One Agency's Story of Saving Their Behinds (well, their son's behind) with Ancillary
As you may or may not know Benefit Profiles Inc started because our original company Agent Alliance Corporation lost its contract as a Managing Agent for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
My mother, Pat Siciliano and step father, John McClain started Agent Alliance as the last MA and in twelve years established themselves as a viable and real player in the Blue Cross landscape. We were the smallest but we liked to think we were the mightiest when it came to marketing and to service.
Very early in the Agent Alliance days John and Pat realized they needed to hedge their bets as well as take advantage of the platform they enjoyed with agents in the small group space so they partnered with Companion Life. Admittedly Blue Cross took up 95% of our energy and focus but we did set goals and spent time marketing Companion as a compliment for life disability and voluntary dental.
We managed the goals and typically produced enough to grow the block. The cash flow Companion provided was nowhere near that of the Blue Cross overide-- we went from 20 employees down to 1.5 (me and Lena) but it was enough to give it another whirl.
Now three years later we have four employees. We’ve added several carriers and new services and we’ve resolidified oursleves as a small but mighty partner for insurance agencies in Michigan.
I tell you this story not to brag but as a real world example of how a fall back plan with ancillary can work. I’m by no means suggesting selling ancillary will ever replace your income selling medical nor will it take more than 90% of your day or energy.However if you set goals and plans and focus on growing your ancillary block gradually you can build cash flow to the point that in a worst case scenario you will have a fall back option to figure out the next step.
That being said, here are some ideas for planning:
1. Consider growing your ancillary block by 20% a year for the next five years. Set goals and action items for marketing to your current groups and prospects using ancillary in a different way. This may involve taking a risk by endorsing voluntary and coming off too salesy. Step outside your comfort zone and I think you'll find the results rewarding.
2. Part of the ancillary sale does include a heavy emphasis on voluntary and a defined strategy for enrollment. You are selling a product people want and it can do good things for employee education and satisfaction. In addition, the process of enrollment offers a ton of value. This powerpoint from Metlife is excellent in explaining the value of a third party when it comes to enrollment and what it can bring a group.
3. Consider the commission structure in your ancillary block. Some carriers pay flat commisions while others pay a scale. Carries can typically move you to flat commissions little adjustment to your group's rates.
4. Consider consolidating carriers to maximize bonus incentives. Depending on the size of your book this could be lucrative. In medium to smaller agencies flat commissions are a more realistic avenue to increasing revenue.
5. Consider doing a marketing campaign targeting cases and only selling ancillary. Many benefits cold calls surround medical. A conversation on ancillary can be refreshing and much easier for a hr/cfo/controller. Reference recent trend studies that outline what typical employers think employees want versus what employees actually want. It is interesting to note employees want the ability to choose different benefits at work! You can help with that.
Do a good job and maybe next renewal you’ll be invited to offer ideas on the medical. Or maybe during the enrollment process you discover issues with compliance that alllow you to push through the door to a broader discussion.
I just realized it's February 20th and it has been a full four years since Blue Cross dropped the bombshell that it would not be renewing the contract with Agent Alliance. Now four years later I'm just happy my parents had enough foresight to build a block of business that served as a bridge for us to rebuild.
I'd love to help you formulate a plan to enhance that bridge in your own business. I have a passion for ancillary and for helping agencies grow their business. I can bring you many resources to make your strategy a success!