MetLife building (Photo: Allison Bell/ALM)

MetLife Inc. is moving to add benefits services that could help fill gaps in workers’ finances and increase its employer appeal, without increasing its own exposure to ups and downs in interest rates.

The New York-based company says it’s launching a family of voluntary health savings and spending accounts, with the products available for Jan. 1, 2021, effective dates.

The company has also agreed to acquire Bequest Inc., a Miami-based company that helps people create wills and other estate planning documents online.

(Related: Nationwide Aims for Slice of $54B HSA Market)

MetLife hopes to close on the Bequest deal by Dec. 31.

The Personal Accounts

The personal account program can provide health savings accounts, health flexible spending accounts (FSAs), limited-purpose FSAs, dependent care FSAs, and commuter benefits.

MetLife is getting the account administration services from Wex Health, which is part of Portland, Maine-based Wex Inc. Wex acquired the benefits card business in 2014 It previously was known as Evolution1.

Todd Katz, executive vice president for MetLife’s group benefits unit, described the personal account programs as a natural existing of its existing benefits program.

“By offering employers an integrated experience and consolidated account management across all of MetLife’s benefits, we are helping them save time, reduce complexity and provide their employees with even more tools to help them realize their financial goals.

Bequest Deal

Bequest, which now does business under the name Willing.com, has been offering estate planning document development tools online since 2015.

The company has faced challenges with dealing with state rules governing the definition of legal services, and who can provide legal services. In Florida, for example, the governor vetoed an electronic will bill in 2017.

Bequest says in is terms of service that it’s providing self-help tools, not legal advice, and that it has no attorney-client relationship with the users.

The list of companies that helped finance Bequest’s start includes Y Combinator and Sound Ventures.

Eliam Medina, Bequest’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said in a statement that the MetLife deal will help the company get bigger quickly.

Katz said Bequest’s services will complement the services MetLife’s Hyatt Legal Services unit already provides.

Interest Rates

Other insurers have also been adding personal benefit account programs and work-life advice services over the past two years.

One reason may be the popularity of those kinds of programs and services, both with employers and employees.

Another reason may be the big benefits providers’ eagerness to get personal account business away from other companies.

A third reason may be the effects of wild swings in interest rates on the appeal of benefits products, such as long-term disability insurance, that depend heavily on income from bond holdings. Executives at some insurers have talked openly about wanting to reduce the percentage of revenue coming from interest-sensitive products.

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