The boundary between voluntary and employer-paid benefit sales is disappearing in an increasingly competitive climate where more brokers are abandoning territorial patterns, suggests new research from Eastbridge Consulting Group.

The firm’s 2010 Evolution of the Worksite Broker Spotlight Report found that more than 90% of traditional employee benefit brokers sell voluntary plans, while 68% of classic worksite brokers sell employer-paid products, and that there’s now a significant overlap between the two groups.

Other findings show there’s no longer a difference between brokers based on products sold and the difference in agency size has narrowed. Moreover, there’s now a group of brokers who do not fall into either category based on their sources of revenue by product.

Eastbridge VP Bonnie Brazzell, noting that the entire benefits business is moving toward voluntary plans regardless of how such coverage is being sold, describes the research as the first quantitative study with evidence to support Eastbridge’s prediction dating as far back as 2002 that these sales channels would blend.

“Benefits brokers had to start offering voluntary in order to satisfy the needs of their clients,” she explains.” As almost all benefit brokers started offering voluntary, worksite brokers started offering traditional employer-funded benefits – especially those plans that are ones where both the employer and employee pay a share of the premium.”

Worksite brokers were motivated to help employers with their benefit packages “but also saw the benefits brokers competing for the voluntary products,” Brazzell says. “So they decided to offer employer-funded to be more of a one-stop solution for their voluntary clients.”

She believes this sales trend will continue and that at some point down the line “there won’t be worksite brokers and traditional benefit brokers. They will all be benefit brokers, period – serving multiple solutions to their clients.”

Benefit brokers now account for 52% of all voluntary sales, according to the 2009 version of Eastbridge’s annual U.S. Worksite Sales Report, though classic worksite brokers and worksite specialists are quickly gaining ground.

In related news, Eastbridge has teamed up with the Enroller Resource Center for what it describes as a landmark new study that concluded most employee benefit enrollers would like to work more often and are chagrined about not receiving any type of bonus from the carrier or enrollment company.

With more than 430 enrollers responding to an online survey (30 of whom agreeing to in-depth interviews), other feedback showed that they would like to be recognized for a job well done and welcome more communications from carriers.

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