Eastbridge Thought Leadership

Specific media inquiries may be directed to (860) 676-9633 or email info@eastbridge.com

Thought Leadership — Videos

What changes are carriers making to their voluntary benefit offerings in response to COVID-19?

June 2021


Listen to Part 3 of our 3-part series exploring how COVID-19 has impacted voluntary products from the key perspective of employers, brokers, and carriers.

What product features and benefits are brokers looking for in response to COVID-19?

April 2021


Listen to Part 2 of our 3-part series exploring how COVID-19 has impacted voluntary products from the key perspective of employers, brokers, and carriers.

What changes are employers planning to make to their benefits package as result of COVID-19?

April 2021


Listen to Part 1 of our 3-part series exploring how COVID-19 has impacted voluntary products from the key perspective of employers, brokers, and carriers.

Thought Leadership — Plot Points

Big getting bigger

September 2022


If trends in voluntary sales were put to music, it would be a ballad with many verses, but a repeating refrain. We recently reported that the largest carriers continue to dominate the market, with the top 15 accounting for approximately 72% of total voluntary/worksite sales in 2021—unchanged from 2020.

Bigger isn’t always better

July/August 2022


“New and improved” is such a common marketing theme for consumer products that it’s gone beyond cliché
to become fodder for jokes and memes. Still, most companies in every industry—from laundry soap to luxury cars—are constantly looking for ways to make their products seem new and, well, improved.

Choose products by value, not price

June 2022


“You get what you pay for.” It’s a Most important factors in choosing a carrier cliché because it’s true. Whether you’re choosing a restaurant, kicking the tires of a new car or trying on shoes, a lot more goes into your decision than price.

Beyond the integration buzz

April / May 2022


If “claim integration” was a social media topic, it would be trending right now. Integration is becoming increasingly common and is creating a lot of buzz in claims practices these days. According to recent Eastbridge Consulting Group research, a majority of carriers offer some type of claim integration service between medical, traditional group and voluntary product lines.

Let’s talk enrollment

February / March 2022


You've heard the saying about a tree falling in the forest when nobody’s there to hear it. Let’s apply that to benefits enrollment: If you wow your client with a comprehensive and affordable benefits package, but few employees sign up, is the benefits program a success?

See it my way: Why it pays to take the employee view of benefits

January 2022


Voluntary benefits are an increasingly important part of a competitive benefits program. But let’s be honest, compared to major medical and other group benefits, voluntary sometimes requires a little more work to make it, well, work.

Thought Leadership Archive

2021 Published Articles

Voluntary portfolios continue to expand: Are you up to speed?

December 2021 / January 2022


The diversity of products offered atworksites continues to expand. While traditional life, disability and even supplemental health products are now mainstays in most brokers’ voluntary portfolios, “non-traditional” products like identity protection, pet insurance and legal plans are also now more commonly offered, desired and owned. More than 70% of brokers today regularly sell one or more non-traditional products, and between half and almost three-quarters offer identity theft protection.

Voluntary claims integration: Beyond the buzzword

November 2021


The concept of voluntary benefit claims integration is generating a lot of buzz. More carriers are offering it, employers are seeking it, but what does it mean? And what do brokers need to be aware of as they discuss it with clients?

Entering enrollment season: What have we learned from 2020?

October 2021


As we enter the peak season for voluntary benefits enrollments, it’s natural to wonder what to expect, given the continued disruption from the pandemic. What methods and communication/ education campaigns will be most effective for employees as we evolve into a diverse mix of in-person and virtual enrollment scenarios in the workplace?

COVID-19’s impact on voluntary sales: Part 3

September 2021


This is the last in our series on voluntary sales results for 2020. The first article looked at overall sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by product line and platform. This column spotlights distribution segments.

COVID-19's impact on voluntary sales, part 2

July/August 2021


IN A PREVIOUS column, we reported that voluntary new business annualized premium (sales) for 2020 was $7.463 billion, down 15.5% over 2019 sales. This article highlights sales by product line and platform.

Stuck in the middle?

May/June 2021


IT’S COMMON FOR benefits professionals to reference all the nuances between the large and small ends of the voluntary market. The number of carriers used per enrollment and the top products offered are just a couple of the easily discernible aspects of these market segments. However, the mid-market (employers with between 100-999 employees) is a distinct segment with particular preferences and characteristics.

Voluntary products in a COVID-19 world

Plot Points, March–April 2021


AS COVID-19 CONTINUES to change the benefits landscape, employers anticipate continuing to make changes to their benefits packages. Eastbridge research found that, as a result of COVID-19 changes, almost a third of employers—a percentage similar to that reported in 2018—are planning to add new voluntary benefits and/or move employer-paid products to voluntary this year.

Engagement is key to achieving good participation

Plot Points, January–February 2021


PARTICIPATION RATES FOR voluntary Most important factors limiting participation products have been stable in 2020, according to a survey of voluntary carriers. And although this survey preceded the results of the fourth quarter of 2020, the findings are still useful.


2020 Published Articles

What are the keys to developing an effective voluntary strategy?

December 2020


Carriers and product manufacturers in the voluntary benefits industry should understand their strategy boils down to a series of answers. To arrive at the right answers they must know the right questions to ask - within the right framework.

How important is improving your voluntary product participation results?

November 2020


In the most recent Voluntary Participation Rates Spotlight™ Report, 59% of the carriers surveyed indicate that improving participation rates for their voluntary products is extremely important (24%) or very important (35%).

Are your voluntary administrative practices up to par?

November 2020


Not long ago, employers settled for less than ideal administrative services – often because they didn’t know better alternatives existed. Today, employers are expecting more.

What are your clients’ goals in offering voluntary benefits?

Plot Points, December 2020


VOLUNTARY BENEFITS have become a very important part of an employer’s overall benefits program. New products and the latest features and innovations usually garner a lot of discussion, but it’s often best to come back to basics in planning for our end goals. Carriers and brokers certainly have beliefs for what the outcomes of a successful case should look like—and so do employers.

Carrier selection and enrollment decision support

Plot Points, November 2020


WHEN SELECTING A voluntary carrier, employers are now considering an expanded set of factors beyond price and product value. Recent Eastbridge research found that employers’ top two reasons for selecting a voluntary carrier are decision support (availability of tools, calculators and advice) to make decisions and support to enroll employees.

Are you ready for enrollment season amid COVID-19?

Plot Points, October 2020


ALL RESEARCH LEADS us to believe that this voluntary benefits enrollment season will be significantly different from any other in memory. The impact of COVID-19 on our industry is still being measured, but as we move into the traditional enrollment season, we’re starting to see how the changes will shape out.

Voluntary sales continue to grow, part 3

Plot Points, September 2020


THIS IS THE last in our series of columns on the voluntary industry sales results for 2019. The first article looked at overall voluntary sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by product line and platform. This column spotlights sales by distribution segment.

Voluntary sales continue to grow, part 2

Plot Points, August 2020


IN LAST MONTH’S column, we reported that voluntary new business annualized premium (sales) for 2019 was $8.832 billion, up 4.5% over 2018 sales. This article highlights sales by product line and platform.

Voluntary sales continue to grow

Plot Points, July 2020


ACCORDING TO OUR annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) increased again last year. Total sales for 2019 were $8.832 billion, up 4.5% over 2018 sales. The top graph below shows the industry’s sales since 1997.

COVID-19 expected to impact voluntary benefits

Plot Points, June 2020


AS COVID-19 CONTINUES to have far-reaching impacts on the workforce and in turn, the employee benefits landscape, brokers are concerned about the effects it will have on voluntary benefits. Eastbridge’s recent survey of brokers found that the top concern for voluntary was a potential for reduced enrollment volume, with 71% of brokers agreeing this was of concern. Around half of brokers expressed concern that employer and/or employee interest in voluntary may be reduced, while one-third felt that COVID-19 may divert their time towards answering coverage questions on existing business.

How “well” are wellness benefits?

Plot Points, May 2020


EMPLOYERS CONTINUE TO promote wellness programs and benefits as an integral part of their overall benefits strategies to encourage employees to adopt healthy behaviors and to reduce long-term health care costs. In addition to employee wellness programs (e.g., weight loss, tobacco-cessation), wellness benefits are commonly offered with today’s voluntary supplemental health products to encourage employees to receive preventative health screenings.

The power of generational demographics

Plot Points, April 2020


GENERATIONAL demographics are shifting quickly, and your employer clients expect you to know how these changes will impact vol-untary benefit strategies. They want to know which products they should offer in order to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse workforce, and they want to offer their employees personalized enrollment communications based on age, gender or life stage. These desires require a solid awareness of generational demographics so that you can appropriately guide employers to make the most informed decisions for their unique employee populations.

Why hospital indemnity plans are a “go-to” product

Plot Points, March 2020


IN THE 2019 BenefitsPRO/Eastbridge survey, brokers said that, increasingly, their “goto” voluntary products are accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity, rather than just life and disability. But despite this finding, 72 percent of all employers do not offer a hospital indemnity/supplemental medical plan. Maybe more important, just 27 percent of employees currently own a hospital indemnity plan. That means 73 percent do not own it, but when asked about products they might like to purchase on a voluntary basis, 43 percent of those employees are interested in buying one.

Make voluntary conservation and retention programs a priority in 2021

Carrier Article, February 2020


How can carriers move from having transactional relationships with their customers to developing deeper loyalty at both the employee and employer/account level?

Don’t get caught up in trends too soon

Plot Points, January/February 2020


THE VOLUNTARY BENEFITS market has, at times, seen certain trends that overshadow market realities. It was just a few years ago that there was still an expectation of growth in private exchanges. For a time, it was frequently forecast that such platforms would be the most common destination for benefit enrollment. While this concept may see more adoption in the future, the original forecast for growth has not yet come about. It’s important that we recognize that sometimes getting ahead of the market might have us living in “future possibility,” rather than “present reality.”


2019 Published Articles

Keeping an eye on the market

Plot Points, December 2019


BROKER RECRUITMENT IS considered a pivotal factor in a voluntary insurancecompany’s success. Historically, employee benefit brokers preferred to source a client’s voluntary products from one carrier to streamline administration. This is a preference that many insurance carriers have catered to in their recruitment efforts. However, a recent Eastbridge report, Voluntary/Worksite Marketing: An Executive Perspective, found that producers are increasingly likely to seek “best-of-breed” products, resulting in less business going to any one carrier. This statistic almost doubled from 12 percent in our 2017 study to 22 percent this year. These changes suggest that the ease of one-carrier administration is becoming less important than having the right product design.

Consider the employee

Plot Points, November 2019


WITH THE ABUNDANCE of technology service providers vying for your employer clients’ attention, making decisions using bad data or alluring sales propositions can leave employers vulnerable. Payroll vendors, enrollment and benefits-administration platform providers and billing services promise cost-effective, efficient and effective solutions to ease an employer’s pain points. It’s not to say that these technologies will or will not deliver what they promise, but an important element in the decision-making process must be the preferences of employees.

Employers need your help to ensure a successful enrollment

Plot Points, October 2019


MORE AND MORE we find that employers want to use the same system to enroll voluntary that they use for other benefits. In fact, 63 percent of the 1,000 employers surveyed last year in our Market-Vision: The Employer Viewpoint survey, said they want all benefits enrolled on one platform regardless of whether different carriers are used. More than half said that they want online enrollment to be part of their ben admin system rather than a separate system.

Getting the most from a sale

Plot Points, September 2019


YOU’VE MADE THE sale and the employer has said, “Yes, let’s add the newly proposed voluntary benefit.” But of course, we haven’t sold anything until we get employees to elect. The most successful brokers make sure that when selling a product into a case, they include the enrollment method to be used.

Growth continues for voluntary sales, part 3

Plot Points, August 2019


THIS IS THE last in our series of columns on the voluntary industry sales results for 2018. The first article looked at overall voluntary sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by product line and platform. This column takes a closer look at sales by distribution segment.

Growth continues for voluntary sales, part 2

Plot Points, July 2019


LAST MONTH, we reported that voluntary new business annualized premium sales for 2018 was $8.5 billion, but since that time, the results have been updated to $8.513 billion, up 4.5 percent over 2017 sales. This article spotlights sales by product line and platform.

Growth continues for voluntary sales?

Plot Points, June 2019


ACCORDING TO OUR annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) increased at a rate of just over 4 percent in 2018, while total sales for the year were $8.5 billion. The first graph below shows the industry’s sales since 1997.

Picking your partners

Plot Points, May 2019


TECHNOLOGY IS becoming more critical each day to a broker’s success in voluntary benefits. One technology trend that producers must navigate is the prevalence and growth of “platforms.”

What makes you stand out from your competition?

Plot Points, April 2019


THE 2018 BenefitsPRO/East-bridge Broker Survey found that the most frequently sold products were very similar for benefit brokers and voluntary brokers, and that both broker types are selling more supplemental health products today than they have in the past.

Life insurance: Do you know what to look for?

Plot Points, March 2019


RECENT EASTBRIDGE research has found that while just over half of carriers offer a universal life/whole life (UL/WL) product today, almost a quarter of carriers see UL/WL as a growth product for the industry over the next few years. In addition, UL/WL was the top product (tied with hospital indemnity) listed as most likely to be added to carriers’ voluntary portfolios in the next two years.

How are you choosing carriers?

Plot Points, January/February 2019


EVERY BROKER HAS his or her own set of features that top the list in voluntary carrier selection. For some, it’s brand, ratings or perhaps familiarity, while for others it might be the price and benefits found in specific products. For many, they simply expect ease in working through a carrier with an array of products and services under one roof.


2018 Published Articles

What will the future look like?

Plot Points, December 2018


THE VOLUNTARY industry continues to exhibit signs of growth around nearly every benchmark. More employers are offering voluntary programs and more employees now own worksite products. There are virtually no producers left in the benefits market who won’t indicate that voluntary is a growing part of their business. Both producers and carrier executives expect that the voluntary industry will continue to grow. Similarly, all but one of Eastbridge’s annual sales reports over the last 20 years have confirmed industry growth. This begs one very specific question about the market: What does the future look like?

Opportunity for all sizes

Plot Points, November 2018


EMPLOYERS of all sizes offer brokers the potential for growth. Brokers focusing on the small-case market look to expand up-market, and large national brokerage/consulting houses are looking at opportunities down-market. The voluntary penetration chart shows the percentage of employers offering voluntary products and employees who own them.

The biggest threat to your voluntary business? It’s not what you think

Plot Points, October 2018


IN A RECENT SURVEY jointly conducted by Eastbridge and BenefitsPRO, brokers cited a lack of employer interest as the biggest threat to their voluntary business.

Not all buyers are the same

Plot Points, September 2018


WE HAVE conducted research on employee attitudes about voluntary benefits for years now. Historically, we’ve taken a high-level view; however, we have always believed there were meaningful segments inside this community, and that identifying them may allow more specific strategies to be developed. This led us to take a different look at this critical constituency.

Hot voluntary products

Plot Points, August 2018


THIS IS THE LAST in our series of columns on the voluntary industry sales results for 2017. The first article looked at overall voluntary sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by distribution segment. This column takes a closer look at sales by product line and platform.

More positive signs

Plot Points, July 2018


LAST MONTH, we reported that voluntary new business annualized premium (sales) for 2017 were $8.145 billion, up almost 7 percent over 2016 sales. This month, we spotlight sales by distribution segment.

Voluntary keeps rising

Plot Points, June 2018


ACCORDING TO OUR annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) increased at a rate of almost 7 percent again in 2017, while total sales for the year were $8.145 billion.

Don’t forget about the employee

Plot Points, May 2018


NEARLY EVERY benefits broker will tell you that they now sell voluntary. Understandably, many brokers are primarily tuned in to the employer’s voice during the sales process. remains a default mode, born from their roots focusing on medical and other employerpaid group distribution.

Broker power

Plot Points, April 2018


AT ONE TIME, carriers defined the voluntary business processes we all lived by, and they designed them however they pleased. For many of the carriers, if the broker wasn’t happy with those services, the carrier could afford to ignore the complaint. After all, there were lots of other brokers.

Make sure all the pieces fit

Plot Points, March 2018


WHAT ARE THE ATTRIBUTES of a good voluntary benefit? The industry has historically sorted out would-be new entrants before many producers knew they existed. Various elements could be debated, but there are at least two components common to most successful products: benefit strategy relevance and program mechanics.

Are you tracking participation rates?

Plot Points, Febuary 2018


EASTBRIDGE’S 2017 Voluntary Participation Rates Spotlight™ report found that just over half of participating carriers have seen participation rates increase over the past two to three years, and the majority expect this trend to continue. While individual carrier responses varied, the overall reported average was 28 percent in 2017, up from 21 percent in 2014.

The curve is a game changer

Plot Points, January 2018


FOR TWO DECADES, industry voluntary sales increased year after year. Growth was largely driven by new brokers entering the business, primarily from the ranks of the traditional medical and group brokers. But these new entrants did not begin growing their sales and increasing productioneach year as one might expect. Instead, they sold a few cases each year, with results changing only slightly from year-to-year.


2017 Published Articles

Don’t get squeezed out of the information game

Plot Points, December 2017


MORE COMPANIES are turning to the insights data analytics can provide to their business— and voluntary benefit manufacturers are no exception. A recent Eastbridge survey on the topic revealed that 50 percent of carriers are currently using data analytics for at least some piece of their voluntary business. Another 20 percent are planning to implement analytics in the near future. These carriers are looking to use this data to help them better understand customer needs, increase persistency and provide better customer service.

Don’t jump the gun

Plot Points, November 2017


AS A GROUP, voluntary brokers and executives have historically overreacted to industry developments. Some of these developments promised great benefits through chasing a new trend, while others warned of doom based on a new threat.

What makes you different?

Plot Points, October 2017


IN A PREVIOUS COLUMN, we discussed how many employers are expanding their benefits offering to include non-traditional products. This article examines the topic further by uncovering the interest in these products from the broker and employee perspectives.

What does voluntary really mean to your shop?

Plot Points, September 2017


DESPITE THE growing similarities between employee benefit broker and voluntary broker segments, and some convergence between the two groups, notable differences remain. As for parallels, both segments sell the same go-to products, infrequently use private exchanges, and see a relatively low threat from “eBrokers.” They also both expect the new administration in Washington to have a positive impact on their business.

Who’s selling voluntary?

Plot Points, August 2017


THIS IS THE LAST in our series of columns on voluntary market sales results for 2016. The first article looked at overall voluntary sales for the year, while the second reviewed sales by product and platform. This article spotlights sales by distribution segment.

Another solid year for voluntary sales

Plot Points, July 2017


LAST MONTH, WE REPORTED voluntary new business annualized premium (sales) for 2016 were $7.630 billion, up almost 7 percent over 2015 sales. This column takes a closer look at these results by product line and platform.

Voluntary turns in another year of growth

Plot Points, June 2017


ACCORDING TO OUR annual U.S. Voluntary/Worksite Sales Report, new business annualized premium (voluntary sales) increased again last year. Total sales for 2016 were $7.630 billion, up almost 7 percent over 2015 sales.

Standing out when everyone’s carrying the same bag

Plot Points, May 2017


THERE HAVE LONG been two general categories of brokers in the benefits industry. Employee benefit brokers have traditionally focused on advising employers on their health care plan and other employer-paid programs, while voluntary brokers have focused on payroll-deducted benefits. The product portfolio for these two broker groups was once so distinct that they might both have advised the same client because of little to no competition between them.

Voluntary productivity takes off

Plot Points, April 2017


OVER THE YEARS, we have reported on the growth of voluntary and its increasing popularity among employers, employees and brokers. Today, almost all brokers offer voluntary products, but many still only sell voluntary defensively, offering these products when asked, or in order to shift clients’ benefit costs, or when a competitor approaches an existing client. But this picture is changing. Based on our marketing practices surveys, roughly 30 percent of traditional employee benefit brokers (EBBs) now offer voluntary offensively, positioning products based on employee needs, and using them as key tools in their clients’ benefit strategies.

Enrollment postmortem

Plot Points, March 2017


WITH THE DUST of open enrollment season finally beginning to settle, brokers should begin taking stock of 2016. Many will look back on a mix of outcomes—enrollments that they considered successful and others they probably wish could be “do-overs.” Most will use participation results as the basis for measuring their success—and rightfully so. While that’s a great starting point, it?

Employers expanding voluntary offerings

Plot Points, February 2017


THE GROWTH OF VOLUNTARY products over the past few years has been consistent. Year over year, the growth rate is in the 3 percent to 5 percent range. This growth has been fueled by more benefit brokers offering voluntary and emplyers adding more products to their benefits.

Best of breed

Plot Points, January 2017


HOW MANY DIFFERENT insurance companies does your typical client use for their voluntary benefit offerings? Have you brought in one carrier to provide all voluntary products? Have you brought in several companies? And what does the number of carriers say about you?



Specific media inquiries may be directed to (860) 676-9633 or email info@eastbridge.com

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