Arrow Benefits Group Develops Proprietary Process That’s Bringing in More Business

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.”

BioMarin wins FDA approval for life-changing drug for kids — with a $700,000-per-year cost

Rare disease drug developer BioMarin Pharamceutical Inc. won regulatory approval Thursday of a drug that promises to change the course of a fatal childhood neurodegenerative disease.

San Rafael-based BioMarin’s Brineura is the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat children with CLN2, a form of Batten disease. And patients will pay for the innovation — $702,000 a year, or $27,000 per carton every other week — though the company (NASDAQ: BMRN) said it will offer hefty discounts.

It took four years from BioMarin’s first clinical trial of the drug to FDA approval, a relatively fast timeline in an industry that says drug development generally takes 10-plus years and more than $1 billion.

As a side benefit of approval, BioMarin also will receive a rare pediatric disease priority review voucher, which it can use to cut months off the typical FDA 10-month review of another drug — or it can sell the voucher to another company. BioMarin sold a voucher in 2014 to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. for $67.5 million.

Available in June, Brineura is an enzyme replacement therapy that slows the rate of decline in most patients with the disease, which leads to seizures, loss of sight and speech and motor skills and, eventually, death by the time children are 8-12 years old.

There are 14 known variations of Batten disease, but CLN2 is believed to be one of the most prevalent subsets of the disease. Every year, about 20 children are born in the United States with the disease; there are about 500 U.S. children overall affected by the disease.

CLN2 patients can’t make a specific enzyme that collects neuronal garbage, so neurons can’t properly recycle in the brain.

BioMarin, led by CEO Jean-Jacques Bienaimé, said the cost of the drug is due to the “innovation factor,” the small number of patients and manufacturing costs.

“Treating children with CLN2 disease requires an extraordinary amount of collaboration between families, hospitals, advocates and physicians,” Bienaimé said in a press release. “We are grateful for the partnership of all those involved and look forward to continuing to work together to make Brineura accessible to children who may benefit.”

Basin Street Properties Buys Seven Santa Rosa Buildings

Basin Street Properties has made a big expansion to its holdings of commercial property in Sonoma and Marin counties, buying seven Santa Rosa office buildings from a real estate investor and developer known for some of the area’s more prominent buildings.

Reno-based Basin Street’s Santa Rosa portfolio now exceeds 1 million square feet with the purchase of 337,360 square feet of space from Simons & Woodard. Architect Larry Simons, who turns 80 in May, has been designing and developing Sonoma County buildings for five decades.

The purchase price wasn’t disclosed.
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