Q&A: How Financial Advisors Can Prepare for Open Enrollment

Open enrollment season presents a huge opportunity for financial advisors to add extra value to the client-advisor relationship.

As companies continue to postpone the official return to office, many employees may soon be undertaking their annual open enrollment for health and retirement benefits from home.

At the same time, they’ll likely be scrutinizing those benefits more closely in the wake of COVID-19 — especially if they’re considering joining the mass of departures that have become the so-called ” Great Resignation.”

Today, employers are also offering a broader range of benefits, from traditional health insurance to more nontraditional student debt repayment. This could place a lot of responsibility on financial professionals who may be filling in for human resources departments as open enrollment guides this year.

To help advisors prepare for guiding clients through the open enrollment process, we spoke with Rob Grubka, CEO of Health Solutions at Voya Financial, about what financial professionals can expect this year. Here are edited excerpts from that interview.

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How is the pandemic shaping the way clients approach open enrollment this year?

The fear of getting sick and possibly incurring expensive medical costs has American workers looking for help — and many employees are increasingly turning to their employers.

As a result, many employees are starting to understand the value that benefits offered by their employer can provide in helping them protect the financial well-being of their household.

For example, if we look at lessons learned from last fall’s open enrollment period, a Voya consumer survey shows that nearly six in 10 American workers spent more time reviewing their benefits offered by their employer during their annual enrollment period. This is certainly encouraging to see that employees did not simply hit the default button on their benefit selections. But the challenge is that, even after taking a closer look, many employees are still confused by their workplace benefits.

And with many employers planning to make changes to their benefit lineups this year due to the pandemic, this process will likely not get any easier in the fall. This presents a huge opportunity for financial professionals to help their clients navigate through what can feel like a maze of benefit selections during open enrollment.

[Read: Protect the Point — How Advisors Can Deliver Tangible Value to Clients.]

How should financial professionals guide clients who may be considering a job change?

If there is any silver lining that we can take away from the pandemic, it’s been the shifting appreciation of workplace benefits. In fact, new Voya research reveals that the majority of employed individuals — 68% — expect their workplace benefits to play a more critical role in their future job selection.

This finding comes at a time when a number of working Americans are voluntarily changing jobs, often referred to as “The Great Resignation,” as employers focus their efforts on attracting and retaining top talent.

But before a client considers switching jobs, financial professionals should help them recognize what workplace benefits are available to them through their current and potentially a new employer.

For example, beyond core benefits like medical, dental and vision, voluntary benefits — some of which are known as supplemental health insurance — offered through your employer can provide you with additional protection for specific covered events. Supplemental health insurance includes accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity insurance, to name a few.

[Read: 17 Financial Advisor Marketing Tips]

How can financial professionals help clients evaluate health plan options?

Individuals are busy and often confused by their workplace benefits, so they typically default to the benefit selections from the previous year. However, employees need to approach open enrollment with an open mind — especially against the persistent backdrop of the pandemic — or they risk overpaying on their benefits.

At the end of the day, when it comes to selecting the best health plan, there’s never a universal, one-size-fits-all solution. But it’s important to keep an open mind and ask questions, which is where a financial professional can be especially helpful.

What other steps should financial professionals take to prepare clients for open enrollment season?

One of the biggest mistakes clients make when preparing for open enrollment is not giving it the proper attention.

Reach out to them early in the fall to get them thinking. And with many employees still working from home and return-to-office plans delayed for a number of companies, video-conferencing technologies make it easier than ever to engage and stay connected to your clients.

Being able to see someone’s virtual working environment and meet pets or children opens the door to connect in a more personal way. Plus, your clients will likely appreciate the nudge to begin looking at their benefit options early.

This will give them the opportunity to ask questions and help select their workplace benefits with confidence during what is shaping up to be yet another unprecedented open enrollment season.

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Q&A: How Financial Advisors Can Prepare for Open Enrollment originally appeared on usnews.com

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