There is an often cited maxim that “where you stand on an issue depends largely on where you sit”. It is a cute way of noting that your perspective on nearly any issue is shaped by your vantage point. The cynics among us might suggest that human beings will always “vote” for that which serves their interests. Whether it is politics, business, religion or any other issue, the bottom line is that nearly any issue will bring a full measure of differing opinions.
Such is the case in our business as well. The “saving grace”, if you will, is that when we are client-facing we are – or ought to be – most often in discovery rather than opinion mode. Since the broad outlines of PPACA became clear a large number of brokers began to take a very hard look at voluntary benefits as a way to survive what they see as an implosion of their core business. These practitioners point to a “huge interest” in voluntary and a renaissance of money-purchase employer arrangements as the lighthouse they are using to navigate.
While employees are keenly interested in voluntary, their employers are significantly less so. That may be rubber-meets-the-road consumers being ahead of the curve (as is often the case) while employers’ perspective is somewhat different. Remember that these two constituencies sit in very different places. According to a MetLife study, 52% of employees would like a broad array of voluntary benefits while the same study indicates that just 17% of employers see voluntary as a significant strategy. A Prudential study largely mirror MetLife’s findings.
There are two key takeaways from these studies. First, that brokers and advisors must do serious fact finding before wading into a case armed with assumptions alone. Second, successful practitioners will need to have two very different conversations in order to arrive at success in this market.