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11:37 AM
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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Guardian Study Shows Online Enrollment Pays Off

The insurer's investments in the online channel over the past few years have coincided with an increase among all age groups in preference.

It's open enrollment season here at TechWeb, and at other companies across the country. And, according to research from Guardian Life, many employees everywhere are getting acquainted re-acquainted with their online benefits portals.

Guardian recently released a study titled Enrollment and the Web: The New Norm. It says that online enrollment has more than doubled in five years, including a healthy 8% increase over last year. Sixty-two percent of full-time employees completed their most recent benefits enrollment online, and nine out of 10 say it's their preferred channel for doing so.

In perusing the report, I was reminded that Pete Atwater, who was an Insurance & Technology Elite 8 honoree last year in his position as the CIO of group insurance for Guardian, named online capabilities as a major focus point for him in the several years prior. (Atwater is still with Guardian, but is now the CIO of its individual life business.)

As we reported at the time:

Guardian has rolled out a number of online tools over the past year designed to make its offerings clearer and more easily available to its group life clients' employees. Online self-enrollment was kicked off in August 2009 as part of the company's Guardian Anywhere portal. Though originally only renewals could be processed online, recently the capability was extended to new customers as well, Atwater reports. At the same time, he adds, he is leading an initiative to improve the renewal infrastructure and standardize the process across regions so that information about a renewing plan is more accessible to underwriters.

"We're just wrapping up a major period of investment in our platforms to enable a better customer experience," Atwater says. "Online enrollment is a real focus for us. We look at it as a win-win-win for the employee, employer and ourselves."

Among the benefits, according to Atwater, online enrollment reduces the amount of paper in the carrier's system. It also enables the company to better communicate its value proposition and helps increase participation rates, he adds. Smaller companies like it because they might have little or no human resources department, and larger companies expect that their insurance partners will have the capability, Atwater says, explaining that receiving enrollment data electronically allows the company to pre-populate some fields, reduces cycle times and increases accuracy.

Guardian also launched a website for employers and brokers, About Employee Benefits, this year. The site includes proprietary research reports, legislative updates, case studies, interactive tools, videos and tips on simplifying the enrollment process for employees. An extension of that site for consumers, the Life and Disability Insurance Explorer, aims to help employees determine their coverage needs in a post-healthcare reform world.

"We've put a lot of effort into the content we put in front of the employees to make sure its understandable and clear, and we think we have a very good online enrollment offering," Atwater says.

Nice to see an IT initiative producing tangible results for the business side to celebrate.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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