What is a Benefits Consultant?
A benefits consultant is an individual or firm that advises an employer or plan sponsor in matters relating to group insurance or employee benefits. Benefits consulting firms typically provide their services on a fee-for-service basis outlined in detailed scope of work. Fees are charged for the benefits consultant’s time on an hourly or project-based rate; however it has become more common for benefits consulting firms to accept commission for payment of services.
Benefits consultants are not partial to any insurance company and will work with all insurers to retrieve the best value for their clients. Remaining independent from any insurance company maintains the ethical placement of coverage with the insurer who demonstrates the best fit for the plan sponsor.
Different from brokers and agents, benefits consultants typically have a broader resources and more in-depth knowledge of group insurance and employee benefits, supported by internal tools, research teams, data and surveys. Benefits consultants historically worked with large employers but now work with clients of all sizes and are able to leverage their internal resources and challenge insurers for the best service and value for their clients.
How Can a Benefits Consultant help?
- Getting an in-depth understanding of your business and your internal employee benefits philosophy
- Providing expert advice on the marketplace including differences (strengths/weaknesses) between insurers, marketplace trends and changes in the legislative framework affecting benefits and tying that back to your employee benefits philosophy
- Project managing the tasks associated with your employee benefits program
- Explaining complex concepts in an easy to understand manner
- Answering ad-hoc questions
- Managing expectations surrounding cost, service and deliverables from all involved parties
- Provide support all year round
Typical Benefits Consulting Services
Benefits consulting firms provide traditional brokerage services, the day-to-day management of the employee benefits plan, as well as special projects that plan sponsors seek such as:
- Plan design development
- Competitive placement of coverage with an insurer
- Annual group insurance insurer renewal
- Financial accounting audits
- Benefit plan financial management
- Plan utilization reviews
- Competitive plan benchmarking
- Underwriting review and modeling
- Vendor service monitoring
- Mergers and acquisitions and plan harmonization
- Disability process reviews and audits
- Insurer claim audits
- Health and wellness consulting
- Taxation support
How to Choose a Benefits Consultant
There are many firms that operate in a group insurance and employee benefits advisory role to plan sponsors, however how do you know why one is better than the other? Like choosing any service, you will need to strike the right balance between reputation, knowledge, service, responsiveness and price.
You will want to consider the following:
- Understanding of the plan sponsor’s business
- Rapport between the account team and the client team
- Ability to communicate clearly and concisely
- Quality and depth of personnel
- Willingness to be held accountable for results
- Program design and innovation
- Scope of services provided
- Quality of service
- Knowledge of the marketplace
- Relationship with carriers
- Leverage in the marketplace
- Cost of service