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RECENT EASTBRIDGE research has found that while just over half of carriers offer a universal life/whole life (UL/WL) product today, almost a quarter of carriers see UL/WL as a growth product for the industry over the next few years. In addition, UL/WL was the top product (tied with hospital indemnity) listed as most likely to be added to carriers’ voluntary portfolios in the next two years.
EVERY BROKER HAS his or her own set of features that top the list in voluntary carrier selection. For some, it’s brand, ratings or perhaps familiarity, while for others it might be the price and benefits found in specific products. For many, they simply expect ease in working through a carrier with an array of products and services under one roof.
THE VOLUNTARY industry continues to exhibit signs of growth around nearly every benchmark. More employers are offering voluntary programs and more employees now own worksite products. There are virtually no producers left in the benefits market who won’t indicate that voluntary is a growing part of their business. Both producers and carrier executives expect that the voluntary industry will continue to grow. Similarly, all but one of Eastbridge’s annual sales reports over the last 20 years have confirmed industry growth. This begs one very specific question about the market: What does the future look like?
EMPLOYERS of all sizes offer brokers the potential for growth. Brokers focusing on the small-case market look to expand up-market, and large national brokerage/consulting houses are looking at opportunities down-market. The voluntary penetration chart shows the percentage of employers offering voluntary products and employees who own them.
IN A RECENT SURVEY jointly conducted by Eastbridge and BenefitsPRO, brokers cited a lack of employer interest as the biggest threat to their voluntary business.
WE HAVE conducted research on employee attitudes about voluntary benefits for years now. Historically, we’ve taken a high-level view; however, we have always believed there were meaningful segments inside this community, and that identifying them may allow more specific strategies to be developed. This led us to take a different look at this critical constituency.
THIS IS THE LAST in our series of columns on the voluntary industry sales results for 2017. The first article looked at overall voluntary sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by distribution segment. This column takes a closer look at sales by product line and platform.
LAST MONTH, we reported that voluntary new business annualized premium (sales) for 2017 were $8.145 billion, up almost 7 percent over 2016 sales. This month, we spotlight sales by distribution segment.
ACCORDING TO OUR annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) increased at a rate of almost 7 percent again in 2017, while total sales for the year were $8.145 billion.
NEARLY EVERY benefits broker will tell you that they now sell voluntary. Understandably, many brokers are primarily tuned in to the employer’s voice during the sales process. remains a default mode, born from their roots focusing on medical and other employerpaid group distribution.
AT ONE TIME, carriers defined the voluntary business processes we all lived by, and they designed them however they pleased. For many of the carriers, if the broker wasn’t happy with those services, the carrier could afford to ignore the complaint. After all, there were lots of other brokers.
WHAT ARE THE ATTRIBUTES of a good voluntary benefit? The industry has historically sorted out would-be new entrants before many producers knew they existed. Various elements could be debated, but there are at least two components common to most successful products: benefit strategy relevance and program mechanics.
EASTBRIDGE’S 2017 Voluntary Participation Rates Spotlight™ report found that just over half of participating carriers have seen participation rates increase over the past two to three years, and the majority expect this trend to continue. While individual carrier responses varied, the overall reported average was 28 percent in 2017, up from 21 percent in 2014.
FOR TWO DECADES, industry voluntary sales increased year after year. Growth was largely driven by new brokers entering the business, primarily from the ranks of the traditional medical and group brokers. But these new entrants did not begin growing their sales and increasing productioneach year as one might expect. Instead, they sold a few cases each year, with results changing only slightly from year-to-year.
MORE COMPANIES are turning to the insights data analytics can provide to their business— and voluntary benefit manufacturers are no exception. A recent Eastbridge survey on the topic revealed that 50 percent of carriers are currently using data analytics for at least some piece of their voluntary business. Another 20 percent are planning to implement analytics in the near future. These carriers are looking to use this data to help them better understand customer needs, increase persistency and provide better customer service.
AS A GROUP, voluntary brokers and executives have historically overreacted to industry developments. Some of these developments promised great benefits through chasing a new trend, while others warned of doom based on a new threat.
IN A PREVIOUS COLUMN, we discussed how many employers are expanding their benefits offering to include non-traditional products. This article examines the topic further by uncovering the interest in these products from the broker and employee perspectives.
DESPITE THE growing similarities between employee benefit broker and voluntary broker segments, and some convergence between the two groups, notable differences remain. As for parallels, both segments sell the same go-to products, infrequently use private exchanges, and see a relatively low threat from “eBrokers.” They also both expect the new administration in Washington to have a positive impact on their business.
THIS IS THE LAST in our series of columns on voluntary market sales results for 2016. The first article looked at overall voluntary sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by product and platform. This article spotlights sales by distribution segment.
LAST MONTH, WE REPORTED voluntary new business annualized premium (sales) for 2016 were $7.630 billion, up almost 7 percent over 2015 sales. This column takes a closer look at these results by product line and platform.
ACCORDING TO OUR annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) increased again last year. Total sales for 2016 were $7.630 billion, up almost 7 percent over 2015 sales.
THERE HAVE LONG been two general categories of brokers in the benefits industry. Employee benefit brokers have traditionally focused on advising employers on their health care plan and other employer-paid programs, while voluntary brokers have focused on payroll-deducted benefits. The product portfolio for these two broker groups was once so distinct that they might both have advised the same client because of little to no competition between them.
OVER THE YEARS, we have reported on the growth of voluntary and its increasing popularity among employers, employees and brokers. Today, almost all brokers offer voluntary products, but many still only sell voluntary defensively, offering these products when asked, or in order to shift clients’ benefit costs, or when a competitor approaches an existing client. But this picture is changing. Based on our marketing practices surveys, roughly 30 percent of traditional employee benefit brokers (EBBs) now offer voluntary offensively, positioning products based on employee needs, and using them as key tools in their clients’ benefit strategies.
WITH THE DUST of open enrollment season finally beginning to settle, brokers should begin taking stock of 2016. Many will look back on a mix of outcomes—enrollments that they considered successful and others they probably wish could be “do-overs.” Most will use participation results as the basis for measuring their success—and rightfully so. While that’s a great starting point, it?
THE GROWTH OF VOLUNTARY products over the past few years has been consistent. Year over year, the growth rate is in the 3 percent to 5 percent range. This growth has been fueled by more benefit brokers offering voluntary and emplyers adding more products to their benefits.
HOW MANY DIFFERENT insurance companies does your typical client use for their voluntary benefit offerings? Have you brought in one carrier to provide all voluntary products? Have you brought in several companies? And what does the number of carriers say about you?
NEARLY 50 PERCENT of carrier respondents in a 2016 Eastbridge survey indicated that hospital indemnity (HI) will be a growth product for their companies in the next one to two years, more than double the number from the same survey in 2014. Employers participating in a separate study ranked hospital indemnity second in terms of new sales product potential. This jump in expectations at both the carrier and employer levels suggest that many carriers may be preparing to bring more HI plans to market or at least focus on them more, and employers will be open to adding these products to their employee benefits offering.
A RECENT EASIBRIDGE survey of employers found that the use of private exchanges continues to be minimal among all size categories and that a positive correlation remains between use and employer size (with use increasing as employer size increases). Many times, it is the broker who influences these employers to adopt the exchange model, and to offer more options to their employees or to move to a defined contribution approach.
In a recent survey, brokers were asked about their perception of current sales competition. The responses showed between 20-percent and 40-percent of brokers sense that competition is higher than average. We believe that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The voluntary market is constantly changing, but the degree of change the last five years has occured faster than ever before. It's not your father's market when it comes to benefits.
This is the last in our series of columns on the voluntary industry sales results for 2015. This article spotlights sales by distribution segment.
Last month in our first of a three-part series, we reviewed the voluntary industry's overall sales for 2015, which were $7.138 billion, up 3.6 percent over 2014.
According to our annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) for 2015 was $7.138 billion, up 3.6 percent over 2014.
We have discussed the dangers faced by brokers who have not developed meaningful value-added, consultancy-based services for their employer clients. Those whose value propositions still revolve around shopping for products and services are simply waiting to be disintermediated.
Every year at this time, we write a series of articles on the voluntary market sales results for the prior year. This article is the first of three on this subject.
Takeover business is on the rise in the voluntary/worksite market. According to Eastbridge’s 2014 U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, takeovers as a percent of new business annualized premium (NBAP) have increased from 12 percent in 2006 to 51 percent in 2014.
Those not experienced in the voluntary business often think that product dictates success in the market.
Damaged cases hurt you, the broker. When you think of the work that goes into closing a case, it hurts even more.
Some trends in the industry are obvious while others are more hidden—out of sight and under the surface.
There's no doubt about it: There's strong demand among both employers and employees for voluntary/worksite products.
Since the exchanges were announced, there's been a lot of talk about how these marketplaces have the potential to change the entire landscape of employee benefits. But what's really happening?