Posted tagged ‘health and welfare’

What do Benefits Administration Clients Want from HRO?

August 8, 2012

Linda Merritt, HRO Research Analyst, NelsonHall

What HRO clients want falls into several buyer profiles based on familiarity with outsourcing and organization maturity. The NelsonHall Targeting Benefits Administration (BA) market analysis was published earlier this summer by Amy Gurchensky, and I noticed Amy included differences in client decision drivers by whether they were new to outsourcing or were already experienced in outsourcing. The concept crosses all types of HRO services and matches my running conversations with service providers. Let’s take a look at the following three buyer profiles through the lens of BA:

  • Standard buyers
  • Experienced buyers
  • Progressive buyers.

Standard buyers: otherwise known as first time outsourcers are looking for reduced operating costs, better compliance with regulations, a way to transfer or minimize risk, updated technology and best practices, and improved participant communications channels. Employee and manager self-service and reducing HR administrative burdens are also popular drivers in the initial decision to outsource.

Experienced buyers: otherwise known as second generation outsourcers already have the basics in place and may be ready to broaden the scope of services, obtain more flexible technology, or increase participation in process streamlining to enhance efficiency and improve participant engagement. Changes may include adding new BA services or even consolidating vendors, but it can also include the decision to change to another vendor completely. Cost is still the number one concern, so contract renewals will not be a slam dunk. Providers who are on the ball with changing client needs and increased sophistication should be ready for thorough discussions on price, service, and value.

Progressive buyers: or sophisticated buyers may be ready to use the firm foundation they have built with their outsourcer to create the greatest possible business impact. In BA, this may include total benefits outsourcing where either pensions or retirement plan services are combined with health and welfare services under one vendor to:

  • Lower total costs
  • Simplify vendor management
  • Integrate technologies across the services
  • Improve the participant experience.

This is the time to bring out the most sophisticated offerings and analytics and focus on business value; leverage the value of benefits in employee attraction and retention; and optimize total program cost. Once again, existing BA vendors will be vulnerable to pricing concerns and client perceptions about the provider’s top-end capabilities and client retention will remain at risk.

As HRO matures and more clients gain experience in managing outsourced services, expect to see client needs change over time. Service providers can and do quickly tell which HRO profile a new prospect falls into by the language used, initial discussions on services, and outsourcing objectives, etc. It can be a bit harder to see when an existing client, even one satisfied with day-to-day services, is moving from one buyer profile to another. For clients new to BA, if you intend or even just hope to move up to the sophisticated buyer level, consider if the vendor who meets your initial needs will also meet your needs as your organization matures.

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M&A Activity in Benefits Administration: Round 2

March 12, 2012

Following the benefits administration merger and acquisition (M&A) frenzy of 2010 that resulted in some major consolidations including Aon Hewitt, Towers Watson, Xerox/ACS and ExcellerateHRO, to name a few, are we poised to see round 2?

The second wave actually began in early 2011 and tends to consist of the more established providers, in their own right, acquiring Tier 2 health and welfare (H&W) administration companies in the U.S.  Examples include:

  • Towers Watson acquiring Aliquant in January 2011
  • Sedgwick, a leader in the leave of absence administration market with ~20% market share, acquiring the productivity solutions unit of Nationwide Better Health in May 2011
  • Morneau Shepell, the leading total benefits outsourcing (TBO) provider in Canada, acquiring SBC Systems Company in January 2012.

As of last week, we can now add ADP to this list since it signed a definitive agreement to acquire SHPS Human Resource Solutions—a subsidiary of SHPS, Inc. ADP has actually been making key acquisitions to strengthen components within its benefits administration offering for the last 18 months. It started with Workscape, which added compensation management services, and was followed by Asparity Decision Solutions for decision support tools and analytic capabilities.

Now, the SHPS acquisition strengthens ADP’s leave administration and reimbursement account administration offerings. The HSA and HRA components will be especially important considering the rising cost of health-care and the transition toward high-deductible health plans paired with these health savings accounts.

The H&W acquisition trend is also expanding beyond the U.S. It started in September 2010, when Capita – a U.K.-based HRO vendor providing total retirement outsourcing (TRO) exclusively in the U.K. – acquired FirstAssist Services Holdings for £12.5m. Then it continued when Mercer acquired REPCA – a brokering and advising firm for health and benefits (H&B) plans – to strengthen its H&B administration offering and advisory services in France.

The remaining question on my mind is whether U.S.-based TRO providers such as ING, Great-West, T. Rowe Price, etc. plan to jump on the H&W acquisition bandwagon to provide a one-stop shop for benefits administration like Fidelity Investments.

I’m eager to see who will make the next M&A move in benefits administration.  In the meantime, it’s always fun to hear about cross-selling opportunities that resulted in contract scope expansions.  Stay tuned.

Amy L. Gurchensky, Research Analyst, HRO, NelsonHall

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The Evolution of TBO Deals: Part II

March 8, 2012

In my blog earlier this week, I outlined four approaches that have led to the creation of TBO deals. Let’s take a look at some examples for each approach. As you read through, note the aspects that apply to the evolution of any HRO deal and client relationship.

The traditional big bang approach: Approximately 15 years ago, Aon Hewitt was awarded a TBO contract by 3M that includes defined benefit (DB), defined contribution (DC), and retiree health and welfare (H&W) administration services. Recently, the TBO contract was expanded to include H&W administration for active employees and its retiree healthcare exchange services. In total, Aon Hewitt serves 80,000 active employees (30,000 in the U.S. and 50,000 internationally) and >25,000 retirees.

The big bang approach version 2.0: An example of this approach is Mercer’s TBO contract with an unnamed automobile manufacturer. Mercer had a long-term relationship with this client for retirement, health and benefits (H&B), and communication consulting services. This client has five locations in the U.S. that have separate benefit systems for its ~25,000 employees. The majority of its pension and H&B plans were administered in-house, while some were outsourced. Mercer was subsequently awarded the TBO contract to streamline operations and provide a consistent employee experience throughout the company.

The mass consolidation approach: Until November 2010, Office Depot relied on three different service providers: Vanguard for 401(k) and deferred compensation plans; NorthgateArinso — as a result of the Convergys acquisition — for H&W administration; and Morgan Stanley for stock-plan administration. Fidelity was consequently awarded this TBO contract and is serving 17,000 participants for retirement savings plans and 20,000 participants for H&W services.

The step-up approach: A recent example of this type is Towers Watson’s contract with The Dow Chemical Company. Towers Watson began administering Dow’s DB plan ten years ago. In 2009, after Dow acquired ROHM and Haas, it began to administer H&W services for ROHM and Haas’ ~12,000 employees and retirees. As of February 2012, Towers Watson will be administering H&W services including annual enrollment for 66,000 participants at Dow.

The demand for TBO services will continue and will likely take the shape of the latter two approaches discussed above. The overarching lesson is that HRO service providers can end up with a TBO or MPHRO deal with long-term growth from multiple starting points.

Amy L. Gurchensky, Research Analyst, HRO, NelsonHall

Interested in reading the latest HRO news from NelsonHall? Subscribe to our newsletter by emailing amy.gurchensky@nelson-hall.com with “HRO Insight” as the subject.

 

The Changing Shape of DB and DC Administration

February 3, 2012

Practically all large market organizations have already outsourced defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) administration. Therefore, DB and DC administration contract activity is more about competitive wins.  When reading these contract award announcements, the first question I ask myself is, why did the client change service providers?

Some clients have a preference in the type of vendor used due to the large-scale financial worth of these portfolios. Some client executives prefer the independence of a non-financial administrator like Aon Hewitt, ACS/Xerox, or Mercer, while others prefer the industry closeness of a financial-type provider like Fidelity, T. Rowe Price, or Vanguard.

Other reasons for changing vendors include client dissatisfaction with the existing service or wanting to obtain a lower price or perhaps both.  Another cause revolves around vendor consolidation for both total retirement outsourcing (TRO) and total benefits outsourcing (TBO), which also includes health and welfare (H&W) administration. Consolidation is driven by a desire to reduce the number of vendors to a select few. Mergers and acquisitions also add to consolidation as integration occurs.

Last year produced a string of TRO and TBO contract awards due to consolidation, including the following:

  • HP in North America: Fidelity became the exclusive TRO provider for HP, which had ~162,000 participants from EDS being served by other providers
  • Office Depot: Fidelity was awarded this new TBO contract from three different providers that had administered the 401(k), H&W, and stock plans.

With an estimated $11bn market at stake, both financial and non-financial administrators need to remain competitive in the TRO and even TBO space. As a result, benefits administrators are offering additional service features such as automatic enrollment and automatic contribution escalation for client-employers, and resources to educate participants so that they become more accountable for their retirement savings.

This strategy is reinforced by Aon Hewitt’s recent survey of 500 large market U.S. employers representing more than 12m employees. The survey found that just 4% of employers are very confident that their employees will retire with enough savings, down from 30% last year. Examples of services and solutions recently launched to create a competitive edge include:

  • Aon Hewitt’s DC advisory offering: providing online personalized advice and professional management with Financial Engines serving as a sub-advisor
  • ADP’s strategic advisory services group: helping clients maximize the value of in-depth benefits data and analysis
  • Mercer’s RetireTALK: an interactive website with hypothetical scenarios, designed to motivate and educate users on retirement planning
  • Fidelity’s myPlan tool: offering online retirement advice based on answers to a few questions.

The Aon Hewitt survey also found that only 10% of employers are very confident that their employees are taking accountability for their own retirement success.  The remaining issue then is how to encourage employees to utilize these services and solutions that are already available to them and which service provider will best help both the employer and employees achieve their goals.

Amy L. Gurchensky, Research Analyst, HRO, NelsonHall

 Interested in reading the latest HRO news from NelsonHall? Subscribe to our newsletter by emailing amy.gurchensky@nelson-hall.com with “HRO Insight” as the subject.

HRO – A Healthy Option for Health and Welfare Administration

January 26, 2012

Health and welfare (H&W) benefits administration is a well-accepted foundation partner of the HRO services family. It is also the fastest growing part of benefits administration according to the last NelsonHall Targeting Benefits Administration market analysis. Amy Gurchensky, my NelsonHall HRO colleague, is underway with her research for the benefits 2012 report. (H&W HRO service providers, if you are not yet scheduled for your interview, please contact Amy. See contact information below.)

In the meantime, there are elements of H&W that we can explore now. Carol Harnett, HR Executive Online, has written several columns recently on H&W with the linking theme of flexibility and lifestyle. Her first article asks, “Should we give employees what they want?” In that piece, Harnett says that many employees are interested in a wider range of lifestyle benefits. Pet insurance, child care or elderly care subsidies, commuter benefits, and even onsite massages have value to one or another employee group. Access to products and services with special discounted pricing is valuable, if relevant and better than what is commonly available. There is even a new company, BetterWorks, which will help you find what they call “hyper-local” discounts for your employees.

From the employer perspective, consider the nature of the business as relevance will vary with the characteristics of the work and workforce. Occupational health and safety is a big H&W issue for manufacturing. Employees with long tenures will have a wider range of stage of life needs compared to a retail workforce that is largely young, part time with high turnover.

Many H&W programs can meet the needs of both parties, if packaged, serviced, and communicated well. I see a new level of packaging benefit programs together in the area of EAP and wellness, which together will help employees and employers manage productivity and healthcare costs. Ceridian recently launched its redesigned LifeWorks.com portal that combines EAP, work-life, and wellness.

HRO H&W service providers can be advisors to clients reassessing and revamping H&W offerings. In addition to strategic consulting services, vendors can also offer practical operational advice. Buyers, ask your providers what they see new and different. Ask what else they offer and if they have experience with new point solution vendors, or have preferred suppliers that may be helpful in your decisions making. Run new options by them to evaluate operational costs and issues and assess total cost. For example, consider when to provide payroll deduction services or stored value cards to access benefits compared to letting employees pay directly from both a tactical and operational cost perspective.

Every so often we need to reassess the point and purpose of employer benefits. Beyond any regulatory mandated benefits, organizations need to find a dynamic balance between what employees and their families want and what employers need to support retention, productivity, and manageable cost. In H&W, one size may not fit all, and yesterday’s programs may not meet today’s needs.

Linda Merritt, Research Analyst, HRO, NelsonHall

Interested in reading the latest HRO news from NelsonHall? Subscribe to our newsletter by emailing amy.gurchensky@nelson-hall.com with “HRO Insight” as the subject.

HRO and the Total Cost of Ownership

June 22, 2011

A top question for buyers new to outsourcing is how much will we save?  A legitimate question and one that can be hard to answer. Many studies have been done over the years tracking the subject, often asking respondents to estimate the percent of savings. In other words, asking for their opinion. Not exactly what senior business leaders are looking for!

ADP sponsors PwC’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Study and the 2011 results are in. The research covers the costs of payroll, workforce administration (HRIS), time and attendance, and health and welfare services and compares the cost of in-house managed services to clients that outsource to ADP. The 279 participants compiled a more complete picture of the following costs: systems (e.g., install, upgrade, and maintenance), direct and indirect labor, and direct non-labor (e.g., vendor fees, facilities, and other overheads), the cost of outsourcing was included for those using ADP.   

TCO for organizations managing the four services in-house, with no outsourcing, were $1,403 for larger employers (1k+ employees) and $1,953 for those with 100 to 1,000 employees.

Guess what? Outsourcing saves money. Average savings of outsourcing over in-house is 18%. Employers with more than 1,000 employees save more due to good old-fashioned economies of scale, up to 27%.

Outsourcing clients sometimes feel they do not reduce costs as much as pitched by the vendor or planned in the business case. The ADP-sponsored study also identifies success factors that help maximize TCO savings.

The findings put real data behind what we intuitively know:

  • Adding self-service is basic to reducing cost for HR and time for employee users.
  • Comprehensive process transformation is needed to realize full savings. It takes more than new technology; process redesign, governance, and standardization are also needed.

Another finding confirms what I have long suspected: using one vendor and one service platform (outsourced or even in-house) saves more than using multiple vendors and platforms. There is added cost to using multiple, even “best-of-breed” point solutions for payroll, workforce administration, and time and attendance.

  • Average cost of outsourcing the three services to one vendor on a common platform was $910 per employee per year, compared to $1,020 (+18%) for managing in-house on a common platform and $1,202 (+32%) for managing in-house using multiple vendors and platforms.

To understand total costs look at the “seams,” places where interdependent processes and systems must be integrated, interfaced, up-dated, and even manually coordinated when using multiple platforms and vendors. The cost can be as high as $200 per employee per year.

HRO works and significantly reduces TCO, but it takes time and effort of both the vendor and the client to achieve maximum benefits. I’ll cover more on that topic next time.

Also, I have some good NelsonHall news. The 2011 Targeting MPHRO study has just been released by our HRO colleague Amy Gurchensky, see more information at www.nelson-hall.com.

Linda Merritt, Research Analyst, HRO, NelsonHall

Healthcare on the Global Stage – What is HRO’s Role?

May 26, 2011

Health and welfare have been linked not just to healthcare and productivity costs, but to global economic development. In the HRO community, we tend to think of healthcare in terms of the impact on employer costs. Current U.S. healthcare reform reminds us it is an issue of national importance. We need to think even bigger.

According to a joint collaboration that began in 2009 by the World Heart Foundation, World Health Organization, and the World Economic Forum, employers are the best placed to encourage the healthy lifestyles that can positively impact chronic diseases, which are viewed as a global threat to human lives and continued economic growth and development.

Wellness is more than a “nice to do” program; it is an economic imperative, a competitive advantage, or a liability for employees, employers, and countries.

Whether the majority of healthcare expenses are borne by employers or the government, it is part of the total cost of doing business. In a study reported by HR Magazine, illnesses impacted by lifestyle cost the U.K. £17.7bn annually and could escalate to £33bn by 2025. And that is just the costs of three problems: obesity, alcohol abuse, and smoking!

Leading multinational companies are addressing health and welfare benefits from several perspectives: value-based care about employees, healthcare and benefits costs, productivity and the cost of absence, and talent attraction and retention.  Many aspects of benefit plans will continue to be shaped by local influences, but with an eye to overall equity across a global workforce.

The long view is sometimes needed to show wellness ROI. Lifestyle behaviors are not easy for many of us to change. For example, in the U.S. it has taken many years but there has been a significant reduction in smoking and smoking-related deaths.

Determining the optimum balance of centralization and decentralization and establishing a corresponding governance system is equally important as selecting the right delivery systems. HRO providers tracking client outcomes are in a great position to help build business cases for wellness and share best practices on what works and how to determine results. Clients, look for HRO vendors with a broad range of experience in change management that can help your organization move forward.

As a linchpin in the healthcare value chain, top tier benefits service providers can bring a powerful cross section of approaches including: research, consulting and design, investment financial advice and services, benefits administration, employee communications and decision support tools, emerging total absence management and employee advocacy services, third party vendor management, and analytics. HRO benefits leaders can also become influential advocates on the national and international stage impacting policy and regulations for millions.

Are you and your benefits vendor partner ready for the global healthcare stage?

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall