Did you know that brokers and intermediaries account for a significant majority of the businesses in the insurance sector? This is an important point to know when it comes to ensuring you’re getting the best corporate benefits package in the market. Many are well aware of big-name players like Bupa Global and Cigna Global, as well as the insurance services they provide, but how well do you know the employee benefits broker market? And how can you tell if your intermediary measures up against its competitors?
Here, Pacific Prime discusses what an intermediary does, why they exist, and how you can tell if you’re getting the best from your employee benefits broker.
What is an employee benefits broker?
Instead of going direct to an insurer or benefits provider, a broker acts as your middleman. An intermediary is a person or business that sells insurance products on behalf of an insurer or provider, often falling into two types; insurance agents, and independent brokers.
Agents are usually brokers that have a specific provider they sell for. Independent brokers, however, will sell plans and benefits packages from any insurer they’re authorized to sell for. For insurers, this means extending their consumer reach without the need to invest heavily in their own sales capacity.
Understanding the role of an employee benefits broker
Sales is the main role of an employee benefits broker, however, there’s a lot more to their place in the insurance industry than connecting you with the right plan. In fact, the best brokers in the business offer comprehensive services for both clients and insurers.
A good employee benefits intermediary will not just help you find a plan, but ensure that your plan remains efficient and effective throughout its lifetime. Initially, they’ll want to gather information about your business and staff to gain a decent understanding of the types of package your company will need. From there, a good broker can:
- Assess your historical claims data to more accurately determine the performance of your current plan
- Compare your current employee benefits package and premium against the market to ensure it’s still competitive
- Negotiate with providers to ensure any specific conditions or circumstances can be met
- Provide education and communications assistance to increase engagement with your staff
- Assist with policy and benefits administration; including handling staff benefit enquiries, and processing claims and new staff applications
- Perform annual benchmarking, and planning
- Carry out the renewal processes. This includes re-negotiating for better terms or opening a tender process to guarantee competitiveness
The more established a broker is, the better their position will be when it comes to negotiation on your behalf. Those with a well-regarded reputation in the insurance and employee benefits industry will grant you an advantage over your competitors by virtue of the fact their influence will be stronger than if you negotiated alone.
Brokers also offer a range of added services that help insurers. These include:
- Reduction or intervention of application and claims errors by brokers who offer processing support
- Minimize dissatisfaction with benefits by increasing staff education and engagement
- Replace providers in the role of an insurance advisor and claims data analyst
- Foster client loyalty where insurers and benefits providers have performed or exceeded expectations
- Ensure a fair loss ratio that doesn’t take advantage of a client, while still keeping the premium attractive to an insurer
Essentially, an employee benefits broker that works well provides value in their role as a middleman; to both clients and the insurer. An intermediary that doesn’t enrich the relationship between an employee benefits provider and the client can quickly find themselves short on either.
“If you’re left with more questions than answers, perhaps this broker isn’t the right one for you.”
What should I expect from a top benefits intermediary?
Regardless of whether you currently have an existing broker or you’re starting to think you need one, there are a number of core services you should expect from an intermediary:
Any employee benefits broker worth their money will be well prepared to provide you with answers. Ask them about the products and insurers they sell, as well as the ones they don’t. An honest intermediary will be able to give you the good and the bad of the industry, and explain how these products will benefit your company and staff. They’ll even be transparent about their commission; some countries make divulging this mandatory, but there’s never really a need to be secretive about it.
Also find out how a broker handles your claims data, and question them about what your current claims data tells them. If you’re simply getting answers that you could already get from an insurer, then perhaps they’re not as knowledgeable as they appear.
It is also beneficial to ask any prospective broker about their benchmarking process. Most brokers will have a process, but it’s absolutely worth finding out how their system works and how they think it will benefit you.
Finally, question them about your industry and competitors. A well connected and established broker will be able to give you a picture of how your employee benefits package compares to others in your sector, and will explain just how attractive it might be to potential talent. If you’re left with more questions than answers, perhaps this broker isn’t the right one for your company.
You should be able to contact a broker when you need to, and bigger companies should expect an account manager or someone with which your management can deal with for high-level discussions. Hands-off, lower tier brokers will only ever contact you during renewal time, find out what communications a potential intermediary offers during the year and why it’s valuable to your working relationship.
Some employee benefits brokers will offer online portals and other digital ways to connect with both your management, and your staff. If these are available, be sure to ask more about how they work.
A big question for many companies is what exactly a broker will do to make your current processes easier. Some may simply sign you up for an employee benefits package and then leave you to deal with the provider for all administrative duties. Others will take some or all of those duties on themselves, and leave your staff with more time to focus on other priorities. See if the intermediary you’re talking to offers support for applications, claims, or other areas.
It’s also worth finding out if your broker will help develop a communication strategy for educating and engaging your staff about their benefits. A high level of communication is vital to ensuring the satisfaction levels of your employee benefits plan, so question whether an intermediary offers educational seminars, orientations, or other related services.
They’re detailed and analytical
Benchmarking and reporting are important in all businesses, and brokering employee benefits is no exception. An experienced broker will demonstrate their knowledge by showing you things about your claims data that no other will have highlighted before. More than just knowing what to look for, a good employee benefits broker will provide you with clear and concise information related to the health and status of your package, empowering you and your management teams to make the right decision when required.
Those brokers with solid analysis experience will also be able to use the data to negotiate better terms or premiums for your business, dependent on what the information shows. Remember to ask what your company can expect in terms of reporting from a broker, and ask for examples of how companies like yours have had better outcomes delivered as a result of that broker’s service.
What makes Pacific Prime believe it’s your best employee benefits broker option?
Not all brokers are specialists in employee benefits. Most major intermediaries specialize in other areas, such as Human Resources or financial services, but a specialized employee benefits broker knows corporate health insurance plans better than most. Pacific Prime specializes in providing employee benefits and corporate insurance solutions for professional service firms of any industry. Here’s what you can expect from our unparalleled brokering service:
- Veteran employee benefits experience and knowledge: We’ve been operating for nearly 20 years in most major expatriate locations, and we work with virtually all of the top benefits providers in the world. We’re one of the biggest distributors of international health insurance plans for a number of global insurers, and we specialize in delivering services for the high-needs staff of professional service firms.
- Support beyond sales: We’re one of the most involved employee benefits intermediaries in the market, having designed our entire business process around adding value after sales. We become the main point of contact for your company and staff, look after applications, claims, management and maintenance, staff education, communication; and we even have our own in-house developed technology and tools that can offer you a bespoke, tailor solution that fits your business needs.
- Industry-leading analysis and insights: We offer unparalleled analysis of claims data, sound advice on current and future employee benefits planning, and can make all of this information available to you whenever you need it – not just at the end of the year.
- A global footprint: Our global family of dedicated offices are located in many major locations, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, China, and more. Wherever in the world you are, you can be sure that Pacific Prime will be nearby to provide all of these outstanding employee benefits broker services.
We know what our strengths are and we’re confident that you won’t find better elsewhere. If you’re in the market for a new broker, or you believe that engaging an intermediary might be a good next step for your business, we’d love the opportunity to talk to you. Our Corporate consultants will happily meet with you to discuss what our services are, and how we can help you control and improve the employee benefits you offer your staff.