having those various enrollment options and being flexible with those enrollment options has really been a differentiator for us.”
Scarborough said it’s important to understand that enrollment isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.
While providing employees with a benefits statement that outlines how much their benefits cost can be an effective way to increase enrollment engagement, there are some employee populations that are turned off by this method. Rather than seeing how much their employer is spending on health care, they’d rather take the salary increase.
Even the employer’s industry can impact what type of enrollment best suits a client. In Scarborough’s experience, employees who work in technical industries, such as a software company or architecture firm, are more open to enrollments that rely heavily on technology.
“How involved employees want to get into technology during enrollment is completely based on how technologically savvy the employees are within the company,” Scarborough said. “Those technical-focused groups tend to prefer those technical-based enrollments more than other segments.”
Still, he said, employers are the most important tool to understanding employees.
“You always try to get to know the employees and understand what their hot buttons are, but the employer knows its employees much better,” Scarborough said. “We’ve done all kinds of enrollments, but getting the employer to buy in at the beginning is the No. 1 thing that I look for when we start enrollments.”