(Image credit: Shutterstock.)
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Group and Voluntary Benefits were known for their stability and consistency. The players were known. The products were established. Benefits packages didn’t vary much from year to year. The employee was simply concerned with the cost of premiums, particularly for medical, versus their annual pay increase. Year to year, not much changed. (If you are under 30, you may not believe this, but employees often stayed with their employers for life!) Group and Voluntary Benefits insurers lived in a semi-blissful state as brokers working with HR teams acted as agents, bringing in cafeteria-sized groups of policyholders.
The difficulty was that it wasn’t an easy market in which to gain entry. There were far-fewer voluntary products then than there are today. The top insurers cornered the market. They knew how to please employers, how to make a profit, and how to protect their turf.
Then, a dam broke. First the ACA changed healthcare. Then InsurTech. And now the convergence of talent competition, tech advancements, wellness initiatives, wealth management, multi-generational employees with varying different needs and expectations has made group and voluntary business into a new land of prospecting and opportunity. Boardrooms started buzzing with rumors of gold in the hills, only they weren’t rumors. Voluntary and group benefits were and are a real area of financial opportunity. The top players still exist, but there are a growing number of insurers entering the market, expanding the products they are providing, and creating new options in how they are packaged to meet the unique needs of a highly diversified and competitive employee base.
What’s so wild about Group and Voluntary Benefits markets?
InsurTech could rightly be considered the greatest of the Wild West insurance opportunities, but in terms of opening up new markets, Group and Voluntary Benefits are making their own case for a land of new opportunities.
Majesco recently commissioned a Celent report to assess the opportunity as a part of our thought leadership and strategic marketing to provide another point of view on the future of insurance. We wanted insight on the opportunities, the technology platforms and ecosystems required to capture the market opportunities now unfolding. Celent’s report will be available in the next few weeks, but before it releases, we want to lay the groundwork on the high-level challenges and benefits of the new Group and Voluntary Benefits market. What is shaping the new need? What is today’s employer looking for? What is different about life for today’s employee? How do any of these answers relate to Next Gen Group and Voluntary Benefits core platform development?
Next Gen core platforms as an answer to channel expansion (and everything else.)
At Majesco, we talk a lot about convergence and its impact on insurance. Real innovation happens at the point of convergence. Let’s look at how convergence is building opportunity in the Group and Voluntary Benefits market. Right now, all of the factors we list below are real pressures and opportunities that we have highlighted from our research within the market that happen to be creating points of convergence. These points all touch upon issues that can be solved with a Next Gen platform approach.
- New generation of customers—Millennials and Gen Z can shift ownership. This new generation of customers has the potential to turn the downward tide of insurance ownership over the last few decades. From a high in the mid-1970s with 72 percent of adults and 90 percent of households with two-parent owned life insurance [i] to a new low based on LIMRA’s 2010 life insurance study that found only 44 percent of US households had individual life insurance, marking a 50-year low.[ii] Our 2020 Life, Health, Wealth and Wellness customer research highlights the demands from this new generation of employees. But do insurers have the products, value added services and customer experiences they demand and expect?
- Employees shifting jobs expect better benefits. A recent Forbes article highlighted that the recent Prudential Financial’s Pulse of the American Worker survey noted that 1 in 4 workers—25 percent—are looking for new employment post COVID. Furthermore, the survey noted that, post COVID, nearly 80 percent (8 of 10) employees are looking to employers for solutions to alleviate financial stress with benefits such as retirement plans, health, disability and life insurance, paid family medical leave and emergency savings programs. In comparison to year ago, 40 percent of workers were more likely to consider a job that offered better benefits.[iii] Is there a disconnect where employers could provide a broader set of benefits that meet this new expectation?
- Employers desire to broaden benefits packages without increasing the HR workload. Talent is in short supply. Unemployment is the lowest it has been in over 12 months. Employers are in recruiting mode. With only so much they can offer in wages, they are moving to benefits and perks to make their companies look attractive and family-friendly. This means channels are opening for new and existing products.
- Employers want to hold on to their most valuable asset—employees—while keeping them safe and healthy. Whether an employer is self-insured (using large health insurers for repricing) or they rely upon employee population health to keep corporate premiums down, they are all looking for ways to use perks and benefits to keep their employees healthy and foster greater wellbeing. Telematics and digital engagement are necessary to measure and make improvements.
- Benefit platforms are in expansion/transition mode. Digital open enrollment, online benefit experiences and umbrella apps that contain all of an employee’s benefit information are on the rise. Add to this the demand for different plans to meet the diversity of employees – sometimes across 4 generational groups. To get invited to the platform party, insurers must be ready to play in the digital ecosystems that have already been created by some of the large benefits consultancies. Platforms and partnerships are lead players in the future of Group and Voluntary Benefits insurance.
- New types of insurance are growing in popularity. The economy is changing. Supply and demand is inconsistent. COVID-19 is still impacting customer behavior. Global politics seem unstable. Cyberattacks are frequent and disruptive. Individuals are looking for some stability for their finances. According to Aon, in 2020-2021, voluntary insurance offerings among employers grew 27 percent. Accident insurance, legal, identity theft, hospital indemnity and Auto/Home insurance all grew over 30 percent. [iv] This is astronomical year over year growth—a true Wild West scenario! And don’t forget about the gig employee—where benefits could be gig on and gig off. Insurers can now look at any area of financial risk and consider where they may be able to create a product that will sell — if they are prepared to plug their systems and processes into platforms and ecosystems.
- Insurance purchase through employers is ‘easy,’ compared to traditional selling. Even traditional products, such as Auto & Home insurance, are seeing an uptick in the Group and Voluntary Benefits channel. The draw isn’t just a better group rate, but it is also the fact that premiums can be taken from paychecks. Employees can enroll and “forget about it.” It helps them manage their overall financial and risk needs, rather than working with multiple insurers or agents. This, in turn, drives up loyalty to employers. The more attractive services that the employer can provide, the more difficult it will be for employees to job hop. Who is out there creating the next new insurance hub or employer aggregation tool for P&C and other traditional products?
- Advanced data analytics can be used effectively by both employers and insurers. An employee is already a “known” person. They are somewhat vetted by their employers to be stable, reliable and less prone to risk. Product design and mix are in constant flux as insurers add more attractive products and product features to their portfolios, driving the need for more advanced data and analytics to understand what employers, sponsors, and participants find appealing and to drive greater participation, enhance customer experiences and enable new products and services.
- Digital Engagement is mandatory. The importance of digital capabilities is now core to insurers offerings, regardless if they are group benefits or individual products, in order to drive simplicity, participation and growth. The promise of digital engagement is a two-way channel — better communication into the insured employee and more informative data coming in from the employee. Digital engagement and data analysis can create another loyalty bridge between insurers and employers as they both begin to see the positive effects of understanding the employee population.
There are dozens of additional reasons that Next Gen Core Platforms are going to rewrite Group and Voluntary Benefits insurance, but the most basic is this:
Technology has advanced to the point that it fits the gaps created by convergence issues.
Every customer, employer and insurer need can now be met with next gen insurance systems that are architected to fit. Insurers needed systems to be adaptable enough to create new products and flexible enough to stand alone or fit into partner platforms. They needed solutions that would provide the same high-level digital experiences that they may be giving to individual policyholders who purchase through agent, broker or online channels. They also needed systems that could effectively transition from “group” underwriting and purchase to “individual” underwriting, purchase and administration. This would allow for policy portability and a greater degree of population understanding and control.
Is there a formula for Group and Voluntary Benefits success?
In a recent article, I outlined how platform function fits the future of insurance.
“Constantly evolving technology, customer expectations and products are forcing the insurance industry to reevaluate and rebuild their business models and business processes in order to survive in an increasingly competitive market…Companies adopting these digital platforms for their business and operating models are gaining a decisive edge over competitors and accelerating their digital maturity. Companies must develop digital capabilities so they can create unique and personalized solutions that help them adapt to a world in a state of rapid flux.”
The answer to the Wild West in Group and Voluntary Benefits is to digitally prepare for that state of rapid flux. In the same article, we covered the central value proposition for any insurer that is wanting to prepare for success. We called it the The Multiplier Effect—Connecting with Other Platforms and Ecosystems.
“With the breadth and velocity of change in technologies, customer risk needs and engagement expectations, it is nearly impossible for any insurer to possess, nor afford the acquisition of, the resources and capabilities needed to keep up with the changes, let alone anticipate and stay ahead of them. A platform-based insurance business model that leverages platform technologies and a digital ecosystem of diverse third-party partner services completely removes this barrier.”
This is true for all insurers, but it is must be considered the new core philosophy for Group and Voluntary Benefits insurers. With this foundation of understanding, we can now read the forthcoming Celent report and listen more readily to how the industry trends and the technology capabilities are converging to make this a momentous time of platform growth. Insurers will find within the report, not only the deeper details of how technology will work as an enabler, but also the practical paths for insurers to take in transition. Celent will cover everything from Staking Out a Position to Architecting for the Next Gen Ecosystem. We’re looking forward to its release and we’re sure you’ll find it enlightening and consistent with what we have been sharing from our research.
If your company is considering a move into Group and Voluntary Benefits or you are already a Group & Voluntary insurer wanting to prepare for the future, be sure to download a copy of the new Celent report commissioned by Majesco which highlights the incredible opportunities with diversified plays in Group and Voluntary Benefits.
[i] Group Insurance Broker Sentiment Survey, Deloitte, December 2020
[ii] Group Insurance Benchmarking Study, Deloitte, 2019
[iii] Castrillon, Caroline, Why Millions of Employees Plan to Switch Jobs Post Pandemic, Forbes online, May 16, 2021
[iv] Payne, Emily, Charts: Voluntary benefits on the rise, BenefitsPro website, March 29, 2021, see this chart for more information.