The terms “broker” and “agency” will be replaced by “consultant” and “consultancy” for top advisors.



A holistic approach 

The terms “broker” and “agency” will be replaced by “consultant” and “consultancy” for top advisors. The consultant of the future will help employers take a holistic view of health, tying personal well-being to financial well-being.

Strategic investments in consumer driven health care, networks, health improvement incentives, and data analytics will be complemented and enhanced by 21st century technology platforms. Technology by itself is not a strategy, but benefit education and administration technology delivering intuitive user interface, mobile accessibility, and backend HR/compliance support is key for employers' underlying health care strategies.

Finally, the consultant must engage employees as key stakeholders in their employer's health care strategy. The transactional, once-per-year open enrollment experience must be replaced with year-round engagement, education, decision support, and accountability.

Reed Smith
SVP/Employee Benefits Practice Leader
CoBiz Insurance

Adapt and thrive 

There is clearly an evolution taking place in the world of health insurance and the employee benefits model. There is also a major shift in the overall buying behaviors of consumers in general, resulting in a more educated and well-researched buyer — and the employee benefits world is not immune. The agencies most willing to adapt will thrive in the new environment.

I think agents will need to be more engaged politically than ever before — following federal and state bills, and all the new rules andregulations that make compliance a major headache for clients. We are expected to have the cure.

We recently moved into a solutions-based consultant environment, providing solutions on an annual basis at renewal. Now we are evolving beyond that and being drawn in as a year-round member of our clients' team as an advisor on insurance, compliance, accounting, and HR/labor practices. We will soon rank as high as their CPA or trusted attorney.

For agents who are willing to adapt and embrace this new, broader role, the rewards will be great. Agents who run and hide because “their E&O doesn't cover that kind of advice” should retire or temporarily find work for a Software-as-a-Service agency.

Brad Davis
Owner/Partner, Employee Benefits Specialist
Wraith, Scarlett & Randolph Insurance

Don't forget the people

Frankly, I hope not a lot different than ours does today. We have embraced technology, but haven't forgotten the value of our humanity that we bring to a relationship. Ours is a relationship business and you can't build a relationship with a computer. We can, however, use technology to enhance our value to clients.

The days of life agents dabbling in employee benefits are over. They won't have the knowledge or capability to do everything employers need. If a company president doesn't find a true benefit specialist, he will be doing his company, management team, and employees a disservice. Although change is hard, it can be great.

HR departments spend inordinate amounts of time handling paperwork and recruiting, interviewing, inputting, enrolling, reporting, etc. and can never really get to the core of what their company needs them to do: Build their culture and enhance their brand. We have invested significant time and resources in both our people and the technology that allows us to provide the services our clients need so that they can perform at their best.

Nathaniel Garfield

VP, Director of Employee Benefits

APFS Rochester Inc.

Service first

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.