Employer Benefits Planning Blog
• By Elizabeth Galentine
For his first decade or so in the benefits business, Tony Roumell would naturally account for the workforce demographics of his San Diego-area clientele, as he shaped benefit plans for each company. It wasn’t until 2010, though, when his firm formalized this into a benefits strategy. The change was subtle, but by being deliberate about it, Employer Benefits Planning is winning over employers who are eager to develop a benefits program tailored to their individual employees’ needs as well as those of key management and owners.
Formally known as Demographics Based Planning, the process involves sitting down with clients to examine the most telling characteristics of their employee population—such as age ranges, education levels and socioeconomic status—and then designing a benefits plan centered around the unique needs of their workforce, the special needs of owners and strategies for retaining key employees.
“I've always hated it when a broker would put together a plan that looks nothing like the group,” Roumell states emphatically. “The result is poor utilization of benefits that don’t meet the employees’ needs and which inflate the employer costs.”
The demographic approach has worked extremely well in the private sector, from which Roumell draws the majority of his clients. They soon realized that Employer Benefits Planning was doing something they hadn’t come across in working with other brokerages.
“We knew that we were onto something, once we started speaking more openly about our strategy,” says Roumell.
Employer Benefits Planning formalized its strategy around the time many of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations were going into effect, and it provided a way for the firm to standout in a field that found itself on uncertain footing. “For us to survive, we had to make sure that we were doing things that were adding value—not only for the employees, but for the employer,” explains Roumell, the firm’s founder and CEO.
By emphasizing benefits that their workforce strongly cares about—financial planning and debt mitigation for instance— Roumell says his clients are signaling their employees that they’re aware of their concerns and care about their welfare. And programs that target those concerns, such as smoking cessation and mental health assistance, have increased their employee retention.
They have also helped Employer Benefits Planning grow its voluntary business. “It allows us to be more methodical about planning,” Roumell says, “so it increases participation, because now you're speaking to a group at open enrollment about what they're really concerned about. Solutions, not products.”
Helping employers develop a “big picture perspective” that allows them to tie health benefits to life, disability and other voluntary offerings is the forte of Employer Benefits Planning.
“We don’t talk about product as much as we talk about solutions,” Roumell says. “We want to make sure that the client is getting what they need, that the products are necessary for the client.”
That seems to work for Joey McKelvey, general manager at private transportation company First Transit. He has worked with Employer Benefits Planning for more than five years and appreciates the frequent big picture discussions he has with Roumell about his 250 employees’ diverse needs.
“He’s definitely got a wealth of knowledge and experience and he’s willing to share it,” says McKelvey. “Every year, he’s delivered services that our employees want, and it leads to a more loyal workforce and less-stressed work environment.”
In addition to a traditional set of employee benefits, Employer Benefits Planning offers First Transit’s employee’s services like financial planning, debt management, and help with tax issues. Roumell “is doing much more” than a typical broker, notes McKelvey.