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The secret life of an employee benefits consultant

The Secret Life Of An Employee Benefits Consultant

In this special blog post, we speak to our very own Esme Pearson about life as a Junior Employee Benefits Consultant at Hooray.

How did Esme get into the industry? What does an employee benefits consultant actually do? And more to the point, does Hooray practice what they preach? Esme answers all these questions and more.

How did you come to work for an employee benefits brokerage?

esme pearson

Unmasked: Esme Pearson, Junior Employee Benefits Consultant at Hooray

I went to university and earned a BA in Business Management and Marketing. After that I got myself an office job in financial services and after six months I was ready to try something more challenging. That’s when I got an interview with Nick and Charlie at Hooray, and I managed to get the job.

Still a junior role?

Yes, I’m still junior but I completed my first exam a month ago. I’ve got two more to do which I hope to be doing over the next six months. And then I can drop the junior!

How does a typical day start?

Often the first chunk of time will be spent going through emails, answering client queries and taking phone calls. I’m speaking to clients that aren’t necessarily clients yet, so my job is to find out what they’re looking for and how we can help them.

Obviously, we’re a broker so the idea is that we’re coming up with a solution that fits them rather than taking a blanket approach. I’ll usually talk them through the different products, which includes things such as health insurance and protection policies.

So, you’re the first point of contact for people asking about employee benefits?

Yeah it will often be people finding us via the website and requesting a quote. I come in and book in some time with them and find out more about them and how we can help. But that’s a small part – once a product is purchased it then goes onto the client support team. However, I could be spending six-to-eight months with one client, so it’s not always in-and-out.

Why do some clients take so long to decide?

It could be they’ve contacted us when they’re just thinking about offering benefits or maybe we’ve contacted them through a marketing campaign and it’s sparked an interest. Or it may just be that it’s not feasible for them right now. It might also be a large company where it has to go through lots of people before it’s approved.

But other times, I could be speaking to smaller businesses with a ten-man team which can be implemented in a couple of weeks because it doesn’t have those layers to go through.

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What are the most typical questions you get?

On the initial calls it will be related to how the employee benefits work. So, for instance if it’s private medical insurance, they might want to know the general exclusions and inclusions of the plan. How does the claims process work? And things like that.

But a lot of the time they just want to know costings – then they can know whether it’s worth considering further or whether it’s going to be a waste of time. But obviously it’s hard to advise clients without finding out more information first because accurate quotes require specific details about the business and its staff.

We also get asked a lot about how the relationship works with a broker. We explain that we don’t tie them into contracts. They’ll be in a contract with an insurer if they choose to invest in a policy, but not with us. So, it’s helping them understand how it actually works, the full value we give compared to going direct to the insurer.

Who does the broker work on behalf of?

We work on behalf of the client not the . As an independent broker we are not tied to any one provider and we will conduct a full market comparison so businesses will get a clear and honest view of all their options.

Clients will often send us direct quotes they’ve been given by an insurer and I’ll look over them and highlight some key parts…

So, it might be that the quote stipulates £100 excess per person per claim and the client didn’t think anything of that. This means that every time an individual claims, there will be a £100 charge. However, the industry standard would be to apply the excess ‘per person, per policy year’ – £100 is the amount that must be paid at the point of your first claim but this is paid only once for the same individual regardless of how many claims they make during that period.

It’s just little things like that which can be missed when a client has gone direct to an insurer. Our expertise can help get them policies which are more comprehensive and cost effective.

Another issue to look out for is hospital access. You might be quoted a health insurance policy which has excluded or reduced access to Central London hospitals to get the price down, but actually if a client is based in central London then having access to hospitals in London may be important.

These are just a few of the things we must take into consideration before making a recommendation.

Do you receive much positive feedback?

Yeah definitely. That’s the really rewarding part because employee benefits can be so complex and often people get quite overwhelmed, and they’ll be saying “thank you so much” and comment on how helpful we’ve been and how we’ve really made it clear for them.

Realistically we want to make it as simple as possible. Insurance is an industry where a lot of insurers and brokers can overcomplicate things, but I think we do a good job of going through the fine detail and presenting it in an easy-to-follow way, making it as seamless as possible for them.

We get a lot of good feedback from HR teams too. During the transition between the initial stages of interest and confirming, it can be quite difficult for HR to take it to their board and get the benefits in play. So, we get a lot of praise and feedback on that because we help them make the case and ultimately get buy-in.

Do you focus on UK schemes?

Yeah I focus on UK schemes but we do have a team which head up the international side. Often someone might come to me and I find out that they have UK and international staff and so we work together as a team to come up with solutions for them.

What is it like working for Hooray?

It’s a really nice working environment, I’ve been really lucky. It’s a great balance because when we’re pushed we crack on and do the job and give the best service possible. But it’s also a great work-life balance and they understand that I’m young and I still want a life outside of work. We all get on and work well together and know when to have a laugh.

Do they offer good perks?

Obviously, as a broker we’ve got benefits such as Health Cash Plan, Life Insurance, Private Medical Insurance and they’ll help and support us if anything big was to happen. But also, they appreciate the rising living costs. The cash plan is useful because it helps towards everyday health costs such as dental and eyecare cover.

We also have team events and things like that. We even have an alcohol fridge in the kitchen! These are all little things which mean a lot.

Is there a favourite part of the job?

My favourite part is interacting with new people and businesses because we have a whole range of clients. We work with organisations ranging from tech start-ups to large corporate clients. It’s really about getting to know people and I’m quite an interactive person so I find it interesting finding out about people’s businesses.

What are the key skills needed for your role?

A good one is being personable because you are speaking to different types of people all day, every day. It’s important to be able to adapt to people otherwise you’re really going to struggle.

I’m really a consultant but it’s also, ultimately, a sales role, so if I can’t adapt to the person I’m speaking to then I’m probably going to struggle to sell to that person. It’s not just adapting to different personalities, but also the knowledge they have of the industry and the products as well. You don’t want to be overexplaining things or underexplaining them.

I think being organised is important, because people can fall off the face of the earth one day and if you’re not organised you won’t be aware of that and will forget to follow up with them.

But also, efficiency is important. You want to get the job done as efficiently as possible, because you’re getting new leads and speaking to new people every day – and you need to keep on top of the workload.

Have you taken many skills from your studies into the workplace?

Yeah I think the dedication and commitment from studying. Studying requires perseverance and determination to get the job done. Ultimately you have targets or deadlines, so my experience in meeting them helps. But also, the knowledge about business and how marketing works, it all helped when I came to work here. Even just understanding the terminology gives me a useful base to start with.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

I would say making sure we are as up-to-date as possible with all the insurance policies and making sure the terms and conditions are up to date. As you can imagine there’s a lot to know. So just spending that extra time, outside of work hours too, to make sure I’m up to date as much as I can be. This means I can inform clients as well as I can.

I’m also revising for my qualifications.

Which qualifications are you working towards?

I’ve already done Health Insurance from the Chartered Insurance Institute but I’m working towards a Group Risk one and a general insurance one too. The general one will include everything such as travel, car insurance and more.

Final jobs of the day?

Just making sure that emails are as completed as much as they can be. One of the struggles of the job is having a conversation with someone who then drops off the face of the earth. So, a lot of the time I might chase people who I haven’t heard back from.

Tea or coffee?

I’m a six coffee a day person! I’ve been trying to cut down but whenever someone offers you a tea or coffee that’s it – it’s difficult to say no!

Hooray Health & Protection is a friendly brokerage dedicated to helping start-ups and SMEs navigate the complex world of employee benefits. Advice and quotes are provided free of charge and free of contract.

Mel Dixon

Mel is a freelance writer and content strategist who has written extensively on issues affecting the small business community.

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