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Why the Great Resignation Could Drive a Renaissance in Workplace Benefits

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Bob Meier, EIS Product Solutions Manager, Benefits and Healthcare

 

While slowing considerably, the pandemic has spurred a boom in self-employment and career hopping, as people shift employers in search of greater opportunity and work/life balance. But, in taking these bold steps, employees typically give up their health, dental, life, disability and other employer-led insurance benefits, many of which are expensive and difficult, if not impossible, to replace outside of traditional employee benefits programs.

Whether they are changing jobs or leaving the workforce due to layoffs or retirement, most people would welcome the option to take their employer-provided insurance with them. For them, benefits insurance portability could significantly reduce their insurance costs and increase their sense of security. But, more importantly, they would benefit from not having to shop and qualify again for equivalent benefits, fear premium increases or being denied because of their lapsed coverage, age, or health status.

Should insurers be concerned? Well, it depends.

Bob Meier

Chinese philosopher, general, and strategist Sun-Tzu wrote, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity,” which is why shifting employment trends could threaten some employers and insurers.

But, benefits insurance portability offers a big opportunity for those ambitious insurers and employers willing to grapple with the challenge, ensuring a competitive edge for years to come.

 

Why benefits insurance portability is a winner for carriers and employers that respond

From the employer’s perspective, benefits insurance portability increases the value of the total compensation plan they can offer and could give employers a competitive advantage in tightening job markets.

For insurers, portability increases their attractiveness to their employer clients by helping them attract and retain talent. In addition, the insurer retains the customer, who could continue to purchase from them as they buy homes, and cars, marry, save for college, and plan for their economic future.

Benefits insurance portability also allows insurers to satisfy those evolving customer demands in new ways, through cross- and up-selling opportunities and by helping close the growing gap in insurance ownership.

Basically, benefits insurance portability is a win-win-win and will be a huge part of the future of insurance and how individuals purchase and shop for insurance. But only if insurers are equipped to take advantage of this shift.

 

Why many insurers will struggle with benefits insurance portability

For insurers, the question is how to maintain a relationship with an individual who once was part of an employer group.

This is not merely a hypothetical as it immediately reveals the inherent limitations of legacy and even “modern-legacy” policy administration, billing and claims systems, which almost invariably are built around policy records and not customer records.

Unfortunately, this is where many benefits insurance technology platforms will fall short. The most-contemporary insurance core systems, aka coretech, avoid such limitations via customer-centric data structures.

Another approach would be to create new group policies for “solo-preneurs” in the same way as they do for large employers. However, this also would reveal limitations with most legacy systems, which lack the low/no-code tools that enable business users to configure and iterate insurance products rapidly. Instead, many insurers still rely on developers to code and refine insurance products, which can take many months or even a year to develop.

Finally, insurers will also need a platform that can scale to house both group and individual benefits products and synchronize the inherently different data that accompanies these different types of insurance products. Adding to the challenge is that legacy and modern legacy systems simply may not be capable of managing multiple insurance segments – or even lines of business – on a single platform.

To handle a hypothetical 300,000-employee case, convert it from group to individual, and port that data over, carriers need a burly – and scalable – rules engine and configurable workflows to change the billing structure and automatically generate new policies. Otherwise, the additional work could be staggering from the carrier’s perspective.

But benefits insurance portability doesn’t need to be cumbersome or costly. As today’s employees embrace more flexible work options, employers and carriers need to be equipped for it. To provide excellent customer and employer experiences for those new products, benefits insurers also will need cloud-native insurance platforms with open APIs.

 

What’s to come: Partnerships to create personalized bundles of products and services

Data portability – the ability to move data to, through, and from systems, apps, partners, and data providers at scale – is an integral part of insurance portability.

Data portability is critical because it ensures you can interact with insureds as individuals rather than as a cluster around a specific product. It’s also vitally important that insurers are able to consolidate and order data around those individuals, which only be done with the free flow of data between systems and departments.

Again, this will prove challenging for insurers saddled with legacy systems and those structured around insurance products.

Those insurers that are able to break free of the constraints of legacy systems and their archaic product-centric data structures, however, will find themselves liberated to completely reimagine the enrollment and other customer experiences enabled by data portability, which provides the foundation for new methods of distribution and sales, like embedded insurance and ecosystems.

Consider the simple and unified presentation of embedded insurance and its impact on the customer experience. Embedded insurance positions insurance products as an add-on purchase at the point of sale and in a context where the protection makes sense. The $40 extended warranty Amazon offered with your student’s new laptop? With your payment details at the ready, it’s a no-brainer for most of us. Or $5 trip protection as you’re booking your flight, room, and rental car after two years of Covid confinement? Done.

Just as insurers and their partners are personalizing, suggesting, and bundling products and services in the above scenarios, ambitious insurers are looking to improve the enrollment experience with data-driven, personalized, and bundled insurance products.

Paper-based brochures, checklists, redundant and nonsensical application forms and underwriting questions are soon to be the kiss of death for insurers. The reason? Employers and employees increasingly expect the same elegant customer experiences they have with banks and retailers from all of the companies they do business with.

Insurers already are partnering and swapping data, sometimes referred to as “The Great Crossover.” Such an arrangement already exists between John Hancock’s Vitality Plus wellness-incentive program and Allstate’s Drivewise telematics program.

Essentially, data gathered through fitness watches, bio-monitoring bands, and a meditation app can make Vitality participants eligible for lower premiums. Since the partnership between John Hancock and Allstate, Vitality participants also may now qualify for further discounts based on safe-driving data gathered and shared by the Drivewise program.

Partnerships between insurers to offer a more complete portfolio of coverages make a great deal of sense considering how difficult and time consuming it has been for insurers to launch new products.

According to McKinsey & Co.’s “Ecosystem 2.0: Climbing to the next level,” insurers are eagerly pursuing partnerships and ecosystems to expand their product portfolios, make their products more attractive to people, and offer customer experiences that simplify buyer journeys, increase retention, and create product and service bundles that are data-driven, attractive, and drive revenue growth and customer loyalty.

The sticking point for many insurers, though, are legacy systems, with their hard-coded limitations and lack of openness. Ambitious insurers, however, are freeing themselves from these antiquated technologies through either greenfield innovation or digital transformation on API-rich, cloud-native policy administration and insurance core systems.

Employers, insurers and insureds all want the same things: simplified customer experiences, data-driven personalized options, and the security of stable coverage, pricing, providers, and market share.

For ambitious insurers, the great resignation could be the catalyst to fill the gaps between products and needs. For them, benefits insurance portability just makes sense and very well could spur a renaissance in workplace benefits.

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How can businesses boost employee experience for finance professionals?

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By Martin Schirmer, President, Enterprise Service Management, IFS

Over the course of the last year, The Great Resignation has seriously impacted organisations across the globe. Staff are quitting in huge numbers, leaving companies unprepared and struggling to fulfil their workloads. In fact, mass departures are happening at all levels of the labour market, as employees attempt to adapt to the hybrid working model and growing socio-economic uncertainty.

In light of this, optimising the employee experience (EX) to attract and retain talent has become a top priority for employers. Organisations have come to understand the necessity of taking immediate steps to drive employee engagement and reshape workplace culture.

The financial services (FS) industry is no exception to this trend. From increasing employee burnout to growing career dissatisfaction, the pandemic has exacerbated the need for transformation across finance teams. This is exemplified by recent data from Spendesk, which found that approximately 40% of finance professionals are willing to leave their roles or already have concrete plans to do so.

Organisations looking to get ahead of the competition must put in extra efforts to retain their existing workforce. The fact is that employee expectations and requirements have irreversibly changed, with more workforces becoming increasingly distributed. Today’s hyper-connected workforce values flexibility and simplicity, and it is organisations which offer these experiences that will succeed in the long term.

As part of this process, finance companies must look towards the power of technology to create seamless user experiences across devices. From automating workflows to improving overall efficiencies, Enterprise Service Management (ESM) can help organisations to boost user satisfaction and go that extra mile for their employees.

How poor EXs are driving finance teams to quit

With over 40% of employees spending a significant proportion of their time carrying out mundane, manual tasks, it is not surprising that poor EXs are having a detrimental impact on job satisfaction. Finance teams in particular have been slower to digitise core processes, leading to a heavy reliance on manual tasks. This not only increases the amount of time spent on each task, but also impacts the engagement levels of finance professionals who cannot focus on more strategic aspects of their roles.

As a result of the pandemic, flexibility has also moved to the forefront of finance teams’ desires. Given the fast-paced nature of this industry, the conversation surrounding work-life balance has increased rapidly. Failure to offer flexible working policies, coupled with a lack of technology to facilitate this flexibility, has led to poor EXs across the board.

Most notably, the overarching move to omnichannel, digital-first approaches has dramatically reset both customer and employee needs. Finance is the third-slowest running corporate function behind legal and IT. Operating in a competitive environment, 73% of finance operations are facing pressures to speed up, improve efficiency, and prioritise automation.

Mitigating the problem using technology

ESM, an offshoot of IT Service management (ITSM), is the cornerstone of smart digital transformation for organisations. It can help finance teams to streamline and automate routine processes, such as monitoring the status of service requests, approving expenses, sending invoices, and tracking payments. In turn, this will free up employees’ time, reducing the burden of manual tasks and enabling them to focus on the more strategic tasks.

Another advantage ESM can offer finance teams is the ability to adapt to each department’s minimum requirements for data privacy. Accounting, for example, needs additional layers of compliance built into the system.

ESM can also facilitate cross-departmental collaboration, helping finance professionals to communicate with the wider business and perform tasks more effectively.  Organisations can use ESM to incorporate all internal services into a single platform, offering employees a well-rounded view of the business and promoting a sense of community across all levels of an organisation. This will boost productivity, whilst enhancing visibility and control.

Ultimately, the current job landscape has brought with it a new set of challenges. Organisations in the FS industry looking to navigate the storm and retain top talent must refocus their efforts on bolstering the EX. Embracing a new era of technological innovation that empowers employees and boosts engagement is a critical step in this process.

 

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CBDCs: the key to transform cross-border payments

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Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, Board Director at RTGS.global

 

If you work in finance, you’ll have been hearing a lot about central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and the moves different markets are making towards using, regulating and evaluating the viability of moving to an economy based on digital currency.

We are already seeing progress in the research, piloting and introduction of CBDCs into the financial system. The Banque de France for example, recently launched its second phase of CBDC experiments in line with the “triple digital revolution” unfolding in the financial sector. The infrastructures of financial markets and fintechs, however, are not prepared to accommodate their security, stability, and viability.

This could be an issue in the not too distant future. Each year, global corporates move nearly $23.5 trillion between countries, equivalent to about 25% of global GDP. This requires them to use wholesale cross-border payment processes, which remain suboptimal from a cost, speed, and transparency perspective. In fact, the G20 cross-border payments programme considers improving access to domestic payment systems that settle in central bank money, as one of the key components in facilitating increased speed and reducing the costs of cross-border payments.

The current state of cross-border payments

International transactions based on fiat are currently slow, expensive, and highly risky due to today’s disconnected financial infrastructure, messaging, and liquidity. Wholesale cross-border payment settlement can take 48 hours or longer, which is not practical in today’s digital world. Even if not every market moves to CBDCs, in an increasingly digital era, cross-border settlements between central banks will unavoidably involve dealing with CBDCs. So, not only will we have different currencies, we’ll have different technical forms of currency being exchanged – digital and fiat – as markets adopt CBDCs at different rates, adding another layer of complexity to cross-border settlements.

While there is much anticipation about the opportunities CBDCs can bring, the adoption of this technology will only be widespread if payment and settlement capabilities are overhauled to allow for new innovations in currencies.  This need for transformation represents an opportunity to redesign existing infrastructure to support cross-border CBDC transactions.

The current cross-border payments system involves correspondent banks in different jurisdictions using commercial bank money. Uncommitted credit lines used in cross-border transactions are a potential risk for any bank that relies on credit provided by a foreign correspondent bank. Interestingly, there is no single global payment and settlement system, only a complicated network of interbank relationships operating on mutual trust. While trust has allowed financial systems to function smoothly, when it begins to fail, as it did during the 2008 financial crisis, the result can be catastrophic.

Following the crisis, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) implemented the Basel III agreement, which required banks to maintain additional capital against correspondent banking account exposures. These risk-weighted assets impose a costly capital charge on positions held by banks at other banks under correspondent arrangements. While this framework helps combat risk, it neglects to address the inherent problems in traditional correspondent banking that contribute to these risks.

Making the case for CBDCs

CBDCs can offer an improvement in settlement risks and are certainly thought to have potential benefits by the BIS. If implemented correctly, wholesale CBDCs can indeed accelerate interbank transactions while eliminating settlement risk. They can also encourage a more efficient and straightforward method of executing cross-border payments by reducing the number of intermediaries.

It is likely the evolution towards CBDCs will initially see the financial market supplement rather than replace existing payment instruments with new types of digital currency. CBDCs will coexist with current forms of money in a wholesale context, and their payment rails will also work alongside the existing payment systems. In simple terms, CBDCs will need to be linked to the broader capital markets ecosystem and applications such as securities settlement, funding, and liquidity.

If built with an innovation-first mindset, the future of banking infrastructure should provide full interoperability and convertibility between fiat, CBDCs, and any other type of digital money used in wholesale payments.

The future of CBDCs

To unlock the full potential of CBDCs, a ‘corridor network’ will need to be formed. This involves combining multiple wholesale CDBCs into a single, interoperable network under common governance agreed upon by all central banks involved. The legal framework of this platform would then allow for payment versus payment (PvP) or, where applicable, delivery versus payment settlement.

Practical wholesale CBDCs appear to be on the horizon, either as a supplement to existing financial systems or as part of a transition to a digital, cashless world. Looking ahead, central banks would benefit from collaborating with fintechs that provide innovative cloud native technology to enable seamless wholesale cross-border payments without interfering with the flow of funds. If wholesale CBDCs are to become a reality, fintechs must be prepared to accommodate them.

 

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