Some employee benefits brokers are very receptive to cutting-edge technology, while others take a wait-and-see approach. Some are extremely consultative with their clients throughout the year, while others advise clients only during enrollment periods.

Employers should consider which type of broker best suits their needs, according to the Maestro Health’s “2018 Broker Tech Trend Report.”

Brokers who are “automation leaders” are at the forefront of breakthrough technology and are most likely to seek innovative systems or tools for clients, especially benefits administration and online enrollment tools, according to the report, which surveyed 212 benefit brokers, agents, and consultants on their preferences.

Receptive “Next Gen” brokers prioritize their image as trusted advisers and look for proven results before adopting new technologies. Then there are the “analog consultants,” and while they are dedicated to creating, building and maintaining relationships, they are also calculated and cautious when approaching new technologies.

“There is a clear opportunity gap between what brokers are offering currently and how they know they must adapt to stay relevant,” the authors write. “This migration will involve integrating new technology, seeking out opportunities to educate about new tools and solutions, as well as adopting new approaches to the way they currently sell, service or provide consultation to their clients.”

When asked about specific technology solutions they offer clients:

  • 69 percent of automation leaders offer a benefits administration system, compared to 45 percent of Next Gen brokers and 38 percent of analog consultants

  • 71 percent of automation leaders offer benefits enrollment capabilities, compared to 60 percent of Next Gen brokers and 55 percent of analog consultants

  • 78 percent of automation leaders offer workplace wellness programs, compared to 58 percent of Next Gen brokers and 68 percent of analog consultants

  • 90 percent of both automation leaders and Next Gen brokers offer voluntary benefits, compared to 55 percent of analog consultants

There are also differences in attitudes toward client engagement, according to the report.

“Whereas automation leaders report a higher likelihood of maintaining ongoing client contact throughout the year versus concentrating on engagement only in the months preceding enrollment periods, receptive Next Gen brokers and analog consultants report less frequent interactions,” the authors write. “Notably, the latter two segments are more likely to engage clients only during the sales process, either when profiling companies or providing information on voluntary versus core health benefits.”

Analog consultants are also less likely to be involved in preparing to train HR teams, support employees or provide educational materials about health benefit options – “all things the automation leader has evolved their business to support.”

Other technology tools that brokers offer clients include:

  • All-in-one integrated benefits management platform: automation leaders (51 percent), Next Gen (26 percent), analog consultants (25 percent)

  • Compliance tools: automation leaders (52 percent), receptive Next Gen (22 percent) analog consultants (29 percent)

  • Administration tools: automation leaders (66 percent), Rrceptive Next Gen (50 percent), analog consultants (39 percent)

  • Online enrollment tools: automation leaders (72 percent), Next Gen (50 percent), analog consultants (43 percent)

  • Private exchanges: automation leaders (29 percent); receptive Next Gen (29 percent), analog consultants (28 percent)

The most common reason why brokers don’t adopt systems and tools related to health benefits management is due to cost or budget constraints, according to the report. A third (33 percent) cite this as the number one reason, and another 18 percent responded that such platforms are not applicable to their business.

“Cost/budget” was again the most-cited barrier brokers selected against considering online enrollment tools, with 26 percent citing such tools were not critical for their business. Similarly, 29 percent of total respondents felt that benefits administration tools were not critical for their business.

“Whether you see technology as essential to your role as a benefits consultant or prefer to take a traditionalist approach to advising clients, meeting them where they are is most important,” the authors write. “As employer-sponsored health benefits rapidly evolve, broker behaviors should adopt the latest tools and solutions to provide exceptional service. At the same time, it is incumbent upon employers to understand what to look for in their broker partner and have a 360-degree view of their benefits priorities based on the needs of their workforce.”