Zenefits’ troubles have been well documented in recent months. Most of the coverage has been related to lessons learned from the rise and fall of this unicorn, which was lauded for its innovative technology in a paper driven insurance industry. Industry brokers, who felt the most threatened by Zenefits, were also the most outspoken on the errors made by the company. Although brokers have rightfully expressed how shortcuts cannot be made in such a complex industry, they have wrongfully forgotten how Zenefits paved the way for needed innovation. 

Before brokers were pointing out Zenefits’ errors, they were fearing its success. Zenefits provides a solution to a problem in an industry that was previously void of disruption. By streamlining the arduous task of employee benefits management, Zenefits provides the accessibility and transparency that businesses had long been searching for. Additionally, their tools gives employer groups their time back, freeing them from administrative complexities to focus more on their business. Employee groups were not only expecting more from their brokers, they were ready for technological solutions. 

These technological solutions are nothing to be feared, and they are far from signaling an end to the broker industry. In fact, technology is working to solve the biggest pain points of the health insurance industry, including those of brokers. And, despite its missteps, there are lessons to be learned from a disruptor like Zenefits: 

1.    Give small businesses their time back 

The core of Zenefits business was taking the administrative burden off the shoulders of small business owners and simplifying the vast complexities of insurance. By nearly automating human resources, small businesses saved time and hassle. Brokers must do the same for their clients. Employers want to deal with brokers in the most efficient way to understand their insurance options. Streamlining the process itself helps employer groups effectively do that and make a faster decision- saving them, and their brokers, valuable time. 

2.    Tout your expertise and (free) service 

Perhaps the largest value added to small businesses of the Zenefits model is that the software was provided to them at no cost. For small businesses, saving on overhead expenses is an enormous value add. Brokers must find innovative ways to highlight the free value add they provide their small business clients if they expect to keep them. For brokers, the value add is clear: small businesses gain an expert business advisor to support their insurance needs. 

3.    Invest in technology 

The complexities of streamlining benefits for small businesses go further than time and regulation. Outdated technology has forced employers and brokers into needless paperwork, faxing, spreadsheeting, and juggling multiple systems simultaneously to understand and obtain the best insurance option for their group. Technology is an effective solution that simplifies insurance administration at the click of a button.  

In insurance, where the role of the broker is essential, technology provides the access point to improve the process brokers and their small business clients want. And its adoption is what makes insurance more approachable and convenient. Now more than ever, employers are expecting it. 

Identifying why Zenefits grew so large so quickly in the first place comes with the recognition of the value it brings to an industry ripe for innovation. Brokers must embrace the role Zenefits and similar insurance disrupters play in the changing landscape, and adopt the latest technologies to stay ahead of client’s needs. While technology will never replace the brokers mastery of regulation, carrier offerings, and inside industry trends, it will elevate the role of the broker business in the eyes of the industry, small business clients, and the technology disrupters to come.