Posted tagged ‘Vendor Consolidation’

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.

Interested in reading the latest HRO news from NelsonHall? Subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here

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.