- Covering everything from your life to your dog, voluntary benefits, whether called "enhanced" or "elective" benefits, are a growing part of the employee benefits industry. A new acquisition may be proof of that growth.
- According to Nelson Griswold, a nationally-known agency and benefits expert, the recent acquisition of benefits enrollment and communications Univers by Aon Hewitt, one of the world's largest benefits brokerages and HR consulting firms, drives home the message that voluntary benefits have matured in the marketplace.
- Griswold, writing at Employee Benefits Advisor, says Univers was the first of its kind with a national footprint and remains tops in its space. He adds that benefits communication and enrollment firms have gone from local and regional entities to "sophisticated and professional" operations – a requirement for these types of benefits to get real traction among employees.
Griswold writes that he did some consulting for Aon, and experienced first-hand the company's objective to boost its portfolio and value proposition through these types of benefits. Voluntary benefits continue to expand in scope (pet insurance, cancer insurance, homeowners/auto insurance, etc.) and typically are paid for by employees, sometimes at a discount and with payroll deduction.
Aon gobbling up Univers is a serious sign by the former that it's "all-in" when it comes to enhanced benefits, he writes. Griswold also notes that many large benefits brokerage firms, including Mercer, Brown & Brown, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. and Aon, are involved in major initiatives to cross-sell supplemental benefits.
The Aon-Univers marriage may signal to CHROs and benefits leaders that voluntary or enhanced benefits could soon make the difference between remaining competitive or falling behind. At the very least, Aon’s acquisition of Univers makes a lot of sense for both parties, and signals large growth in the space.