Group and Voluntary Benefits Insurers: Be the Disrupter!

LIMRA’s Group and Worksite Benefits Conference was once again a vital and energetic meeting place for the industry. EIS Group has been a premier sponsor for the past three years, and we have had many conversations with talented people who are struggling with the transformation taking place within the industry and how to respond to it with their hard-to-adapt legacy technology. 

But what really stood out this year was all of the talk about the importance of technology enabling—or as it stands now, disabling—companies’ various strategies. It was a topic in almost every session, probably because companies have tried everything but addressing the root cause of the problem: their core legacy systems. 

The most memorable discussion for me occurred during the “View from the Top” executive session. Heather Lavallee, president of Voya Financial, was asked the typical executive question, “What keeps you up at night?” The response was anything but typical. She said what keeps her up at night is disruption. She talked about her nightmare scenario in which a start-up enters the group and worksite market with new technology and a fresh approach and disrupts what exists and displaces the insiders. Her answer is telling.

Look no further than AXA for an example. It is a major financial services company that is acting like a disrupter. It is entering the U.S. employee benefits business by targeting an underserved market (20–500 lives) and doing it with new technology. According to Herve Balzano, AXA’s U.S. head of employee benefits, “While competitors struggle to adapt their legacy services and technology to the present, we have the advantage of building, from the ground up, a seamless platform that is unencumbered by the past and ready for the future.”

Look also at Google, which just entered the health insurance business by investing $32.5 million in Oscar Health Insurance Corp., a start-up that many believe is poised to disrupt traditional insurance channels and dominant players such as UnitedHealth Group and Anthem. Although Google appears to be interested in leveraging the start-up’s technology, imagine what it could do to propel Oscar Health Insurance.

But disruption doesn’t need to come from the outside. It can happen from the inside. The group and worksite market is primed for disruption and the message is don’t be displaced, be the disrupter and control the disruption in your favor.

The technology exists today—and is available to carriers—to disrupt the market. It consists of modern core systems that are built to be open and flexible. These systems are designed for an omni-channel world where the customer is at the center and the power of change resides in the business. CIOs and business leaders often fear that a potential transformation project will be long duration and all-consuming and that such projects historically have a high failure rate and will cause internal disruption. But disruption is inevitable, and the good news is that there are now new implementation methods to accelerate the implementation of complex transformation projects while reducing overall risk.

In an echo of Heather Lavallee’s warning, the threat of outside disruption of the group and worksite market is real, but those on the inside must shake off the fear of change to counter it. The time has never been better to be the disrupter.