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Finding the right employee benefits broker in the UAE
Posted on Oct 26, 2017 by Luther
Businesses looking to better utilize their employee benefits plans have a tough ask of them. Unless insurance or benefits are their core business, understanding the options available and how best to structure a compensation package can be a challenge. Benefits providers will offer advice and guidance, but you’ll generally have to wonder if they’re giving you the full picture - they’re businesses themselves trying to make a profit. It’s here that having an experienced and independent employee benefits broker can truly make the difference.
UAE Medical Insurance is often seen as a health insurance broker, but did you know that we’re also one of your best options for seeking employee benefits solutions in the Middle East? This week, we discuss what an employee benefits broker does, how they can help, and what you should expect from an intermediary that you engage with.
What is an employee benefits broker?
Much like a health insurance intermediary, an employee benefits broker specializes in delivering corporate and group solutions that cover multiple members. The underwriting process is generally different for groups; insurers have the ability to spread risk across a much wider group, and can more accurately assign claim behaviours and characteristics to them in order to better calculate premiums. Premiums can also be lower for group plans than individual ones, and the bigger overall plan price can see individual members of that group gain access to coverage that might be more expensive to buy alone.
An insurance or benefits broker acts as a middleman between insurers and companies. Intermediaries make up a significant portion of the insurance market; there are more brokers than actual insurance providers. Independent brokers will work with multiple insurance providers, selling plans to their clients based on the best fit and price, while exclusive brokers may work with a specific insurer to push their products and services. Which one you prefer will depend on your desire for a particular provider, or your budgetary/service requirements.
In general, brokers can help you to find lower prices than those that can be found by going direct to insurers. The sheer number of brokers in the market reduces the need for providers to employ sales staff themselves, not to mention the fact that brokers can have access to a variety of plans from different insurers.
Brokers can range from locally-based companies to more global organizations and, in the case of international private medical insurance, can provide insurers with larger markets for their products without expanding their own global footprints. Brokers then have to decide the level of involvement they want to have with clients beyond a sales relationship; and this can be where the competitive difference truly lies.
What do employee benefits brokers do?
The range of what an intermediary can do differs from broker to broker. Basic employee benefits brokers will offer sales-only services, providing businesses with simple benefits solutions that companies can administer themselves. Like any market, sales-only brokers can be both good and bad. The best ones will get you value for money with a plan from a provider who will take care of all of the administration and communication functions your company will need, while some of the less reputable ones will fast-sell you anything.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have your more involved intermediaries. These businesses offer services beyond simple sales; extending support to businesses for administration processing (like claims and applications), providing education and communication services for staff, and even managing your member details through online portals and smart device apps. The high-end brokers will even maintain a close working relationship with your HR and management teams, providing annual review and analysis services, and helpful renewal support.
The difference in what’s offered by brokers will often be reflected in their price. Those offering lower quality employee benefits plans with less-hands-on support will generally offer you cheaper plans. This is not a bad thing; sometimes all you need to stay competitive in your industry is a simple plan. Brokers selling higher quality plans with higher prices will often do so with some level of ongoing support; since the premium price tag reflects their commitment to your ongoing business. Regardless of your budget or employee benefits needs, it pays to look beyond a broker’s cost to truly understand what you’re buying.
What should I expect from a top employee benefits broker?
If you’re looking for more than just an off-the-shelf solution to your perks and benefits package, here are a few tips for working out which employee benefits broker is the right one for you.
1. Broker knowledge
There are a number of things to look for when it comes to assessing your broker’s knowledge. You’ll want to be sure they know about the products they sell, as well as the products they don’t. Ask about their experience and relationships with the insurers and providers they work with. A good intermediary can also give you solid information about the challenges your industry faces with employee benefits, as well as what your competitors are offering. Find out what they specialize in; is it employee benefits, or is it human resource solutions?
Also query a prospective broker on how, or if, they perform their benchmarking? Nearly everyone does it; assess your coverage, analyze its use, and decide whether you’re still getting value for money or not. Some do it better than others, so really drill them on their process and have them explain exactly how it will benefit you. Get examples. Brokers worth their salt will know their benchmarking processes inside out, and can clearly explain them to you.
Get the intermediary to paint a picture of their expertise in the employee benefits sector so you can compare them to their competition. An experienced and well prepared broker will almost never struggle for an answer, so be wary of ones that don’t sound like they’ve done their homework. Those without specific examples to demonstrate their knowledge may also not be as expert as they make out.
2. Broker access
If you’re purchasing from a broker who wants your continued business, you should expect to hear from them more than once a year. Most hands-off brokers will only pop up around renewal time; the only time they’ll make money from you as a client. Good brokers might keep you updated with the latest employee benefits trends and info throughout the year, better ones will personally check how your plan is working.
Similarly, you’ll want to be able to get in touch with your broker quickly when you need to. Is your broker located in the countries you are? How easy is it to reach them, and do you have a dedicated point of contact or just a general line? If you’re engaging a broker that acts as a middleman, question how their processes work when dealing directly with your employees, including complaints and special circumstance issues.
3. Education and communication support
In terms of educating members on their benefits and processes for making claims, the default for many basic brokers is to sign a client to an insurer then allow the insurer to do the heavy lifting. Find out what your broker does; you might find that they offer their own staff orientation or presentation services. Will they handle the delivery and dissemination of educational resources, or will that end up being your HR department’s job?
If the intermediary offers extra or complete involvement in staff education of benefits, ask them what their communication strategy is. Experienced brokers know that the key to an employee benefits plan’s success is when employees understand their entitlements. Educated staff will be more engaged, and less likely to find concerns with your compensation package. Find out how they’ll help your staff understand your benefits changes.
4. Administrative support
Most brokers will provide help with the initial application process to get your new employee benefits plan set up; but what happens with new hires? Some leave it to your HR team to deal with insurers, which can be okay as many major providers provide online, self-service portals to complete administrative tasks. What this means, however, is that all you’re using your employee benefits broker for is finding a plan to buy.
The best brokers offer much more in support. You can ask if they provide dedicated teams to help your staff make successful claims; do they offer their own online systems for claims processing and management of your members? Find out exactly how much benefits-related work an intermediary can take away from your HR team, and how they achieve that. All brokers get a commission on your sale, so see which ones go the extra mile for you.
5. Annual reporting
Here’s the big one. We mentioned benchmarking before, but it really needs reiterating how important this is. Nearly every broker that’s after more than just a quick sale will provide you with annual reporting on your plan, but not every broker will know how to make the best of that data. An experienced broker will be able to tell you what your claims loss ratio is, but also why it is what it is. They’ll explain where it may head in future, and what you can do to control the costs impacting your premiums.
Claims data comes from your insurer, so having a broker with a close working relationship with your provider is also key. From there, you should expect to get more in-depth, useful analysis of your claims data than you would otherwise get direct from an insurer. If your broker simply passes the data on, it’s maybe a sign they don’t know how to analyze it properly either. Look for a broker that can tell you conclusions about your claims data you can’t figure out yourself.
Finally, question the potential employee benefits broker on what they can do with your annual reports. Can they negotiate for a cheaper premium? Why or why not? If they find out you’re not getting the value for money you expect, question them on what they can do to make sure you do. Don’t trust a broker who tells you you have no options, or one that won’t consider changing your plan to a provider that’s not their preferred one.
Why is UAE Medical Insurance the best employee benefits broker in the Middle East?
It’s a pretty bold statement, but we’re pretty confident that, if you’re looking for an employee benefits specialist, you won’t find better than UAE Medical Insurance. Here’s why:
Our experience and knowledge in unparalleled: As one of the only specialists in employee benefits, we know the industry, its products, and providers better than anyone else. We work with a wide range of insurers and our preference for your solution will be for whatever fits your needs best. We’re not about favoriting our insurance partners, we’re about building long term relationships with clients. Our customers choose us for our extensive intelligence in the market and our influence with providers to ensure that you’ll never need to look elsewhere.
We do more than just sell benefits: We’re one of the most involved intermediaries in the market, becoming the main point of contact for your management, HR team, and staff. We look after your applications, claims, management, staff education, and communication; we use our own in-house developed technology and tools; and we do this to take the workload off of your own HR staff. Management will have dedicated contacts, whilst staff get access to dedicated sales and support teams. Using us as your middleman means using our influence and standing with insurers to your advantage.
Our insights and analysis are industry leading: No one puts as much effort and thinking into their reporting and benchmarking as our staff do. We don’t just pop up a month before renewal, we’re talking to you months before so that there’s always enough time to make a detailed, accurate analysis of your claims data. Are you a potential client? Our consultants and advisors will show you things in your claims data you’ve probably never considered before, and give you ideas on what we can do to help improve the employee benefits package you have.
We’re a global family of dedicated offices: Meaning we’re in seven global offices that deliver a high standard of worldwide brokering services, with local and regional support dedicated to the places you operate. This is especially important for places like the Middle East where some jurisdictions, such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, have regulated mandatory insurance by law. Our offices are well acquainted with local laws and requirements. We can help businesses, local or global, meet any legal obligations they might have using our expertise and regional knowledge.
That’s just a brief overview of what we can do as a specialist employee benefits broker. If you really want to know why it is that UAE Medical Insurance is the intermediary of choice for many professional service firms and international schools in the Middle East and abroad, get in touch with one of our consultants today. Unlike some brokers, our advisors aren’t primarily focused on finding leads, their main role is to service them. Even if you already have a broker, our team are eager to show what you the UAE Medical Insurance difference is.
Give our consultants time to meet with you and you won’t be disappointed.