Ideon Insights: Pacific Life execs on building a digitally-native benefits division

Welcome to Episode 4 of Ideon Insights, our monthly interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators driving the benefits industry forward. In this episode, we talked with two leaders from Pacific Life’s new workforce benefits division, Bram Spector (CFO) and TJ Clayton (Head of Partner Management).

In this Q&A, Bram and TJ discuss building a digitally-native, startup-like benefits provider, backed by the resources and reputation of a 155-year-old insurance giant. They also explain why the benefits experience is ripe for digital innovation, how digital connectivity fueled Pacific Life’s go-to-market strategy, the role of Ideon, and their vision for the future.

Watch the full episode of Ideon Insights here. Below we’ve highlighted key moments from the conversation.

IDEON: Why did Pacific Life enter the benefits industry?

BRAM SPECTOR: Pacific Life has legacy and a track record of incubating and building new businesses. Our corporate strategy team spent a couple years evaluating options, various markets that we weren’t in previously, and ultimately made the decision that employee benefits was the place where we wanted to invest in building a new business.

Our strategy started by assembling a team of folks from across the group insurance industry who had spent the last 10, 15, 20 years of their careers in carrier roles and wanted an opportunity to deliver exceptional experiences to customers. We built a team that was focused on solving our customers’ biggest issues, then we did a ton of research to validate the pain points today across the industry.

We spent a lot of time challenging ourselves to understand why our competitors have not been able to solve those challenges. And then we architected our strategy around a series of experiences that are designed to make our customers’ and stakeholders’ lives better.

IDEON: Walk us through your initial launch strategy… what were your priorities?

BRAM SPECTOR: Ultimately, we decided to build the business based on a couple of key principles. One, we want to operate like a startup — agile, move quick, use an MVP-based approach to get to market. And two, we’re focused on building a digitally-native workforce benefits business. We’re also thrilled to launch with three technology partners: Employee Navigator, ADP, and Selerix.

IDEON: What does it mean to be a digitally-native benefits provider?

TJ CLAYTON: When we think about being digitally native, the key is not to just be digital for digital sake. What are the pain points, the friction points that brokers and employers experience all day, every day? That’s what we want to solve with a digitally-native approach.

What are the pain points around billing, around commissions, around setting up cases, enrollment, and file feeds? What are the challenges that make this industry what it is, and how do we turn those things on their head via a digitally native experience? We set out to solve problems, not to just put a digital label on a new logo and a new company.

BRAM SPECTOR: We’ve got the benefit of starting with a completely blank slate from an architecture perspective. We’re making sure we take advantage of that opportunity to really architect our experiences and our business processes in a way that supports our customers.

IDEON: What parts of the benefits experience did Pacific Life focus on initially?

BRAM SPECTOR: We heard resoundingly that the industry’s billing experience is terrible. It’s challenging, and frankly, it shouldn’t be. Onboarding, or customer implementation, is another issue that customers consistently have said is a pain point and a challenge. So we’ve got the opportunity to set a great first impression if we do that implementation right, and to set ourselves up for a successful customer relationship.

IDEON: From an API, digital connectivity standpoint, where have you prioritized development?

TJ CLAYTON: We’ve invested significantly in building API connections with key technology partners. The functionality that excites me the most is that first initial step, the case set up. We’re able to set up a case in 30 minutes or less with a click of a few buttons and an API pulling all of that information right out of Pacific Life’s core system, right into our partner system.

What used to be days, sometimes weeks of manually keying in eligibility rules and rates, class mapping, not to mention the error-prone nature of manual data entry — all the things you’d have to do just to get someone ready for enrollment — we’re making it happen almost in real-time.

IDEON: How does partnering with Ideon fit into Pacific Life’s digital connectivity strategy?

TJ CLAYTON: For us, it’s about getting out into the market quicker with more partners. If there was a time where we had a disconnect between our shared values, technically, and someone else’s, Ideon can help bridge that gap.

Obviously, we prefer to receive data via API, because we believe that that’s the way of the future and that’s going to differentiate us. If a partner is not ready to send data in that manner, but there’s other reasons why we should work with that partner and Ideon can help bridge that gap in terms of enrollment data exchange, well, then there’s a great fit right there. So for us, choosing to partner with Ideon was about helping us get out in the marketplace with more partners, in a technically advanced way. 

IDEON: Why is offering a great digital experience so important in the benefits industry?

BRAM SPECTOR: We want to simplify that experience so members can spend more time taking care of themselves, taking care of their families, instead of filling out endless forms to get their claims fulfilled.

Additionally, we’re looking to simplify the lives of brokers. While a lot of our digital experiences aren’t designed specifically for them, our connectivity strategy is designed to help make their lives easier. We’re simplifying the administration of benefits so that they can focus their time, their energy, and their limited capacity on helping their customers make the right decisions around how to protect their employees.

IDEON: What’s next for Pacific Life’s Workforce Benefits Division?

TJ CLAYTON: More partners, but not every partner. When I think about where we’re starting: no legacy technology, no legacy tech stack, the ability to have APIs throughout the whole value chain, but who’s ready to go on that journey with us? It’s not everyone. We want to bring the industry and bring the ecosystem along with us.

 

Stay tuned for new episodes of Ideon Insights each month. Subscribe to our newsletter below to stay in-the-know about Ideon and receive our latest content directly to your inbox.

Employee Spotlight: Joe Piendel

At Ideon, we’re proud to have such a talented, diverse team leading the charge for a better and more connected health insurance and employee benefits industry. Our ongoing Employee Spotlight series showcases the people behind our product and unveils what life is like at Ideon. Next up… Joe Piendel, our Director of Product Marketing!

Name: Joe Piendel
Department: Marketing
Title: Director of Product Marketing
Location: Rochester, New York

Work

How long have you worked at Ideon?

I’ve worked at Ideon for 2½ years.

Tell us about your day-to-day.

What really excites me about my role as Director of Product Marketing is that it allows me to collaborate with members of every team in the organization, which makes no two days the same. For example, I could be working with our Product Management Team to learn about the latest-and-greatest new product launches and strategize on how we will promote them, or with our Sales Teams on sales enablement and go-to-market strategies.

What excites you about the future of Ideon?

Ideon’s future is bright because of our mission to help advance the employee benefits industry into the future with cutting-edge technology such as APIs. It excites me to see our unique solutions in action, helping our customers tackle their pain points and assisting them in achieving new levels of efficiency and accuracy. I find it rewarding to be part of an organization that is so forward-thinking and customer-focused with the overall goal of improving members’ experiences in the health insurance and benefits ecosystem.

What do you like about Ideon’s company culture?

What I like is that Ideon fosters a creative atmosphere and encourages everyone to take risks. The team consists of some of the most intelligent problem-solvers I’ve ever worked with. It’s amazing how we confront the issues in our industry head-on to provide solutions that help our customers deliver positive end-user experiences.

What attracted you to Ideon’s mission?

Throughout my career, I worked for an insurance carrier, a broker, and an HCM company and have witnessed first-hand what the challenges are in our industry. Enrolling in health insurance and employee benefits is never on anyone’s “favorite things” to-do list because of the complexity and uncertainties associated with it.

What attracted me to Ideon is that we address many of these challenges, and we’re leading the charge to move our ecosystem into the digital age so that as an industry, we can provide the efficient user-experience that everyone expects in 2024 and beyond.

Life

Favorite activity when you’re not working? 

I am an avid sports and music fan, so when I’m not working, you’ll probably find me with my family at a sporting event or concert! When I’m not doing one of those activities, I’m on the golf course, cycling, or kayaking.

Favorite place you’ve traveled?

Last year, my wife and I traveled to the Grand Canyon with our two sons. To experience it through their eyes was incredible and will be a family trip we’ll never forget.

Interesting fact about yourself… Go!

I’m a huge Buffalo Bills fan and have been a season ticket holder for over 20 years. Go Bills!

Ideon Insights: Guardian’s Josh Weaver on APIs and digital partnerships

Welcome to Episode 3 of Ideon Insights, our monthly interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators driving the benefits industry forward. In this episode, we sat down with Josh Weaver, Head of Digital Ecosystem & Partner Management at Guardian Life, a leading provider of life, disability, dental, and vision insurance and other group benefits.

In this Q&A, Josh explains how Guardian leverages technology to enhance the benefits experience, their focus on API connectivity and strategic tech partner selection, and their collaboration with middleware solutions like Ideon. He also dives into Guardian’s real-time quoting capabilities, winning business in today’s small group market, and more.

Watch the full episode of Ideon Insights here. Below we’ve highlighted five key moments from the conversation.

IDEON: How do you evaluate and choose benefits technology partners?

JOSH WEAVER: To me, it all starts with value. Guardian is really focused on the overall well-being of our plan holders. So really, the first piece is, you want partners that are focused on the same thing. Are these partners focused on really improving the experience for our plan holders? Number two, we think about the entire lifecycle of a member, and really how do we, through connectivity, engage with these partners—API preferred—to create a better experience than Guardian could provide alone.

 

Do you select partners based on their connectivity capabilities?

If you’re not an API-enabled partner, there has to be a very unique value prop you’re bringing to market for us to want to partner with you in a commercial or a more strategic manner. If I fast forward five, six, seven years from now, I think you’re going to see API connectivity is replacing EDI.

So really, if you’re not on a modern technology stack, then you’re not necessarily the companies that we’re looking to partner with moving forward. 

 

​​Does connectivity impact which carrier a group chooses?

Benefits are still an extremely important part of the conversation. But it’s also around, as an employer, how does working with Guardian make my life easier? Do they work with my benefit administration platform? Do they offer online EOI or EOI API?

You’re seeing plan holders and brokers, when they’re recommending carriers to clients, they’re looking at not just what benefit package makes the most sense, but really what’s going to fit all of their needs. You’re seeing the technology, and that ecosystem-partnership piece, being just as important as the benefits conversation. If you have a subpar value prop with a platform, oftentimes the broker is not even going to recommend you or even look to quote you.

 

How does Ideon fit into Guardian’s digital strategy?

Guardian has the ability, through Ideon, to connect with multiple platforms that, for us to connect with each one of these individually, it’d be such a massive investment and endeavor. Working through Ideon allows us to get with more platforms faster.

As a carrier, there are only so many API connections you can build. So, the middleware allows us to access a greater number of platforms, which ultimately empowers the employer to be able to pick a broader set of platforms that are going to work well with Guardian. From our perspective, engaging with middleware really is about reaching more clients in the ecosystem they choose.

Just through the lens of BenAdmin and enrollment, the more connectivity you have, the better. There may be a reason that an employer chose a platform that Guardian is not integrated directly with. That’s fine. And that’s where the middleware allows us to really have that connectivity and expand our portfolio.

 

What digital solutions has Guardian implemented in the small group space?

I think an area that we’re really starting to push into—and push forward with Ideon—is really around real-time quoting capabilities. For us, if we think about the small group segment, a lot of brokers and group general agencies want to be empowered to self-quote, they want to be able to do it on their own time, on their platform.

And so really, utilizing that real-time quoting technology is an area that we are continuing to focus on. We feel like to create that shop through purchase through implemented-with-Guardian experience, where it’s a one-touch sales process, quoting technology is important. It can be a differentiator in the market.

 

Stay tuned for new episodes of Ideon Insights each month. Subscribe to our newsletter below to stay in-the-know about Ideon and receive our latest content directly to your inbox.

Employee Spotlight: Sean Wilkins

At Ideon, we’re proud to have such a talented, diverse team leading the charge for a better and more connected health insurance and employee benefits industry. Our ongoing Employee Spotlight series showcases the people behind our product and unveils what life is like at Ideon. Next up… Sean Wilkins, our Engineering Manager!

Name: Sean Wilkins
Department: Engineering
Title: Engineering Manager
Location: New Jersey

Work

How long have you worked at Ideon?

Since June 2019.

Tell us about your day-to-day.

My day-to-day can vary a lot. Sometimes I am down in the weeds investigating specific issues for customers. But on other occasions, I take a long-term, bird’s eye view to assess where improvements are needed to enhance our service for existing customers or to accommodate new ones.

I also have the opportunity to work directly with customers on how our solutions can fit into their business processes to maximize value. We work hard to meet our customers wherever they are in their digital transformation, so it is important to have a breadth of experience across our solutions.

What projects are you excited to work on?

My team’s responsibilities mainly deal with, broadly speaking, “enrollments data flowing into our system.” One of our tools for importing data is a file-based translation service which we use to translate flat files, such as an XML, CSV, or JSON document. I have really enjoyed improving this service over the last year, in terms of reliability and scalability, as well as making the system easier to modify.

How have you grown professionally while on our team?

Being with Ideon since 2019, I have had a really great opportunity to build my career here. When I joined the company as a “Software Engineer” I was an individual contributor working on our soon-to-be-launched enrollments product. Since then, we’ve seen our team size grow and I have been promoted twice. Now as an “Engineering Manager,” I can leverage the skills and industry knowledge I gained during the earlier stages of the product development to help onboard new team members. I think getting early, on-the-ground experience set me up for success as a manager.

What excites you about the future of Ideon?

I really enjoy the process of taking an idea from concept to execution, seeing it evolve over time as we support more use cases and add functionality. I like sitting between our customers, engineers, and internal operations to hear all sides of the equation and help solve the problems each stakeholder faces.

What do you like about Ideon’s company culture?

I enjoy working with a team of really talented engineers. Prior to my experience at Ideon, I was at smaller companies where the engineering work was really a one-man show. In those situations, I didn’t have anyone to collaborate with. Coming to Ideon and getting a lot more feedback from peers really helped me grow as an engineer and was a breath of fresh air.

Life

Favorite activity when you’re not working? 

The most stereotypical computer nerd answer – video games! Aside from that, I enjoy reading and playing with my dog Dottie.

Favorite place you’ve traveled?

Rome, Italy. I loved the sheer amount of interesting things to do in Rome, from the food to the centuries of history there was never a dull moment when visiting.

Interesting fact about yourself… Go!

Despite my indoor nature as a computer guy, I achieved the rank of Eagle scout and did a lot of hiking and camping growing up.

Ideon-LIMRA Report: Only 8% of Benefits Carriers Use APIs for Most External Connectivity

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–When it comes to API adoption, the employee benefits industry is maturing, albeit slowly, according to a new study from LIMRA and Ideon. The 2023 Employee Benefits API Maturity Report surveyed 25 leading workplace benefits carriers to assess the industry’s current API adoption, how close it is to real-time connectivity, and where leading opportunities exist for innovation.

The industry-first benchmark of medical, ancillary, and voluntary benefits carriers provided an API maturity score that measures the depth of carriers’ technological integration, evaluating factors like real-time data processing, API connectivity with external partners, and the degree of automation in their systems and data exchange procedures.

Specifically, carriers’ API maturity was ranked at five levels: nascent, developing, maturing, advanced and leading. Overall, the majority of carriers (56%) are “maturing,” with twice as many “developing” (24%) than “advanced” (12%). Additionally, although a vast majority of carriers (76%) report having API-enabled external connectivity, the actual utilization of APIs for their transactions remains extremely limited: only 8% of respondents said APIs are used for most or all of their external connectivity. This highlights a significant opportunity for the industry: embracing full-scale API utilization would lead to faster, superior member experiences and more efficient operations for carriers and 3rd-party platforms.

“These report findings underscore what we see every day: Most carriers are embracing the API revolution, but there’s still a vast untapped potential to meet the rising digital expectations of members, employers and brokers,” said Michael W. Levin, co-founder and CEO of Ideon. “The fact is, broad API utilization is, and will continue to be, a must-have for carriers seeking to win and retain business. The opportunities are there, and this survey pinpoints where carriers will get the biggest return on their API investments.”

Key findings include:

  • The gap between API development vs. adoption remains large: While 76% of carriers have some degree of API-enabled external connectivity, only 8% of respondents use APIs for most or all external connections.
  • Real-time data processing is limited: Although 48% have real-time data exchange capabilities, only 16% said most or all transactions are processed in real time.
  • EDI remains the dominant method for transmitting enrollment data: 88% of carriers use EDI, vs. 60% of carriers that use APIs to send and receive enrollment information. The overlap indicates that most carriers employ multiple methods, including some that still use paper and spreadsheets.
  • Digital enrollment presents a sizable opportunity: 32% of carriers do not offer the ability to digitally manage enrollment and change events.

To read the full report, please visit: https://get.ideonapi.com/ideon-limra-2023-report

About Ideon

Ideon is the way health insurance carriers and employee benefits providers connect with technology partners to deliver seamless consumer experiences at every stage of the member journey. Ideon is not the websites or apps one uses to choose a plan or find a doctor. It is the infrastructure, the ‘pipes,’ that simplify the complex exchange of quoting, enrollment, and eligibility data between carriers and the technology partners so that they can, in turn, deliver health and employee benefits to hundreds of millions of Americans everyday. Ideon’s APIs transmit billions of data points between InsurTechs and insurance carriers, powering an amazing benefits experience for all. Faster. Better. Awesomely. To learn more, please visit: www.ideonapi.com.

About LIMRA

Serving the industry since 1916, LIMRA offers industry knowledge, insights, connections, and solutions to help more than 700 financial services member organizations navigate change with confidence. Visit LIMRA at www.limra.com.

How BenAdmin Platforms Setup Carrier Connections in 5 Days

In the competitive world of benefits administration, setting up carrier connections can be an operational nightmare. What if you had a strategic guide to a better process?

This infographic is a gameboard for a BenAdmin’s operational life. Read it, play along, and compare two pathways side-by-side:

  • Navigate the EDI path: This industry standard typically takes an 8-12 week journey filled with building and testing files, errors, and constant communication with carriers.
  • Take a shortcut and win with API-powered connectivity: This alternate route reduces connection setup to around five days, optimizing your operational efficiency.

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How technology partnerships improve member experience and the bottom line

Watch the Webinar
On Demand

Today’s leading carriers leverage an expansive (and growing) benefits technology ecosystem. But choosing and integrating with the right partners can be challenging.

In this webinar, Ideon hosts executives from Prudential, PlanSource, and Brella to discuss how carriers successfully develop robust 3rd-party partnership strategies to meet members’ needs and increase revenue.

Discussion points include:

  • Balancing in-house development with external technology partnerships
  • Meeting members where they are (the case for carrier-BenTech partnerships)
  • Industry-leading examples of successful carrier-BenTech partnerships
  • Key challenges in choosing the right partners, and integrating with external systems

 

 

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An API Road Map for Insurance Carriers

More and more carriers are adopting APIs to support fast, accurate data exchange with benefits administration platforms.

Why? Because API-powered enrollment and eligibility experiences are quickly becoming key carrier advantages.

But carriers focused on API development need a proven road map to follow, because the sequence is as critical as the API functionality.

 

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Employee Spotlight: Robin Rogers

At Ideon, we’re proud to have such a talented, diverse team leading the charge for a better and more connected health insurance and employee benefits industry. Our ongoing Employee Spotlight series showcases the people behind our product and unveils what life is like at Ideon. Next up… Robin Rogers, our Senior Sales Director, InsurTech!

Name: Robin Rogers
Department: Sales
Title: Senior Sales Director, InsurTech
Location: Colorado

Work

How long have you worked at Ideon?

1 ½ years.

Tell us about your day-to-day.

My day to day routine varies but our customers and prospects always come first. When I am not working with them directly, you can usually find me digging into InsurTech platforms of all sizes to better understand their strategy, pain points, and roadmap with the goal of creating a deeper relationship. I also enjoy reading about the industry as a whole — new trends, barriers to innovation, and recent success stories.

What projects are you excited to work on?

I am always excited to work with customers and prospects as we strategically navigate their needs and Ideon’s solutions. Another thing that I am passionate about is an internal committee I am part of called “Ideonauts Developing Ideonauts”. We educate all of our team members on various topics that interest them. They range from great tips and tricks like how to use Slack more efficiently to in-depth discussions about our products and services.

What excites you about the future of Ideon?

What we do isn’t easy but it is necessary. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it! Enrollment API’s and data standardization are here to stay and it’s amazing to watch our products and services bring our customers next-level benefits experiences.

What do you like about Ideon’s company culture?

There is an incredible amount of passion and commitment. The enthusiasm is present every day and in every employee. It is truly infectious!

Life

Favorite activity when you’re not working? 

I love being outside! I live on a 110-acre ranch in Colorado so long walks right outside my front door and bird watching are two of my favorite activities!

Favorite place you’ve traveled?

My favorite place that I have traveled to outside of the US was the Christmas Markets along the Rhine River in Germany. Inside the US, a recent trip to Gloucester, Massachusetts was an amazing reminder of how young our country is (and how old Germany is).

Interesting fact about yourself… Go!

I am a Denver, CO native. I grew up skiing in Vail and even met Robert Redford while I was there.