Tag Archives: Zenefits

Don’t Forget Your Best Strategic Weapon

There’s a lot in print and on the web about the concept of “engagement” and how it applies in the insurance and financial services sales process. We all know what engagement means at an everyday level as we work to connect with people in various ways or describe how someone is engaged or even engaging. It’s exciting when we hear of a couple becoming “engaged.”

In business, the word “engagement” has many applications, ranging from simply having an agreed upon appointment time (an engagement)… to reaching a deal, resulting in buying or contracting for some service.

When it comes to sales, client or prospect “engagement” needs to be understood much, much more. Engagement is a strategic asset or weapon when a professional intentionally and regularly stays in touch with their clients and centers of influence or trusted partners by connecting personally and relationally. Being highly engaged means the professional is staying focused with all these people in the continuing delivery of value, investing time, staying in touch every two to three weeks and building a deeper personal relationship with each person based on their individual interests and needs.

This type of strategic investment always builds trust, keeps the pathways open for serving added needs and finding new opportunities and always gains new prospect referrals and introductions.

See also: How Advocates Can Reengage Workers  

Research about engagement in the financial services industry brings some startling information to the table. The work by Julie Littlechild of Absolute Engagement of Toronto shows that clients who have a “satisfied” relationship with their provider have an overall loyalty rating of 99%, yet only 20% have actually provided a referral to their financial adviser. So they’re satisfied and are likely going to stay as clients, but only one in five has actually referred a new opportunity to their provider.

However, when the survey polled clients who felt their provider was very engaged, the results shift dramatically. These clients had a 100% loyalty rating, and 98% of these had actually already provided referrals to their advisers during the past year.

So, do the math: Highly engaged relationships provide more times more referrals than those where there’s less or little engagement. Now imagine you had all of your clients and trusted professional connectors feeling that you were in a real, connected relationship with them. What could that potentially yield to you in the way of new sales opportunities, month in and month out?

The national sales leader of one of the largest and most recognized Insurance companies in the world told me that “our competition really comes from inside… it’s the inertia inside of my firm…,” meaning producers keep doing the same things that they’ve always done and then get the same lukewarm results. All of that can be changed with added emphasis on training his teams on the importance and specific ways to create better engagement with clients and centers of influence

Today, insurance leaders are universally concerned about technology disruption… you know, the threats coming from startups like Lemonade right now, and Zenefits before. I know that any professional worth his suit can readily withstand these competitors by focusing on using his No. 1 asset: the ability to build highly engaged relationships with clients and other professionals that will increase loyalty and generate a multitude of new referred client opportunities.

As a producer, your best asset is your ability to strengthen each and every relationship in your network on a person-to-person basis to where trust is the glue and your personal connection provides the ties that bind. I’ll guarantee that no newcomer or technology can easily replicate what you’re building when you reach out and make a personal contact with the people in your networks every two to three weeks. That provides the inoculation against disruptors — essential if you’re serious about protecting and growing your business.

See also: MyPath: Engage the Next Generation  

Imagine how 30 to 35 of these important people would feel if you had a routine that showed them how important you believe they are. Imagine how they would feel if every two weeks or so you were to make an unexpected visit, send an email with something they are caring about, make a quick, unplanned phone call or write a short personal note of appreciation with no other purpose in mind but to make them know that you are thinking about them and that they are valued and important.

To build these engaged relationships, you first must develop a mindset of being a “giver.” To make it happen consistently, use tools to keep you scheduled and on track and systematically ensure that you’re staying engaged and in touch to provide meaning and value and create close connections. Then, as Robert Cialdini states in his noted book “Influence,” as you give meaningfully to people, they will have a desire to reciprocate, and if you teach them how to give back… with referrals and introductions, they will! Become one of the few getting excellent ratings for engagement in your industry, and you’ll reach every goal you have.

Someone once said, “Your network is the key to your net worth.” That statement has never been more appropriate than it is right now!

And I’ll add that engagement is the key to building your network!

Which Rules Should Insurtech Break?

There’s a lot of attention being given at the moment to the startup firms that are entering the insurance market in the hope of grabbing attention and business by disrupting the established ways of doing things. And some of these insurtech startups are indeed introducing new and exciting ideas to the market. Disruptive thinking has its upside, and customers will benefit from it. Does it have a downside as well, though?

There’s a view that, to be successful, disruptors need to “delight in breaking rules, but not rules that matter.” This view can lend startups a certain piratical air, yet it can also cause them to see the rules that get in their way as the rules that don’t matter. That’s why we’ve seen some high profile insurtech startups crashing into regulatory brick walls: Zenefits is a classic example of this.

Now,  I’m not saying that startups shouldn’t hit problems, even regulatory ones, but what I am saying is that they should at least get the basics right, even if the basics are themselves disruptive to the work of disruptors. The U.K.’s Information Commissioner made this clear to the insurance industry in 2015 when he pointed out that “big data is not a game played by different rules.”

See also: An Eruption in Disruptive InsurTech?  

I’m also not asking for insurtech startups to occupy the high moral ground, but I am saying that they cannot reinvent “doing business” in ways that sidestep the ethical values that consumers expect firms to uphold. Nailing business values like “innovative” and “disruptive” to your piratical mast won’t stop inconvenient winds like “honesty” and “fairness” from pushing your exciting voyage toward the hard rocks of reality.

It is with terms such as honesty and fairness that customers often describe what a “good financial services firm” feels like. Yet insurtech start-ups are often being urged to disrupt customer expectations, seeing them as a quaint left-over from an old way of doing things. The future is instead said to lie in insurance providers getting closer to their customers in all sorts of ways. Yet isn’t business success more reliant on customers wanting to get closer to firms? It’s the latter that leads to the former, not the other way around.

The danger is that disruptors’ natural and essential super-confidence in themselves is translated into overconfidence in the ethical correctness of their decisions and judgments. And there’s then the tendency for them to believe that other people think the same way as they do. Both are fairly normal traits that we all exhibit in some form or other in our everyday lives. I certainly do, and my daughters have pulled me up short with one or two of the decisions I’ve made.

See also: The State of Ethics in Insurance  

And that sort of challenge, that sort of “knowing you but through different eyes” is vital for insurtech startups. While insurance needs disruptive startups, they in turn need disruptors of group think, of the wrong sorts of overconfidence. As the folklore of startups fills with tales of disruptors being told they’re not being overconfident enough in their business plans, let’s put out a marker of hope for 2017, that it will see tales of disruptors being told they’re not being ethical enough in their business plans, that they’re not doing enough to earn the trust of consumers. It’s very possible, if the market and those advising them want it.

5 Abysmal Business Practices by Agencies

We’ve combed through the year’s data of all the reading and liking and sharing that has been done around our articles, and this year a definite theme emerged:

You recognize that the status quo isn’t working any more, and you need to make changes to your business model to remain relevant to your clients.

Part one is about positioning and communication, recognizing that what you say and how you say it matters – a LOT. And here in part two, we’re taking a look at how you’re running your operations.

Business Practices

The consensus is that it’s time for an overhaul because insurance agency business practices are terrible. Continuing with status quo will not keep you even any longer; holding onto status quo is actively moving you backward.

1.) 5 Fears You Must Face: The High Cost of Insurance Agency Fears

Prospecting, referrals, retention, producers and delivering results may not sound like items that should scare you, but clearly they do. And not addressing those business fears in a healthier manner could put you out of business.

Bottom line: We get how truly terrifying these fears are and how difficult it is to bring significant change to your agency. But you have no choice. If you don’t face the fears, if you don’t bring the change, you are on a dead-end path.

See also: 26 Most Important Words in Business  

2. Do Insurance Brokers Really Know Why Their Clients Hire Them?

The short answer is “Generally, no.”

It may seem like an odd question, but if you don’t know why your clients hired you, it’s probably because you don’t have a clear value proposition; therefore, you also likely don’t know what your clients found compelling about you and your company. And it’s pretty hard to deliver effective results against the unknown. “It just feels right” is not a business-building answer that you can replicate to regularly drive new business.

Bottom line: Leaving your fate to the buyer’s gut instinct is inexcusable. It has to be extremely clear as to why anyone should hire you. And the same, tired reasons our industry has been giving for decades won’t cut it.

3. For Insurance Agency Growth, It’s Time to Pick up the Pace

Insurance agencies have never put themselves in position to control their own pace. Your business growth is being slowed because you have attached your business to someone else’s business (the carriers). And, because you can’t stray too far from the source, you can’t move any faster than the pace they set for themselves.

Bottom line: It’s time to start running your business as the stand-alone business you have always needed it to be; it’s time to set your own pace and grow as much and as fast as you desire.

4. Insurance Producer Sales Goals Are a Joke

Traditional producer sales goal-setting is a joke and results in very little confidence – for the producer or the leadership – that it will actually happen because it isn’t based on anything meaningful. The “goal” is likely the same pretend goal from last year, or some percentage variation of it, which was probably originally selected based on a “round number,” such as $100,000.

Bottom line: Successful business years don’t just happen, at least not any more. Nobody is responsible for your success more than you. Set a goal you actually believe in, and it will drastically reduce (likely by half) the number of accounts you need to write.

5. Dude, Do You Know How Bad Your Numbers Suck?!

Do you have any idea of how upside down you are on a majority of your book of business? It’s probably true. Knowing that agencies vary significantly by number of producers, let’s do some analysis on a per-producer basis to find out just how profitable your producers are running their books. This is a great follow-up to the Sales Goals article listed above.

Bottom line: You can’t afford to continue leaving things to chance. Be honest with yourself and evaluate your marketing and sales efforts and then make the tough decisions to make the needed changes – regardless of how difficult it may feel. You HAVE to change the way you’re working.

+1 BONUS: 

Zenefits: Disrupting Lives, Not Just the Insurance Industry

The industry loves a good “stick it to Zenefits” article or two. Perhaps it’s because you feel they’re really off base with their model. Or you don’t like the disruption they’ve brought to your comfy business. Or maybe you just can’t turn away from the drama they have created. Whatever the individual reason, here is the article that topped our posts for the year.

Bottom line: Regardless of how you feel about them, please note that they continue to add new clients. While they may not be popular in the insurance industry, they more than make up for it with a group of employers who are attracted to what they’re offering. Take notes, and make your own adjustments to your own business based on what employers want today, which is different from what they wanted three years ago. Zenefits started based on this idea, and they continue to make adjustment because of it. You should, as well.

Triple Bottom Line From Q41 2016 Posts

Agency owners need to control their business from value proposition and communicating effectively, both internally and externally; to managing the company in a head-on manner and making difficult decisions that allow them to create the culture and company they want and need to have; to managing the flow of assets throughout the organization from revenue coming in the door to allocation of resources internally.

See also: Why Start-Ups Win on Small Business  

Leaving anything up to “the way it’s always been done” or maintaining status quo is putting you and your employees on a dead-end path. Take control of your business and take control of your future.

Can’t get enough of these great insights? Be sure to check out Part I of Top Q4i posts from 2016!

A version of this article originally appeared on Q4i Agency Blog.

Asia Will Be Focus of Insurtech in 2017

Asia will be the key pillar in the coming revolution of insurance and in all likelihood will become the hottest market for insurance technology (insurtech) globally. It’s no longer just a pipe dream, as this time all the stars are aligning. Take the sheer population size and rapidly emerging tech-savvy middle class, together with low effectiveness of traditional insurance distribution. Combine that with a destabilizing wave of political populism, making its rounds across much of the developed world, and you’ve got most of the ingredients for a region that will take on a leading global role for insurtech.

So what, if anything, is missing to really ignite insurtech in Asia? It turns out that while the region is ripe for insurtech, the actual quantity and quality of startups in Asia is nowhere near that of other regions… at least not yet.

Share of investments in insurance startups can be used as a good proxy to the overall level of insurtech activity around the world. According to the figures, the U.S. takes 63%, with Germany (6%), U.K. (5%) and France (3%). China is at 4% – which doesn’t account for Zhong An’s massive investment in 2015 — and India at 5% (Source: CB Insights).

See also: The Future of Insurance Is Insurtech  

So the logical question is, why aren’t there more startups in Asia, considering the substantial opportunity and funding that exists in the region? Is it due to a shortage of experienced entrepreneurs, difficulty of starting a business, lack of access to investment or something else? The answer is that it’s likely a combination of a few factors, including a weaker early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem, which doesn’t yet effectively support startups, and a cultural aspect of lesser tolerance for failure. Both of these are changing fast, though, and entrepreneurs across Asia are starting to identify and test innovative insurtech solutions.

The following are just a few recent notable insurtech startup examples across Asia that have already reached beyond Series A funding: Zhong An (an $8 billion Chinese insurtech startup), Connexions Asia (Singaporean flexible employee benefits platform with a U.S.$100 million valuation), and two large insurance aggregators out of India– Policybazaar and Cover Fox.

So why am I convinced that Asia insurtech startups will not end up dominating their regional home turf ?

Probability and “Survival of the Fittest”

The lack of critical mass of startups in the region means that they will not enjoy the same quality filters and network effects of the larger entrepreneurial ecosystems of the U.S., Europe and to a somewhat lesser degree China.

“Surviving” U.S. and European startups have to fight their way across a lot more competition to reach scale in their home markets. Hence, where a weaker startup in Asia could get repeated life support simply because there aren’t that many others to invest in, natural selection weeds out the weaker models in EU/U.S. much quicker in favor of more robust ones. Stronger startups then get to attract the best talent from the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including talented entrepreneurs whose models didn’t work as well, further reinforcing successful EU/U.S. startups.

Home Market Advantage

Success in a large home market like the U.K., Germany or a few U.S. states gives a substantial boost to any startup. It provides both credibility and cash flow to allow a much more aggressive expansion into other regions. This also gives a startup flexibility to develop the necessary adjustments to the business model to adapt it for Asia.

The U.S. and EU have a deep domain level of insurance expertise, which gives EU/U.S. startups from those regions a further edge to tap advisory expertise locally, because most of the largest global insurers are based in these two regions.

Lastly, considering that most startups adopt a collaborative approach with insurance companies, having a relationship that originates close to the top decision maker at headquarters gives an added advantage to EU/U.S. startups when they are looking at expanding to new regions. I’ve personally experienced examples of relationships developed in Europe that later carried over in creating a pre-warmed partnership with the insurer’s operations in Asia.

Regulatory Complexity

Asia is made up of a large number of countries, where each has its own insurance regulator, who possess views on how things should be run. This means an additional potential growth hurdle for Asian startups.

For example, a startup out of Singapore will need to figure out how to navigate the neighboring Asian country regulatory regimes pretty early in its growth cycle. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam markets all have diverse regulatory requirements. This lands the Singaporean startup at a disadvantage vs. a more mature startup out of EU/U.S. – which not only has experience dealing with regulators in its home market but also possesses a proven track record and a larger resource pool that it can use to overcome any regulatory issues.

Meet Future Leaders of Asia InsurTech

Here are  35 insurance startups from across the U.S., Europe and China that have a real shot at collaboratively shaping the future of Asia’s insurance . Granted that not all of these startups will successfully adapt their models for Asia, a few would and will go on to successfully dominate Asia’s insurtech landscape in the foreseeable future.

Credit: George Kesselman

Credit: George Kesselman

The future of insurance in Asia is coming fast, and it’s looking pretty exciting!

See also: Insurtech Has Found Right Question to Ask  

Below are links/brief description of each of these 35 ventures.

U.K.

  • Guevara – People-to-people car insurance
  • Bought by Many – Insurance made social
  • Cuvva – Hourly car insurance on-demand
  • SPIXII– AI insurance agent
  • Gaggel – A better alternative to mobile phone insurance.
  • ClientDesk – Digitizing the insurance industry
  • Insly – Insurance broker software

Germany

  • SimpleSurance – World’s leading e-commerce provider for product insurances
  • Friendsurance – The future of insurance (P2P)
  • Getsafe – One-stop digital solution for all your insurance matters
  • Finanz-chef24 – Germany’s largest digital insurance for entrepreneurs and self-employed
  • Money-Meets – Save money and improve finances
  • Clark – Insurance as easy as never before
  • MassUP – White-labeled platform for online insurance sales
  • FinanceFox – Your insurance hero

USA

  • Metromile – Pay-per-mile insurance (usage-based auto insurance)
  • Oscar – Smart, simple health insurance.
  • Zenefits – Online HR Software | Payroll | Benefits – All-In-One (EB distribution)
  • Policy Genius – Insurance advice, quoting and shopping made easy
  • Embroker – Business insurance in the digital age
  • Slice – On-demand insurance for the on-demand economy.
  • Trov – On-Demand insurance for your things
  • Cover Hound – Compare car insurance quotes from top carriers
  • Insureon – Small-business insurance
  • Bunker – The marketplace for contract-related insurance
  • Lemonade – Peer-to-peer renters and homeowners insurance
  • Cyence – Comprehensive platform for the economic modeling of cyber risk

China

Health Startups Go After 3 Pain Points

In my last post, I outlined the four dimensions that are defining the opportunities for health insurtech innovation: the health of the American people, marketplace trends, the role of regulation and the players.

Incumbent health insurers are pursuing legacy tactics to compete in the ACA world. There are big M&A approved (Centene/Healthnet) and facing regulatory challenges (both Aetna/Humana and Anthem/Cigna). Many are increasing premiums. Others are leaving the public exchanges (notably, United Healthcare withdrew earlier this year, and Aetna just announced its withdrawal from 11 of the 15 exchanges).

Innovators addressing the root of user pain points can influence how plans are selected and healthcare is consumed. The levers are not easy to move. Success requires compliant ways of combining big data analytics and personalization with user-centric digital experiences.

The headline of a recently published New York Times article, Cost, Not Choice, Is Top Concern of Health Insurance Customers, would seem to state the obvious. Yet insurers have expressed surprise at the policy mix and which plans are proving to be most popular. Carriers participating in the public exchanges report poorer actual performance than anticipated in premiums (lower) and claims (higher). Users are gravitating toward lower-cost plan options and show a trend to self-select into higher-cost plans when they know a big health care expense looms.

This is not just an issue for incumbents. Oscar, among the most visible innovators in the US health insurance marketplace, reported a $105 million loss in 2015. Lack of scale is a challenge, but the company has also been affected by the user decision-making dynamics affecting established carriers.

See also: Matching Game for InsurTech, Insurers  

The results suggest (at least) three pain points:

1. People don’t see value because they don’t understand what they are buying.

  • When people think something is too expensive, it is because either they cannot afford it (i.e., it really is too expensive) or the perception of value does not justify the price.
  • Reportedly one in seven employees do not understand the benefits being offered by employers, of which health insurance is by far the biggest piece.

2. People are being held accountable for health decisions that they are not equipped to handle.

  • Faced with a complex set of choices and opaque information, it is no surprise that many go for the easy option: saving money now.

3. People don’t always make rational decisions.

  • A basic primer in behavioral economics will tell you that emotion, bias and other limitations — not rational analysis — drive decisions and that people discount perceived upside relative to downside. There is not enough upside to pay more in the short term.

Players who manage to affect these behavioral drivers stand to gain. Here are examples of companies working the issues.

Connecting disparate sources of data

PokitDok creates “APIs that power every health care transaction.” They aim to enable data connectivity across the silos that in today’s world require manual navigation. They define an ecosystem including Private Label Marketplaces, Insurance Connectivity, Payment Optimization and Identity Management. The company closed a $35 million B round last year. PokitDok is a pure technology play. Achieving their vision could be the “holy grail”: better economics and better patient experiences and outcomes without owning underwriting risk.

Helping employers

It hasn’t been lost on the startup world that 150 million employees purchase health care via employers, which is why many companies are focused on improving the benefits buying experience and promising to help employers lower costs. The ACA requires that all companies with more than 50 employees offer health insurance. This aspect of the regulation, coupled with the fact that health benefits expense has risen steadily, provides a specific and large innovation space.

Competitors include:

Lumity, who reported raising $14 million last fall, acting as an insurance broker. The company claims to be “the world’s first data-driven benefits platform for growing businesses” promising to simplify benefits selection for employers and employees. Employees are asked to provide health data, which are compared with aggregate profiles using proprietary algorithms. The big question: Will employees see enough benefit to share potentially sensitive information?

Zenefits, recovering from widely publicized regulatory issues, has new leadership. The company acts a broker, and focuses on small businesses.

Collective Health is targeting a wide range of businesses via “ready-to-go,” “configurable,” and “advanced” solutions. The employee experience components of the offering are aimed at helping users make better-informed decisions with less hassle.

SimplyInsured aggregates health insurance plan options for small businesses to make comparisons easier, and aims to automate processes presumably essential to creating a viable cost structure for serving this segment.

See also: InsurTech Need Not Be a Zero-Sum Game  

A number of benefits consultants including Aon and Towers Watson (the latter via their acquisition of Liazon in 2013) offer larger employers private exchange capabilities – these include portals for employee benefits enrollment enabled by data analytics and a friendly user interface. They act as or engage brokers to create benefits plans tailored to employers’ goals. Such portals can be helpful to employees, and check a box for employers seeking to improve the benefits experience, not just reduce expenses.

Health Advocate, founded in 2002, is the largest example of a relatively new industry positioned to help patients navigate an increasingly complex system towards the right care and reimbursement. The question being raised around these solutions – although as the de facto advocate within my own family I’d love to have a professional advocate to whom I could outsource – is whether they are a workaround adding yet another layer of expense to an industry that earns among the worst customer satisfaction scores of any. As an employer, however, it’s a benefits option that could be valuable given the stress of managing the health care process many employees undergo.

Motivating people to adopt healthier habits

Vitality, reported on in an earlier post, is a cobranded platform offering deals and rewards designed to motivate people who take steps towards better health. Hancock offers the HumanaVitality program, integrating Vitality’s rewards program into the insurance relationship. If people see near-term benefit to behavior change this could be a good use case upon which to build.

Facilitating patient payments to providers

Patientco is a “payments hub” supporting “every payment type,” “every payment method,” “every payment location.” Focus is on efficiently increasing revenue for providers, secondarily to improve the payments experience for patients. The company provides the ability to integrate its solution with other health technology solutions.

Providing better experience capabilities to carriers

Zipari is a customer experience and CRM platform providing a product suite including enrollment, billing, and a 360-view of members across engagement channels. The company targets is product line at insurers, both direct-to-consumer and group or employer channels.

See also: Be Afraid of These 4 Startups

The multiple miracles that would have to occur for a quick fix make it unlikely that we will see a simple, logical health insurance experience any time soon. We are relatively early in what is likely to be a long game. But, insurtech innovators and even more mature companies operating within and around the sector are demonstrating the capacity to go after the possibilities that data, technology and the ability to see creative solutions offer to mitigate the pain.