Employee Benefit Adviser, in partnership with business intelligence data analytics firm miEdge, presents the top five large-group employee benefit brokerages by industry.
The ranking is based on Form 5500 Schedule A data submitted by plan sponsors to the Department of Labor. Note: Groups under 100 lives, government entities and church plans are not required to file, and any disclosure on Schedule C's are not contemplated in these numbers.
“The way human capital is valued, and the way benefits relate to maximizing that value, varies considerably across industries,” says Eric McMurray, brokerage & advisory practice leader, health and benefits North America at Willis Towers Watson, the leader in five of the industries listed.
Understanding the nuances in those differences is the key to a brokerage’s success, he adds.
Industry: Accommodation and Food Services
1) Aon 2) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 3) Mercer 4) Willis Towers Watson 5) Brown & Brown
There are nearly 14 million people working in this sector, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which classifies it as establishments providing customers with lodging and/or preparing meals, snacks and beverages for immediate consumption.
Employees on average rank their benefits 2.73 out of five stars, according to research from Glassdoor. This ranking is significantly lower than other industries, perhaps accounting for the typically high amount of turnover in the field.
Industry: Administrative and Support/Waste Management and Remediation Services
1) Aon 2) OneDigital 3) USI Insurance Services 4) HUB International 5) Mercer
There are more than 9 million people working in this field, according to the BLS. Benefits are becoming more generous in the administrative support field, according to Robert Half, as the BLS predicts 5.6 million new jobs in this industry by 2024.
Industry: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting
1) Benefits Planning Associates 2) USI Insurance Services 3) Regions Insurance 4) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 5) Aon
Work is often seasonal in this market sector. BLS data show the unemployment rate in February was 9.6%, dropping to 5.8% by May.
“Employers within the agriculture industry are often looking for creative solutions to provide income protection to their employees in rural areas and who work highly physical, challenging jobs,” says Michelle Jackson, assistant vice president, Unum National Client Group, a leading carrier in this field.
Industry: Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
1) Mercer 2) Willis Towers Watson 3) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 4) Team Scotti 5) Alliant Insurance Services
There are more than 2 million employees in this market sector, according to BLS. Some employers in this industry offer benefits not available in other fields, such as transportation to and from work, housing and scholarships, according to CollegeGrad, LLC. Unions are important in the performing arts, CollegeGrad points out. Earnings, including benefits, are often determined by union contracts.
About 14% of people in the construction industry are represented by labor unions, according to the BLS. However, nearly seven in 10 construction companies (68%) employ less than five people, meaning “keeping highly skilled employees is key to the success of these small businesses,” David Rook says in a white paper for benefit firm JP Griffin Group. “The construction industry must therefore design attractive compensation and benefit offerings that are competitive with those offered in other industries.”
Industry: Educational Services
1) Willis Towers Watson 2) Mercer 3) Brown & Brown 4) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 5) USI Insurance Services
The education industry has one of the highest peaks of benefit satisfaction, according to Glassdoor. The average satisfaction rating is 3.61 out of five stars.
“In the educational services sphere, balancing benefits delivery with costs is key for publicly-funded entities who rely on unionized labor and who are also dependent on taxpayer dollars and state budgets,” says Willis’s McMurray.
Industry: Finance and insurance
1) Aon 2) Willis Towers Watson 3) Mercer 4) Alliant Insurance Services 5) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
There are more than 6 million people working in this field, which boasts a very low unemployment rate (1.7%), according to the BLS. Additionally, wages and salaries in this sector have risen 3.9% in the last 12 months. Many of the companies named as leaders in finance and insurance by Fortune magazine this Spring were cited for their top-notch benefits. “[I]t is the less tangible benefits that lead to a great experience such as: employee recognition activities, dodge ball tournaments, employee and family 5k race, health and diet counseling, onsite child care facility, onsite fitness center with free fitness classes, etc.,” one Allianz Life employee told Fortune.
Industry: Healthcare and Social Assistance
1) Aon 2) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 3) Marsh & McLennan Agency 4) USI Insurance Services 5) HUB International
Workers in the healthcare field — which totals nearly 20 million, according to the BLS — have an average benefit satisfaction level of 3.44 out of five stars, according to Glassdoor. Additionally, the costs of health benefits represent more than one-third of a hospital's total benefit expenditure for employees, higher than most other industries, according to Towers Watson research.
1) Mercer 2) Willis Towers Watson 3) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 4) USI Insurance Services 5) Alliant Insurance Services
Not surprisingly due to its competitive nature, the industry technology sector has some of the highest rated benefits. According to Glassdoor, it’s among the top ranked fields in satisfaction, with an average of 3.68 out of five stars.
“A young technology company may weigh the attraction and retention of talent higher than benefits costs in their value equation, and may seek to provide comprehensive family and fertility benefits, for example,” says Willis’s McMurray.
Large manufacturing companies have the ability to offer strong health benefits, according to Winston Benefits. For example, an orthopedic medical device company covers 100% of its employees’ medical and dental premiums, and 50% of premiums for dependents. They’re also known for flexible work schedules and other family-friendly benefits, Winston points out.
1) Willis Towers Watson 2) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 3) USI Insurance Services 4) EPIC 5) Aon
There are more than 188,000 people working in this field, excluding oil and gas, according to the BLS. Their average salary is $26.31 an hour. U.S. labor income associated with U.S. mining exceeds $100 billion, including salaries and employee benefits, according to the National Mining Association.
The sectors covered here include hospitals, nursing homes, social services and medical labs. Employers looking to recruit top talent in these professions are known to cover the majority of employee deductibles and a significant portion of family deductibles, as well as offer generous 401(k) matches, according to Fortune’s ranking of top companies in this field.
Industry: Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
1) Aon 2) Mercer 3) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 4) Lockton 5) Willis Towers Watson
According to the North American Industry Classification System, employers in this sector specialize in performing professional, scientific and technical activities for others. NAICS notes they require a high degree of expertise and training. “Activities performed include: legal advice and representation; accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll services; architectural, engineering, and specialized design services; computer services; consulting services; research services; advertising services; photographic services; translation and interpretation services; veterinary services; and other professional, scientific, and technical services,” according to the NAICS.
Industry: Real Estate and Rental and Leasing
1) USI Insurance Services 2) Lockton 3) Willis Towers Watson 4) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. 5) Mercer
There are more than 2.4 million people working in this sector, according to BLS. Unemployment is low (1.8%), with full-time workers earning an average of $839 a week. In the last year, wages and salaries have risen 3.3%. Many real estate agents are independent contractors responsible for their own benefits, but larger firms do offer benefits, especially in competitive marketplaces, according to agents on Glassdoor.
Industry: Retail Trade
1) Aon 2) Willis Towers Watson 3) Mercer 4) Brown & Brown 5) USI Insurance Services
The retail industry has some of the lowest rated benefits, according to Glassdoor, with an average of 3.11 out of five stars. Although this field is less likely to offer benefits in the first place, those that do receive benefits in retail still view them as lower quality than other industries, Glassdoor says.
Industry: Transportation and Warehousing
1) Willis Towers Watson 2) Aon 3) Lockton 4) Mercer 5) Brown & Brown
With a higher-than-average rate of injuries and illnesses on the job, employees in the transportation field are more likely to look for generous health and wellness benefits, according to Winston Benefits.
Acknowledging Willis’s top place in this category, McMurray says, “This recognition further highlights Willis Towers Watson’s ability to provide holistic insights that produce industry and company specific solutions that drive value through benefits programs.”
1) Willis Towers Watson 2) Mercer 3) Brown & Brown 4) Marsh & McLennan Agency 5) Havens & Company
The majority of utility companies, more than 60%, employ disease management, pharmacy benefit management and utilization reviews to contain costs, according to Electric Light & Power.
“How companies are defining the value of benefits within their respective industries is rapidly evolving,” says Willis’s McMurray. “For instance, utility providers continue to incorporate comprehensive retirement plans for their long-tenured employees yet are also looking for ways to modernize their benefits portfolios to attract a new, different workforce, such as creating an increasingly merit-based rewards model.”
Industry: Wholesale Trade
1) Aon 2) Mercer 3) USI Insurance Services 4) Willis Towers Watson 5) Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
There are nearly 6 million people working in the wholesale trade sector in the U.S., according to the BLS. Average hourly earnings for all employees is $30.43, with total compensation rising 2.5% in the last 12 months. Benefits vary widely depending on firm size, according to CollegeGrad. As might be expected, larger companies are more likely to offer health and life insurance, while senior management may earn additional perks.
Bosses should do more to make the work-from-home experiment palatable and safe for all involved by subsidizing utility bills and workspace equipment, and changing managerial habits, with more trust given to employees.