Why should a business consider changing their employee benefits broker or consultant—aren't they all the same?
It is a common sentiment among finance and HR executive teams, and frankly, it’s understandable. After all, changing brokers can be an inconvenience. Plus, for many organizations, they likely didn’t experience incremental change when they previously moved from one employee benefits firm to another—it was all the same advice, analytics and processes, just wrapped in a different corporate label and logo.
So, the question remains, is changing employee benefits brokers worth it?
When it comes to many key resources and capabilities, there aren’t significant differences between most national or large regional brokerage firms. Agencies, brokerages and consulting firms that fall under these segments likely have similar capabilities in areas like RFP analysts, employee claims advocacy, benefit technology services, compliance, actuarial and underwriting services, customized analytics & reporting and more.
Unfortunately, most brokers compete for business and market themselves based on the criteria mentioned above. All of these commoditized resources are important from an infrastructure perspective; however, they lack meaningful and quantifiable variances between respective companies. When conducting a broker interview or RFP, choosing to include questions about these capabilities & services means you’ll be subjugated to pages of canned answers and nearly indistinguishable responses.
So, what makes a broker or consulting firm unique and meaningfully different?
The answer is simple and lies in your broker’s ability to create conviction for change. Does your current broker or consultant spend time helping you solve problems you’ve already identified today, or do they uncover problems your business has yet to acknowledge? A salesperson takes ownership of a conversation due to their desire to prove, but a trusted advisor allows the client to take ownership and provides strategic guidance, help and support when it is needed.
The employers with the most cutting-edge, effective and cost-efficient employee benefits programs are not content or satisfied with “off-the-rack” solutions. They take calculated risks and design new structures, processes, and programs to fit their culture and unique employee needs.
If your organization wants true innovation and differentiation–your broker or advisor must be willing to ask questions that create a catalyst for change, rather than doubling down on their account management, compliance, reporting capabilities and other commoditized resources.
An innovator shows up with something that might not work–pause for a second, and contrast that with everyone else, who has been trained to show up with a proven, verified and safe solution.
If failure is not an option, then, most of the time, neither is success.
Not every employer needs to build a completely bespoke benefits program on the cutting edge of innovation. However, when is the last time your broker or consultant empowered your business to think differently about your company’s healthcare spend, strategy, and consumption? After all, the rigor applied to healthcare strategy can have the same impact on earnings per share as any other corporate initiative.