"Technology will continue to play an important role in the benefits space," says independent agent Tim Wells. "More and more employers are relying on new technologies to provide their staff with real-time access and increased transparency tools to become better insureds."
Executive Vice President
How did you get started at your agency?
The Crane Agency was founded in St. Louis in 1885, making it one of the oldest independent agencies in the U.S. I have known about Crane since childhood because my grandfather worked here while four uncles and several cousins carry on the tradition. I started in the insurance industry after I graduated from college as an employee benefits carrier rep for six years and went on to work with a large national brokerage firm for a couple of years.
My understanding of Crane was that they only handled property-casualty insurance, so I never thought about working with the agency. In 2009, I was approached with the opportunity to work at Crane and told I could forge my own path when it comes to benefits. I was intrigued but not convinced. I eventually took a leap of faith, left my book of business behind and moved to St. Louis.
Challenges in the benefits insurance market?
Our industry requires each and every member of our team to stay up to date on evolving changes coming out of Washington, D.C., as well as on the heightened needs of our customers. Challenges include the perceived discrepancy between price and value, complexities with product portfolios, shifting legislative requirements tied to the management of a benefits program and the need for constant communication to keep all parties up to date.
The open enrollment process has evolved from paper forms to automated HR and payroll systems. Technology will continue to play an important role in the benefits space. More and more employers are relying on new technologies to provide their staff with real-time access and increased transparency tools to become better insureds.
Employees will continue to demand more from their insurance carriers, which is justified. Pricing transparency must increase and all sides are working toward this change. Artificial intelligence will also play more of a role in how we access care.
Advice for a fellow agent in the benefits insurance market?
Our industry is the true definition of “work hard, play hard." You must be up for the challenge of staying ahead of the curve but also willing to go with the flow. Do not hesitate to ask questions and find a mentor that you can not only learn from but grow with. Our industry is in dire need of successors. If you can find a good fit with an independent agent, there is a real opportunity for long-term growth.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.