One of the greatest threats to any brand or category is the loss of relevance. Any number of forces can impede future growth, but it’s possible to clear these hurdles. The one strategy guaranteed to fail? A silent retreat into irrelevance. That is the driving force behind PIMA’s latest research, “Affinity 2030: Exploring Our Blind Spots for a Brighter Future.”
Companies have long used the affinity insurance model to drive steady growth. For the model to evolve, however, we must be vigilant in looking at our own relevance. To provide more insight into the affinity insurance market, we reached out to one of the “Affinity 2030” contributors: Amanda Lannert, CEO at Jellyvision.
PIMA: How did Jellyvision come to be involved in the sponsored benefits marketplace?
Amanda Lannert: We got famous creating virtual game shows in the B2C gaming space, but this company was formed to create virtual advisors in a B2B enterprise space. We always knew we wanted to productize and scale what we do, and ALEX was the first time it worked.
We’ve always gone to where there are furrowed brows, where people are trying to do something complicated and boring — but important — online. That certainly describes benefits to a T: complicated, boring, but important. We want to talk people through that. It was just the perfect alignment for what we wanted to do: The problems to solve were big, the pain was great, the confusion was rampant, and huge amounts of money were at stake for employees and employers.
PIMA: What do you see as the greatest challenge in the sponsored benefits market?
Lannert: The greatest challenge is that these are complicated and regulated financially underwritten products. And there’s been a lot of effort to try to describe them because they’re horribly named. The reality is, the market will take off when you stop trying to describe the products and the features but instead explain what they do for users — and put them in the context of user lives and user values in simple, transparent, and humanistic terms.
The goal is to help people understand why they should care, which is hard because these are financial products and risk products through an employer channel. There are a lot of complexities involved, but we’ll be much more successful when we stop explaining products and start explaining the value to users in their day-to-day lives.
PIMA: What should be driving innovation in the sponsored benefits market?
Lannert: There are two macro trends that have to be pursued thoughtfully. One is that the cost of healthcare is on an unsustainable trajectory for employers and employees alike. We all must work on finding ways to help people take care of their health in a more affordable manner. It’s 18% of the GDP — the problem is massive.
But when we talk about health, we also need to talk about wealth. While high-deductible plans are becoming the norm, the reality is that 60% of Americans don’t have $600 in savings. Managing cash flow is something that employers need to help employees navigate because it contributes to absenteeism and stress, which can contribute to chronic conditions.
It’s no longer enough just to give someone a steady paycheck. We need to get into steady cash flow management to help people who are grappling with healthcare bills or life bills. And that’s just a trend that we can’t ignore: The lack of financial health for most Americans is something that’s going to land on employers, so they might as well start being part of the solution.
PIMA: Where should sponsored benefits carriers look for inspiration in product development and distribution?
Lannert: I would have them take the phones of Millennials and look at their apps on page one. The apps that people are using on page one gives you a sense of what has priority, what’s saving time, what’s creating value, where people are spending their time, and how technology is improving their lives.
PIMA: How have Uber and Venmo informed younger generations of potential sponsored benefits consumers?
Lannert: I think Uber and Venmo have taught us that Millennials are more generous with their data if you provide material convenience. There are high expectations of convenience and high expectations of technology working and constantly innovating. It’s sort of an immediate economy, immediate money, immediate convenience, immediate transportation. We’re in an increasingly impatient society, where everything is on demand. If you’re willing to part with a little bit of personal data — and a little bit of money — you expect technology to be convenient, instant, and simply to work. There’s just a total impatience with the pace of life that isn’t informed by technology.
When you’re anchored on those consumer experiences, having to wait for your EOB feels utterly backward. You should leave the doctor’s office with a receipt. It’s so stupid that we have to wait for an EOB that we’re not even sure whether it’s a bill. It’s ridiculous how far behind the times healthcare is. Not only is nothing priced in advance, but you also don’t even find out until like two to three months in arrears. You have to file a claim for some of these voluntary benefits, which is absolutely bananas. Claims should be automated, but they don’t do it because they’re not transparent — they’re not aligned incentives.
PIMA: How does Jellyvision think about the intersection of health and wealth?
Lannert: We don’t necessarily think about health or wealth; we think about employees, their lives, and how we can solve their problems. But oddly enough, stress about health and wealth are incredibly aligned.
Consumerism is just a movement that says, “Hey employees, you have to pay for more.” It’s cost-shifting. With the rise of cost-shifting, with employees increasingly responsible for more and more and more, the ever-increasing cost of healthcare has become a line item similar to rent — it’s number two or three for some American families. Unexpected healthcare expenses are the top cause of bankruptcy, so it’s impossible not to think of them as being intertwined.
PIMA: There are multiple opportunities to innovate in the sponsored benefits space. Where would you start?
Lannert: I have two pet peeves. One is with product naming. We name products based on their most terrifying or confusing lens, and then we bring in the market; we have to stop letting underwriters name products. The second thing I would work on is just transparency and billing. EOBs should be extinct, and it should be as easy as possible to purchase the things that benefits provide. Those are the two areas where I would start.
PIMA® (Professional Insurance Marketing Association®) is a member-driven trade association focused exclusively on the group-sponsored benefits market.
The research from “Affinity 2030: Exploring Our Blind Spots for a Brighter Future” is available for no cost to PIMA members. For more information on becoming a member, click here.