Welcome to our partner profile series. Each month, we'll feature insights and perspectives from HR professionals and consultants working with a wide variety of clients to address today's most pressing issues.
This month: Archon, a full-service general agency that offers a premier suite of ancillary group benefits solutions to all-size markets, allowing their broker partners to grow and streamline their benefits.
Interview conducted by David Sherman, Director of Channel Partnerships and Strategic Alliances at PTO Exchange.
A Conversation with Mark Chai
Mark serves as a National Sales Director at Archon.
At Archon, its core purpose is to empower their broker partners so they can grow their business in an ever-changing industry and thrive in a competitive environment. Archon brings scalability, broader marketing, and a wide range of resources to ensure their brokers consistently evolve.
Mark has been in the ancillary benefits industry for almost 20 years.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and Archon.
I started my career as an ancillary benefits group rep straight out of the University of Miami back in 2003. I have had the good fortune to work with several amazing insurance carriers as a top-performing sales rep and sales leaders, including GE Financial, Genworth, Sunlife, Mutual of Omaha, MGIS, and Lincoln Financial, working with benefits brokers in many different markets, including Wichita, Kansas, Springfield, Missouri, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Las Vegas. I learned early in my career that most brokers craved knowledgeable and extremely responsive reps. I realized the key to success was don’t overpromise and always over-deliver. Those values are the pillars and foundation of Archon.
In short, Archon is an ancillary benefits-focused general agent (GA). We are contracted with close to 40 insurance carriers, and we provide an array of services for both these carriers and employee benefits brokers, specifically around nonmedical group products – dental, vision, life AD&D, LTD, STD, statutory disability, paid family leave, accident, critical illness, hospital indemnity, and long term care. We work with groups as small as two employees and as large as 20,000. We have found a niche in the market as many GA focus on medical and tend to target small groups. We tend to attract brokers with more complicated clients, specifically ancillary benefits. Some of the existing brokers and carrier rep partners have referred us to several new brokers. This is truly the best compliment, and we take that obligation to deliver very seriously.
2. As a general agency, I know you are responsible for bringing your broker partners cutting-edge benefits. What new benefits are you seeing out there, and which benefits are your broker partners asking for?
This is a fantastic question! When we launched Archon, we knew we had to bring more to our offering than just the ability to send out RFPs, collect proposals and build client presentations. We diligently interviewed and met with benefit brokers and account managers to understand the challenges HR teams were having. We spent time talking with our carrier partners and understanding their pain points. Through this exercise, we sought out key strategic partnerships that would help address some of these challenges. We have 15 different value-added partnerships designed to help brokerage teams create more value for their clients.
Being in the Bay Area and close to Silicon Valley, I have many friends that work at high-growth VC-funded tech companies. Their benefits used to start with catered breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all-you-can-eat snack bars, and yoga and meditation rooms. Now, most of these benefits are commonly seen outside of Silicon Valley to align with a key trend in our new WFH environment: flexibility.
There has been a huge interest in programs such as a lifestyle account program and a flexible PTO program. These benefits are designed to give employees more freedom and control over how they spend their dollars. Several brokers and clients have implemented PTO Exchange, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I am excited to see how your product evolves as the platform application is extremely unique.
3. With gas prices over $4.00 a gallon, and prescription costs going through the roof, what impact, if any, do you think inflation has had on employers’ decisions when choosing what benefits to offer their employees?
Ha, $4.00 a gallon! I wish gas was only $4.00. A few weeks ago, it was approaching $7.00 here in the Bay Area. All kidding aside, we are starting to see the impact of inflation with layoffs and pay freezes. Health insurance continues to be the number one cost for groups related to the benefits. Many groups still view dental, vision, life insurance, and disability insurance as part of their core benefits package to supplement health insurance. I think clients will scrutinize the value of their medical and ancillary packages more closely to determine what increased efficiencies can be created. There is a heightened interest in leveraging carrier APIs with the BenAdmin and HCM platforms to operationalize EOI, eligibility, plan build, and claims. At Archon, we pride ourselves on being technology agnostic and helping our broker partners navigate carriers' integration with various benefit platforms, whether it be Workday, UKG, ADP WFN, Ease, Navigator, Paylocity, Rippling, Web Benefits Design, PlanSource, Flock, etc.
4. Archon is a relatively new company. We have brokers and employers that read our newsletter. What do you want them to know about Archon?
We launched Archon amid COVID as we saw a complete shift in the business landscape. With work from home being embraced, it became much easier to do business with clients and brokers throughout the country. Our key was gaining the trust of our broker and carrier partners and inspiring confidence. It's amazing to see our organic growth in a little less than two years. We have eight sales reps nationally working with brokers in over 25 states. We are approaching $100,000,000 of enforced ancillary premium. We are so grateful to all the independent, regional, and national benefit brokerage firms that have entrusted Archon to assist them in marketing and servicing ancillary benefits.
At Archon, we pride ourselves on being ancillary benefits experts and assisting our benefit brokerage firm as an extension of their team. We are extremely proud of our carrier contracts and constantly strive to help them differentiate their unique competitive advantages and help clients and brokers under the value behind each carrier’s quoted rate. We work with a benefits broker on all size groups, and our ultimate goal is to be viewed as their practice leader for ancillary benefits and their ancillary marketing department.
We procured several value-added partnerships, including:
- Consolidating billing for all medical and ancillary products
- Benefit communication for all medical and ancillary products
- No-cost discount prescriptions and telemedicine
- IRS Employee Retention Credits
- Lifestyle accounts and stipend products
- Actuarial services
- Through our sister GA, Professional Group Plans, we can help our brokers quote group medical in NY, NJ, and CT, as well as stop loss
5. Hybrid work has changed the landscape. With so many employees working remotely, what trends have you seen to cater to this new work environment?
The rise of statutory disability paid family leave plans and payroll taxes for long-term care have created new expenses that clients need to budget for. Managing these PFLs is getting more complex, and benefits communication has never been more important. At Archon, we invested our resources in providing broker partners with a benefits communication platform that allows brokers and the HR team to better communicate their benefits online. The platform auto translates so it can be used universally by all employees and their dependents. We use data analytics to help track engagement and locations to get a better sense of where the workforce is shifting, allowing our benefits brokers to better plan for renewal discussion and open enrollment. Our carrier partners have seen the fruits of investment as voluntary benefits are averaging close to 40 percent participation. We know that benefit communication isn’t a once-a-year event; it’s an every new hire event.
Use PTO to Enhance Financial Wellness
PTO Exchange developed the first flexible benefits platform that allows employees to self-direct the value of their unused paid time off (PTO) for other needs and causes. The platform caters to employees’ individualized needs and different transitions in life (retirement accounts, student loan repayments, charitable donations, and more) – offering a choice and flexibility to control the value of their unused vacation. PTO Exchange helps companies stand out in a competitive job market, increase employee engagement, build loyalty, reduce balance sheet liabilities, and strengthen culture.
Learn more about how PTO Exchange can help with financial wellness - download our free data sheet below.
- It's Time to Rethink Paid Leave (free research report)
Published on Aug 18, 2022 by Dave Sherman