Your Checklist of What to Ask of an Employee Benefits Broker or Advisor

Seeking out an employee benefits broker or advisor is a challenging, even daunting, process. As a CEO, CFO, or HR Executive, you’re charged with a fiduciary duty to manage your employees’ health and benefits as if they were your own, and that implies you need to work with someone who understands that and helps you meet those obligations.

This means that selecting the right broker or advisor is even more important than you initially thought. Not only do you need someone who is smart, hardworking, and competent, but you also need to be sure they are truly working in your best interest. Our checklist will help you do just that.

HOW TO ASK

Before reading our checklist, there is one thing to note: Other than the first question, none allow straightforward yes or no answers. This is intentional. Any broker or advisor can run down the list and give you “Yes” answers to tough questions, even when the reality is more complex as it so oftentimes is. Questions that require the broker or advisor to explain their business model and style to you will allow you to properly evaluate whether he or she will really be working on your and your employees’ behalf.

WHAT TO ASK

  1.  Are you a fiduciary?
  2.  How are the obligations that I must meet as my plan’s sponsor, manager, and fiduciary protected and enhanced in our contract?
  3.  What do you do to ensure you operate your business with full transparency, including all of your dealings with me, your carriers, and your vendors?
  4.  How will you disclose your conflicts of interest to me in such a way that I will fully understand them and their implications?
  5.  What steps will you take to give me access to a full range of plan options, including those which generate less revenue for you or those you work for?
  6.  How often will I have access to clear and comprehensive reports of my costs, as well as thorough breakdowns of how those costs are derived?
  7.  How will you go about identifying inappropriate or inflated plan costs, and what is your process for addressing such issues?
  8.  What processes do you have in place to ensure I have complete access to data and service/outcome reporting related to our contract?
  9.  What will you do to be intentional about education, autonomy, and empowerment for me as your client?

The answers and explanations you get from asking these questions are the best predictors of a broker or advisor’s performance. Satisfactory answers signal that he or she will be operating in an appropriate capacity as a true partner to your business, while lackluster responses clearly communicate that he or she isn’t the right fit.

It’s worth pointing out that the same questions can, and should, be asked of your current broker or advisor. CEOs, CFOs, and HR Executives usually think their current benefits broker or advisor is doing right by their company, but oftentimes do not know for sure. Receiving troubling answers to the questions on this checklist may mean that it’s time for a change, no matter how long your broker or advisor has been with you.

We believe that anyone who manages your employees’ benefits plans should be prepared to give thorough, satisfactory answers to all the questions on this checklist. For our part, Wincline takes transparency seriously. When employers come to us with concerns about their plans, how we do business, and how we write our contracts, we take delight in answering their questions. Give us your toughest ones, and we’ll show you the Wincline difference.