At 31 years old, Andrew McNeil knows he needs to prove himself when meeting with a prospective client.
“I couldn’t just go out [and say,] ‘Here are the plans, here are the rates,’” McNeil, principal at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma, Calif., and a 2017 EBA Rising Star in Advising, says about prospecting. Instead, he quickly learned he needed to be different.
In the North Bay area of California where his firm is based, unemployment is at 3% and employers are struggling to attract and retain talent. McNeil saw that as an opportunity to “reverse engineer,” he says, to figure out how employers can get the people they want — and retain them.
“It’s not benefits,” he explains. “Especially in the small-group market, benefits are all the same. Employers can offer identical packages. The focus that people put on benefits needs to change; they are one piece of a bigger picture.”
The idea is that employees — particularly millennials — would rather work for a company with a culture that fits them in lieu of higher salary or better benefits. McNeil designed a survey that went out to Arrow’s three dozen team members to better understand the needs of his employees. Incorporating the results is part of the process he embraces to create change in the workplace.
Six key angles
As a result of that survey, Arrow launched Culture Insights, an innovative process through which a personalized plan is developed for employers to help them operate at their highest potential by examining the company from six key angles: purpose, mission, values, company culture, HR and employee benefits.
It’s a process that has helped McNeil win clients. “When I go out to younger decision makers and talk about our philosophy and lay out those six angles, employee benefits is the last thing,” McNeil says. “You can’t put effective benefits in place if you don’t understand the culture and have a clear mission, purpose.”
“When I talk to people, [I] can tell it is refreshing that they have not heard that before,” he adds. “Many brokers are looking to push a health plan, which isn’t wrong, that’s been our business model, but it doesn’t seem like the best way to do it.”
McNeil has been in the business for a little more than 12 years and knows that freshness has allowed him to bring these innovative ideas. “It brings a different prospective because my experiences are different than someone who has been in the business 35 years and might be 65 years old,” he says. “You go through life and have different experiences and think different ways.”