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In the 1980s, you couldn’t attend a strategic business meeting without hearing the expression “think outside the box.” It became an overused cliché — one that many of us wanted to stuff inside a sealed container and ship to a distant location. Since then I’ve had a change of heart. It’s now time to resurrect the catchphrase because that’s where opportunities lie for the employee benefits industry.

If agencies continue operating within the borders that have defined us for decades, we will decline in relevance. When I talk to carriers, they predict that within 5 years, 50 to 80 percent of their current distribution channel will be gone. While most acknowledge generational attrition as older agents retire (or get fed up with the new dynamics of our business) as a root cause, there’s another, more significant phenomenon: Dealing with thousands of agents is no longer efficient for health insurance companies.

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