In simple terms, a zero-sum game is one in which the victoriesof one competitor are exactly matched by the losses of another. Thetotal market changes very little, while the competitors tradebusiness and shares of the market.

Is the benefits marketplace a zero-sum game? There is evidencethat it is. Look at the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) forseveral ancillary benefit products. The10-year CAGR for life insurance sales based on premiums sold was 1percent. For short- and long-term disability income products, itwas zero. For dental insurance, the sales CAGR based on numbers ofsubscribers was actually negative, at minus 3 percent. The onlyproducts showing positive CAGRs were the relatively new lines ofcritical illness (+17 percent) and accident (+11 percent).

We see this reflected in certain market trends. There's a greatdeal of takeover business in the benefits market. For years, thishas been true in the employer paid market and now, even in thevoluntary market, takeovers are over 50 percent of sales. In azero-sum game, product differentiation begins to wane,commoditization increases and there's competitive pressure on bothpricing and underwriting to make concessions.

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