Market Spotlight – Web Benefits Design [A New MJ Blog Series]

At MillsonJames, our intense focus is to Advance HR through Technology. It has been our Mission since day 1 and will continue to be the case until HR is fully automated and has reached maximum efficiency. It is in this light that we are happy to share with the market a new blog series focused on highlighting organizations that are playing a part in helping HR advance through technology. In this edition, we focus on Web Benefits Design, a benefits administration and services company based in Orlando, FL. Benefits Administration Industry Spotlight Web Benefits Design Do not let the name fool you as it did us when we were first introduced to Web Benefits Design (WBD). We mistakenly viewed the company as a creator of benefit communication portals. While benefit portals are the company’s history, the depth and breadth of the WBD solution goes much deeper and wider than the name suggests. WBD is a cloud-based benefits administration company that differentiates itself in a few key areas that are highlighted below, in our traditional BLOT (Bottom Line on Top) approach. Bottom Line on Top The key, primary differentiators of WBD are…

  • Broad and Unified Service Capabilities – WBD complements their proprietary technology with broad service capabilities such as in-house call center, unified COBRA administration, ACA compliance, and dependent documentation. Most importantly all of these services are managed via a unified technical solution and all are provided in-house;
  • Streamlined Implementations – WBD has streamlined their onboarding process with configurable technology so that employers can be implemented quickly and thoroughly;
  • Experienced and Long-tenured Management Team – WBD is an owner-operator business with seasoned industry professionals throughout. This has also allowed WBD to operate a profitable business, which is as rare as a unicorn in this industry;
  • Higher than Average Customer Satisfaction – Based on our research to date, we feel as though WBD has achieved a higher than average level of customer satisfaction.

In terms of areas for future focus, we have suggested an upgrade be made to the user-interface (UI). The current WBD UI isn’t a detractor, but it could use an upgrade. The good news for WBD and their customers is that a UI upgrade is among the easier tasks to address. And, just recently, we were provided with a beta testers view of their new UI and it represents a sizeable improvement which clients will appreciate. Detailed Spotlight Web Benefits Design has been in business since 2002 and has a unique history/story that provides them with a perspective in serving the SMB market that is different than most in the benefits industry. Bethany and Ron Schenk are the co-founders of WBD and together bring a mixture of detailed benefits expertise and technology. Bethany is a former health underwriter and owner of an Employee Benefit Agency and Ron is an Engineer and technology entrepreneur that had founded and led previous software companies. Together, they bring a very unique skillset and perspective to the benefits admin industry. Ron and Bethany first began building benefit portals for Bethany’s broker clients and quickly saw the value of adding in transactional functionality to those websites. While Bethany’s focus is entirely on the benefits administration business today, the knowledge she gained while being a broker is an asset that is continually leveraged on behalf of WBD’s clients. What we like about Web Benefits Design is that they are driving efficiency of benefits automation through a unified technology solution that brings together all aspects of benefits – technology, call center, COBRA, ACA reporting, Cadillac Tax reporting and analysis, etc. Their approach is also refreshing in that they want to drive efficiency without having a particular agenda in mind for how they get there. They are supportive of several models – traditional, defined contribution, private exchange, etc. They align their approach with the need of the employer and at the direction of the employer’s broker. WBD is also primed for growth and has built their systems, infrastructure, and teams in advance of that growth instead of doing the opposite (which has unfortunately become the norm in our industry). They just opened an impressive 70,000 square foot technology center as a visual representation of their plan for growth. – Broad & Unified Service Capabilities In today’s environment, there are over 100 benefits administration companies – those that streamline enrollment, support decision making, communicate electronically with carriers, and aim to drive efficiency. The vast majority of these 100+ ben admin companies turn a blind eye towards the service side of this business (call center, COBRA admin, ACA reporting, Cadillac Tax reporting & analysis, dependent documentation, etc), while others have forged partnerships with 3rd parties to solve for this need. There are only a handful of these companies that bring technology and service together, and do so completely in-house, in a way that benefits the end user. Web Benefits Design is one of those small handful of companies. The advantage for the employer is that they have a one-stop shop for all things related to administering their benefit program. Additionally, with the unified technology and service approach that WBD employs, the end user doesn’t have to worry about misaligned objectives, incongruent service philosophies, or data integration problems. The end result is more streamlined administration and higher customer satisfaction. – Streamlined Implementations Within the benefits industry, one of the primary challenges that brokers, carriers, employers, and benefits administration providers face is the time frame that it takes to implement a technical solution. Historically speaking, the timeframes are very tight between when a broker markets an employer’s plans, carriers respond with rates, brokers tweak those rates/designs, employers make final decisions, and open enrollment begins. When you introduce a technical solution, the deadlines to complete all of the above get squeezed substantially. Employers and their brokers need technical solutions that provide for flexibility with those dates and creates the largest window in which they can maneuver. The solution to this problem is for employers to leverage a benefits administration provider that can utilize a configurable system to implement within a more condensed timeframe. In our discussions with WBD clients, we have generally found their solution to be highly configurable and able to be deployed in a timeframe that is faster than the market average. – Experienced and Long-tenured Management Team As we consult with clients in helping them find the right provider, we talk about the need to mitigate risk. One of the primary factors we look for in a ben admin company in helping mitigate this risk is the experience and tenure of the management team. We look for organizations that have someone with depth of benefits and technical expertise and we like to see teams that have been in place for an extended period of time. This provides for consistency of vision and delivery. We are also looking (high level) at the financial structure and ownership of the company. What we have generally found within this industry is companies that have some combination of hyper-active growth, venture funding, high turnover of clients and leadership, and a grow-at-all-cost from day 1 mentality struggle with quality and customer satisfaction. The outcomes of this combustible combination is often a product that may not have laid an appropriate foundation before loading up the client list and an income statement that has a great deal of red. One of the things that has impressed us about WBD is their history of measured growth and doing so with a profit-based (vs revenue-based) mindset and outcome. – Higher than Average Customer Service In our position in the market, we generally hear all the good and the bad about each provider. Everyone has a mix of both (regardless of what a marketing slick might say). However, as we have interacted with WBD’s clients, we have found them to have a higher degree of satisfied clients than the industry average. Between brokers and clients, the level of satisfaction appears to be higher after partnering with WBD. Our belief is that this is not by chance, but is related to the above differentiators: Broad service, streamlined implementation, and experienced management team. Summary In the mix of the 100+ benefits administration providers, we have found Web Benefits Design to be in a small handful of providers that seem to have both understood the complexities of the industry and how to build and scale a profitable technology business. They have built a business on a solid foundation of benefits knowledge and technical scalability – and operate from a unified solution of technology and service. We look forward to seeing how they continue to grow and develop their product.

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