Employee Benefits

Benefiting the Bottom Line

Consultants and P&C brokers seek market share and revenue gains via private exchanges.
By: | June 2, 2014 • 4 min read
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Employee benefits consultants and property/casualty brokers could see substantial gains as they move to take advantage of private exchanges for health care and other employee benefits.

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Jim Blaney, chief executive officer, Willis human capital practice, said that offering clients private exchanges provides consultants and brokers with “a huge opportunity. … However, it’s all about gaining market share and converting new revenues.”

Roughly 30 million workers are expected to enroll in health care plans via private exchanges by 2017, “but costs and inertia could slow the adoption rate,” according Morgan Stanley research analysts.

“We think there are substantial market share opportunities for P&C brokers but large economic benefits will take years to materialize as they have to invest heavily to gain share,” the analysts wrote in a March 13 report, Private Exchanges: Friend or Foe.

For example, Aon Hewitt — which was “one of the first movers and the most vocal in private exchange efforts” — has invested roughly $100 million in its initiatives “which have not yet broken even,” according to the analysts. The firm has enrolled more than 600,000 members on its multicarrier, fully insured active employees exchange.

Aon executives were not available for an interview.

At Morgan Stanley’s Private Exchange Conference earlier this year, Aon said that it can overcome the cost gap and deliver up to 2 percent total savings for self-insured clients converting to Aon exchange.

A report by Moody’s offered a more positive viewpoint, concluding that the creation of private health exchanges “are credit positive for leading benefit consultants and brokers.”

“We believe the most successful exchanges will be those that minimize growth (or generate savings) in overall health care costs, rather than simply shifting costs from employers to employees,” according to a March 3 report.

Keys to success, it said, include building strong insurance carrier networks, guiding employees to select appropriate insurance coverage, promoting employee wellness, streamlining plan administration and ensuring compliance with regulations.

Blaney, at Willis, said that discussing its insurance exchange with clients and prospects is “a way to open doors,” as most employers are interested to learn more about both private and public exchange models.

“This gives us an opportunity to meet with potential new clients, build rapport and provide thought leadership and consulting. We are seeing an increase in new clients independent of whether they choose to use the private exchange,” he said.

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Last year, Willis partnered with Liazon to offer clients The Willis Advantage, a private label of that company’s platform. Liazon, which was bought last year by Towers Watson, operates a multicarrier exchange with both self-insured and fully insured products.

“The Willis Advantage,” Blaney said, “is designed to be a consultative approach to help mid-market and upper mid-market clients consider the opportunity of advancing consumerism and possibly, a defined-contribution approach.

“We think our differentiation lies in our integrated health management capability aimed at addressing medical utilization trends,” he said.

The exchange includes built-in features such as incentive-based wellness options, health coaching, and disease-management programs, to help employees and employers drive down health care costs and increase productivity.

Over the past two quarters, interest in the private exchange has “spiked,” with 600 employers — both existing clients and prospects — considering adoption, he said. Two clients are currently on the platform, and another five are “in the queue.”

“The adoption rates for the mid-market seems to be evolving slower than adoption rates for the larger market, but in the next five years, I believe we are going to see a sizable migration toward defined-contribution funding approaches as employers seek to cap benefits costs and push more responsibility and accountability to employees,” Blaney said.

Mercer, the subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Cos. launched its Mercer Marketplace in 2013. It currently works with 67 employers to provide medical and other benefits to 282,000 employees, retirees and family members.

The company recently expanded its service to offer access to individual medical plans via GetInsured, a California-based company whose technology platform powers state government exchanges.

Liazon, whose platform is used by more than 400 brokers — including Arthur J. Gallagher, Lockton and Brown & Brown — said larger brokers private label its platform, and can build in their own value-added support features, such as back-office capabilities, call centers, and employee assistance programs, said Managing Director Ashok Subramanian.

“This really enables brokers to leverage proven technology to wrap around their strategies, with a speed to market,” Subramanian said.

Smaller brokers use Liazon’s independent channel, Bright Choices, to save on costs, he said. Overall, Liazon has seen “an enormous uptick in usage over the past year, up 300 percent in 2013, from 2012.

There is tremendous tailwind in the market for solutions like this among employers,” he said. “This happens to coincide with the opening of the public exchanges, but it’s not really related to that.”

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Employers can also take advantage of private exchanges for retirees and older workers, such as Towers Watson’s OneExchange for Medicare-eligible individuals, said Bryce Williams, the consultancy’s managing director, Exchange Solutions.

“The Medicare market is so technical and highly regulated, that it’s less costly for them just to refer retirees to our exchange,” Williams said.

Currently, adoption rates are less than 5 percent, but Williams expects that in five to 10 years, adoption rates will rise to 50 percent, for employers who give their employees access to health care.

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at [email protected]
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Infographic: The Risk List

6 Non-Cyber Risks for Technology Companies

Tech firms face multiple perils in addition to cyber risks.
By: | July 9, 2014 • 2 min read

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The Risk List is presented by:

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The R&I Editorial Team may be reached at [email protected]
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Sponsored: Liberty International Underwriters

Helping Investment Advisers Hurdle New “Customer First” Government Regulation

The latest fiduciary rulings create challenges for financial advisory firms to stay both compliant and profitable.
By: | May 5, 2016 • 4 min read
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This spring, the Department of Labor (DOL) rolled out a set of rule changes likely to raise issues for advisers managing their customers’ retirement investment accounts. In an already challenging compliance environment, the new regulation will push financial advisory firms to adapt their business models to adhere to a higher standard while staying profitable.

The new proposal mandates a fiduciary standard that requires advisers to place a client’s best interests before their own when recommending investments, rather than adhering to a more lenient suitability standard. In addition to increasing compliance costs, this standard also ups the liability risk for advisers.

The rule changes will also disrupt the traditional broker-dealer model by pressuring firms to do away with commissions and move instead to fee-based compensation. Fee-based models remove the incentive to recommend high-cost investments to clients when less expensive, comparable options exist.

“Broker-dealers currently follow a sales distribution model, and the concern driving this shift in compensation structure is that IRAs have been suffering because of the commission factor,” said Richard Haran, who oversees the Financial Institutions book of business for Liberty International Underwriters. “Overall, the fiduciary standard is more difficult to comply with than a suitability standard, and the fee-based model could make it harder to do so in an economical way. Broker dealers may have to change the way they do business.”

Complicating Compliance

SponsoredContent_LIUAs a consequence of the new DOL regulation, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will be forced to respond with its own fiduciary standard which will tighten up their regulations to even the playing field and create consistency for customers seeking investment management.

Because the SEC relies on securities law while the DOL takes guidance from ERISA, there will undoubtedly be nuances between the two new standards, creating compliance confusion for both Registered Investment Advisors  (RIAs)and broker-dealers.

To ensure they adhere to the new structure, “we could see more broker-dealers become RIAs or get dually registered, since advisers already follow a fee-based compensation model,” Haran said. “The result is that there will be likely more RIAs after the regulation passes.”

But RIAs have their own set of challenges awaiting them. The SEC announced it would beef up oversight of investment advisors with more frequent examinations, which historically were few and far between.

“Examiners will focus on individual investments deemed very risky,” said Melanie Rivera, Financial Institutions Underwriter for LIU. “They’ll also be looking more closely at cyber security, as RIAs control private customer information like Social Security numbers and account numbers.”

Demand for Cover

SponsoredContent_LIUIn the face of regulatory uncertainty and increased scrutiny from the SEC, investment managers will need to be sure they have coverage to safeguard them from any oversight or failure to comply exactly with the new standards.

In collaboration with claims experts, underwriters, legal counsel and outside brokers, Liberty International Underwriters revamped older forms for investment adviser professional liability and condensed them into a single form that addresses emerging compliance needs.

The new form for investment management solutions pulls together seven coverages:

  1. Investment Adviser E&O, including a cyber sub-limit
  2. Investment Advisers D&O
  3. Mutual Funds D&O and E&O
  4. Hedge Fund D&O and E&O
  5. Employment Practices Liability
  6. Fiduciary Liability
  7. Service Providers D&O

“A comprehensive solution, like the revamped form provides, will help advisers navigate the new regulatory environment,” Rivera said. “It’s a one-stop shop, allowing clients to bind coverage more efficiently and provide peace of mind.”

Ahead of the Curve

SponsoredContent_LIUThe new form demonstrates how LIU’s best-in class expertise lends itself to the collaborative and innovative approach necessary to anticipate trends and address emerging needs in the marketplace.

“Seeing the pending regulation, we worked internally to assess what the effect would be on our adviser clients, and how we could respond to make the transition as easy as possible,” Haran said. “We believe the new form will not only meet the increased demand for coverage, but actually creates a better product with the introduction of cyber sublimits, which are built into the investment adviser E&O policy.”

The combined form also considers another potential need: cost of correction coverage. Complying with a fiduciary standard could increase the need for this type of cover, which is not currently offered on a consistent basis. LIU’s form will offer cost of correction coverage on a sublimited basis by endorsement.

“We’ve tried to cross product lines and not stay siloed,” Haran said. “Our clients are facing new risks, in a new regulatory environment, and they need a tailored approach. LIU’s history of collaboration and innovation demonstrates that we can provide unique solutions to meet their needs.”

For more information about Liberty International Underwriters’ products for investment managers, visit www.LIU-USA.com.

Liberty International Underwriters is the marketing name for the broker-distributed specialty lines business operations of Liberty Mutual Insurance. Certain coverage may be provided by a surplus lines insurer. Surplus lines insurers do not generally participate in state guaranty funds and insureds are therefore not protected by such funds. This literature is a summary only and does not include all terms, conditions, or exclusions of the coverage described. Please refer to the actual policy issued for complete details of coverage and exclusions.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty International Underwriters. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




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LIU is part of the Global Specialty Division of Liberty Mutual Insurance.
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