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on employee benefits,” Saich said. “We are at full throttle ahead with the benefits department.” The last three big hires Thoits has made have been on the benefits side, and those hires have been to prepare the agency for expected growth in that segment, he said. For a hint of Thoits’ strategy think “captives.” “Benefits is really going that direction,” Saich said. Thoits is setting up captives to bring together companies together with similar synergies. Such captives can be comprised of a combination different of firms, as long as they have similar buying needs, he said.

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Additionally, Thoits is negotiating with carriers to take bundled group benefits products and “unbundling the entire thing,” he added. “The idea is that we’re going to take the best of everything.” The resulting products, and Thoits’ strategy, are geared toward the midsized market. “It’s really a solution geared for the middle market,” Saich said. In other words it’s for companies that are not big enough to do it themselves, but big enough to understand the process. It takes a minimum of 100 to 150 employees to start talking about group captive, but ideally Thoits likes companies with employees numbering in the 200 to 250 range, and putting those companies with five, 10 or more others, he said. “Usually we like to see about 1,000 lives to make a group successful,” Saich added. Pynes of Barney & Barney said his agency is exploring numerous options to answer the building demand for group health offerings, including developing their own private exchange, and the agency is taking a strategic approach by focusing on a particular segment of the market as well. “We really believe that the

jobs are going to be created at the lower end of the market,” Pynes said. Their focus is on assisting their existing clients — and obtaining new clients in —

‘Regardless of what the federal government does, California is moving forward with the heath health insurance exchange.’ the small group space. “We think a lot of brokers are running away from small group because of uncertainty that exists,” he said. Pynes believes that while some employers will dump their employees from their benefit plans, move them into exchanges and take the penalty and get out, he doesn’t think that will be the case with the majority of companies. And that’s why Barney & Barney is sold on employee benefits. About half of the agency’s revenue comes from employee benefits, and 70 percent of that is tied to healthcare specifically, Pynes said. Some of the investments Barney & Barney is making is in retirement services, compensation consulting, and two years ago the agency invested in enrollment and customer support by acquiring a small firm, Virtual Cosourcing Solutions in Orange County. VCS specializes in enrollment and retention services primarily for the insurance carrier industry. The purchase provided Barney & Barney a platform to deliver consumer insurance offerings. Expanded services will include extended customer service hours, online enrollment services and an online purchasing portal. Tools “What we’re trying to do is be prepared to continued on page 18 July 2, 2012 INSURANCE JOURNAL-WEST REGION | 17

Agency Management Systems / Insurance Exchanges; Commercial Auto; Digital Product Guide  
Agency Management Systems / Insurance Exchanges; Commercial Auto; Digital Product Guide  

Agency Management Systems / Insurance Exchanges; Commercial Auto; Digital Product Guide