Human Resources Risk Is a Business Risk

We got the new CEBE chair’s insights on five risk questions.
By Katie King Posted on May 27, 2024

In this Q&A Hawker discusses her new perspective on risk management, clients’ top concerns, and why benefits executives are willing to openly collaborate.

Hawker begins her two-year term as CEBE chair on May 28.

You recently stepped into a new role at Hylant where you have purview over both employee benefits and P&C growth. Has it changed your perspective on risk management?

One of the things that I think has been really telling for me is the concept—and I’ve always said it—that human capital risk is a business risk. When I took the role, our CEO’s whole commentary was around connecting the dots. And it is the chief growth officer’s role. I jokingly call it “chief dot-connecter” because it really is about thinking more holistically as a firm in terms of risk.

For me, it has been an “aha” moment. I thought I had a good idea of the places where there was just natural connectivity [between benefits and property and casualty]. I think I’m learning every day that there are more natural places for connectivity, and to really have a risk conversation as opposed to a benefits or P&C conversation. But we, in our business, tend to get very myopic around benefits and property and casualty.

I have a natural naïveté as it relates to property and casualty because I’ve been on the periphery of it my entire career. But now I can ask the questions that people that are deep in [the P&C business] never asked. It has enlightened a lot of conversations we have on growth opportunities. Why do we think about it that way? How do we take it out of an “insurance” conversation and have a “risk” conversation?

What are you looking forward to as you assume this leadership role with The Council of Employee Benefits Executives?

It keeps my connectivity to what is still my heart. The ability to stay engaged [with employee benefits] is very exciting for me because it is still my passion. I’ve been in the business for 28 years solely on the benefits brokerage side. I bring that expertise in some respects, but I also just love being part of such a collaborative group of individuals. We’re competitors on a day-in day-out basis, but you come into that meeting room and we are more than colleagues—we’re fast friends. I’ve forged a lot of relationships as part of CEBE, and it’s just such an honor to be able to be thought of and come in as the chair.

I think it also demonstrates what we are doing for female leadership in the insurance industry. I think that’s really important as it tends to be pretty male-dominated. I like to plant a flag for female leaders in the insurance business. Hopefully, I represent appropriately!

Where does that collaborative spirit come from?

The Affordable Care Act really brought us together as a brokerage industry—understanding it, going through the challenges of it, but also realizing the benefits that came for the employee members and our clients. All of us navigating such a monumental change to the employer-sponsored system together, we all believe with our whole heart what we do day in and day out for our clients in the employer-sponsored space is incredibly valuable.

Plus, going through the challenges of the regulatory environment on the benefit side has just never stopped. It has been much more tumultuous than the property and casualty side of the business from a regulatory and compliance perspective. That’s where we find that common bond. We know we’re all in it for one thing, which is to preserve the employer-sponsored market, because we know that, for all its foibles, it is the best place to control costs, it’s the best place for care, it’s the best place to innovate. /p>

What do you think CEBE’s biggest opportunity is?

There are two that we have to keep line of sight on. One is data transparency. How do we get to a place of true transparency with health [pricing] data and prescription drug data, and what can we do with that data to impact costs? That’s a key priority for us to continue working on legislative and regulatory changes that trickle down to the employer-sponsored market and eventually to individuals.

The second issue is prescription drugs. It’s one of those double-edged swords, right? There’s so much money in Big Pharma, and there is so much opportunity to treat and cure diseases and conditions that we could never heal before. But the costs of that are so unbearable at this point. We’ve got to be cognizant of what gene therapies and other medications mean from a cost perspective.

What is the top concern you are hearing from clients right now?

It’s still cost. If they are a small business, how do they afford [benefits packages]? From a recruiting and retention standpoint, how do they afford not to offer them? And the fact that the health of their employees is not really improving. What do we do about wellness plans? Are they getting the bang for their buck? It all flows back to the idea that our health is not improving as Americans. Those outcomes and the cost of them are all being borne by the employers.

They’re looking for innovation. They’re looking for how to engage their employees, especially the newest generation. Employers are starting to see which benefits are having more of an impact on younger workers. For example, time off has become a really hot topic. Also, how do you connect and engage in a hybrid environment? There is a lot of engagement discussion, but the number-one issue is always cost. How do I control it? How do I control it without continuing to shift cost over to my employees?

Katie King Vice President, Health Policy & Strategy, The Council Read More

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