Larger toolbox

From the production of 1094s and 1095s and the continuedmovement by employers to streamline their business processes to theintroduction of tools and resources to support employees, technology is an increasingly important topicin the industry.

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The industry saw a tremendous number of new entrants as well asbusiness model changes from established players as they fight formarket share.

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For the advisor, it is important to stay current on thecompanies in the technology space and their strengths andweaknesses.

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Further, it is important to have a process to work through withclients, specifically, to understand what business objective theyare trying to solve, what people are involved, and what processesare involved so that a clear set of specifications are developed tomatch the best technology to the need.

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Perry Braun, executive director of the Benefit AdvisorsNetwork (BAN)

Retirement matters

By far the best industry trend in 2016 is the growing acceptancethat conflict-of-interest fees represent a real problem whenproviding investment advice. With the trend toward eliminatingconflict-of-interest fees for investment advice given a kick-startby the DOL's new “conflict-of-interest” (aka “fiduciary”) rule, wecan see a time when this confusion finally unravels.

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The worst industry trend in 2016 has to be the advent ofstate-sponsored private employee retirement plans. It just can't get any worse,can it? Oh, wait, it can.

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The DOL wants to make states exempt from ERISA oversight. So nowprivate employees can have the worst of both worlds. Not only dothey get plans that are poorly run, offer inadequate savings, andseverely limit investment options, but they also lose all theprotections they currently receive in private company sponsoredplans and their own IRAs.

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Chris Carosa, author, chief contributing editor forFiduciaryNews.com

Opioid epidemic

Among the worst aspects of health-related news this year is theCDC's recognition of the growing opioid epidemic and its direction to doctors tocurtail prescriptions.

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In discussions with workers' compensation executives, there isgrowing evidence that individuals are filling jobs, then feigningwork-related injury so as to access opioid painkillers. With thevolume of noise increasing about the epidemic, so too is increasedawareness of alternative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture andPEMF therapies that can help mitigate pain for employees, even whenthey are at work. This is one of the biggest “pros” to come out ofthis year.

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Greg Houlgate, CEO of Oska Wellness

Gaining relevance

As an industry, we continue to roll out technologicaladvancements and build relationships with customers through e-apps,e-delivery, and assisted underwriting rules engines. This allplaces a greater focus on service and value to our customers.

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Another pro is the macro industry trend of delivering a powerfulcustomer experience, prompting carriers to reconsider theirbusiness models. Carriers need to adapt quickly to develop aseamless purchase experience online — learning, quoting, applyingand even having a policy delivered, all online.

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As for the worst: The impact on the industry of economicinstability and low interest rates.

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Andrew Gordon, VP, head of life product & pricing,individual markets and Lawrence Hazzard, VP, product strategy,disability income, The Guardian Life InsuranceCompany of America

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Paul Wilson

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