From all of us at the combined Employee Navigator / Ease teams, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your continued support. We hope you find this update on our business helpful.
It has been six months since the close of the acquisition of Ease and we now have a clearer line of sight to the work ahead of us as well as the tremendous opportunity in front of our licensed brokers and partners. As anticipated, our acquisition has given us important insight into how we may build even more innovative products for brokers and it’s hard for us to contain our excitement when we plug some of Ease’s features into Employee Navigator’s resilient and scalable infrastructure.
As we fully integrate Ease and Employee Navigator and roll out improvements to our platform, we recognize the importance of clear and effective communication with our customers. In addition to our live webinars, we will be following up with clear and consistent written communications to allow all customers to have access to the same information on their own time. As part of this first update, we are pleased to share some details on what our team has been working on as well as responses to some frequently asked questions.
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One of the key topics I want to highlight before discussing any updates is our understanding of the support and software needs required for brokers to support smaller businesses. In retrospect, and to put it bluntly, I think Employee Navigator has been overly focused on scaling integration operations at the expense of supporting the extensive services brokers routinely provide to small companies. After personally speaking with dozens of brokers supporting small companies, we have an improved understanding of the services we need to provide to this important business segment, and we are hard at work building changes to our software platform to support our small business customers.
On to the integration updates:
Broker licensing fees will not be changing in 2024: We’re excited to announce that most Ease brokers will not see a fee change in 2024. There are approximately 100 Ease licensees that do not pay any fees, have very low fees, or are part of a national brokerage contracts which need to be merged and adjusted.
Migration tools: Employee Navigator will release migration tools to automate moving a case from Ease to Employee Navigator so that this does not have to be done manually by brokers. The anticipated release date of the conversion tool is April 2024. This company-based tool will move most data from Ease to Employee Navigator (including but not limited to):
- Benefit plan configuration details and documents
- Employees and their dependents + employee notes
- Current enrollments
- Company details
- HR users
- Classes, departments, divisions, etc.
- HR documents
Operational support for brokers transitioning customers to Employee Navigator: Employee Navigator has a multi-pronged strategy to support brokers through the migration process.
1. Employee Navigator’s API with Ancillary carriers means you can build a suite of plans in minutes. These APIs eliminate lots of the plan setup work that brokers are currently doing manually. This technology has always been our long-term strategy to reduce the amount of time it takes for a broker to build a company on Employee Navigator.
2. Employee Navigator will be expanding the Teams functionality to allow Ease brokers to invite GAs, service providers, and other third parties into their accounts to help transition companies if desired.
3. Carriers have expressed interest in licensing Employee Navigator’s Team feature to help brokers transition companies.
4. Ease’s integration support team members will be trained to help brokers with the transition.
Ease software features to be ported to Employee Navigator: We will be porting just about every Ease feature that is not currently available in Employee Navigator. We are currently tracking approximately 120 features to be ported. A small sample includes:
- Carrier enrollment forms
- Team invitations: Expand Employee Navigator’s invitations to mimic Ease’s Partner Portal
- Add 2nd voluntary life plan (~ 6% of companies)
- Expand Benefit Allowance to all plans (2.7% of companies)
- Support for pet insurance: (2% of groups)
- Expand Employee Navigator’s medical employer contribution options
- Do not require HDHP enrollment for HSA deferrals
- HRIS: Add job titles
- Enrollment: Running total of payroll deductions
- API for agency management systems
- Integrations: Mapping for plan codes
- Employee notes and documents
- Support for custom fields
- Payroll Integrations: Support exchange of classes and provide employer medical contributions
- Renew plans in bulk
- Push quoting census to quote aggregators
- Enhanced broker reporting
- Improved support for moving companies following BORs and merging national agencies
- Updates to Employee Navigator’s “Wall” used to show brokers and HR all activity (adds, terms, etc.).
- The Vericred rate library made it easy to build ACA plans. This feature will be added to Employee Navigator.
- GA rate libraries
Integration-related improvements coming to Ease: We have not forgotten the importance of supporting our Ease customers and our team is planning some enhancements to the Ease software platform:
- Develop a tool to help identify employees who are missing key data fields which are creating carrier errors (and a lot of broker tasks).
- Improved navigation to locate carrier errors.
- Improved tool that assigns errors to broker users.
- Requiring income when employees are enrolled in salary-based benefits such as life and disability and SS# for integrated employees.
Operational improvements at Ease: In addition to improvements to the software platform we are working on the following operational improvements at Ease:
- The backlog of companies to be integrated is almost eliminated.
- Significantly improved the response time to brokers with integration connection issues.
- Directly contact brokers who have a backlog of errors to help fix those errors.
Licensing and training of Ease brokers on Employee Navigator: Employee Navigator has conducted two rounds of virtual training sessions and two onsite training sessions for Ease brokers not currently using Employee Navigator that included over 1,500 Ease users. We will pause this training for the remainder of the year due to Open Enrollment and will begin again in Q1 2024.
Recommendations for brokers regarding data quality: Ease does not have comprehensive data validation which results in carrier integrations errors. We recommend:
1. Brokers should not use dummy data for the following fields since they are very difficult to fix in a carrier system: SS#, Date of Birth, Date of Hire, Termination Date, Plan Start Date, Plan End Date. Accurately entering these data fields will save you time in the long run.
2. Enter terminations and new hires quickly. The most common error occurs when terminations and new hires are completed outside of the enrollment window. Ease can’t adjust these on behalf of brokers.
Ease’s Premium HRIS: Ease currently offers a premium HRIS component which is priced at $1 PEPM and up. Employee Navigator plans to release a premium HRIS product as part of the integration which will include improvements to Employee Navigator’s current HRIS tool and will be packaged with our PTO feature.
Q: Do I need to start moving customers off Ease now before the migration tool is available?
A: No, this does not need to be a priority for any Ease customers before Open Enrollment this Fall.
Q: As an Ease broker, what system should I renew groups on this Fall?
A: Ease brokers should renew their groups on Ease for Open Enrollment 2023.
Q: As an Ease broker, what system should I put new groups on?
A: Brokers using Ease should put new groups on Ease through this Fall 2023. If Ease is the better system for a client because of a limitation with Employee Navigator, the client should go on Ease.
Q: What does Employee Navigator expect next year’s Open Enrollment to look like for both systems?
A: The current plan is that all groups renewing after January 1st, 2025, will renew on Employee Navigator. That does not mean Ease will be turned off on January 1st, 2025, just that we expect all renewals to occur on Employee Navigator after that date.
Q: What is the timeline for sunsetting Ease?
A: We do not have a date for when Ease will be formally sunset. Our timeline that all groups renewing after January 1st, 2025, will renew on Employee Navigator does not mean Ease will be turned off on January 1st, 2025 or that all existing 75,000 groups currently on Ease will have been migrated to Employee Navigator. We are just communicating that we expect all renewals to occur on Employee Navigator after that date. That date is a goal of ours and not a deadline. Our priority is to move all Ease’s key features from to Employee Navigator and to build a migration tool to make the transition as seamless as possible for brokers and your customers.
Q: If there is a vendor integrated with Ease but not Employee Navigator, will those vendors have an opportunity to integrate with Employee Navigator?
A: Yes. While Employee Navigator has more integrations (350) in comparison to Ease (98), the plan is to add all Ease integrations to Employee Navigator. These conversations are already underway. There are approximately 11 TPAs, four insurance carriers, and four fringe benefit partners currently integrated with Ease and not Employee Navigator that we are talking to regarding integration. Ultimately, each of those vendors will have to determine if they want to proceed with integrating with Employee Navigator.
Q: How does Employee Navigator’s support model work for brokers?
A: Employee Navigator has a two-tier support model:
- Tier 1: All users have access to training and an online support site.
- Tier 2: Premier users can call Support and/or submit support tickets. Depending on the license tier a broker purchases, they are provided 1–2 premier users and can add new ones as needed. All users at an agency have the same access to Employee Navigator. For brokers new to Employee Navigator, you can think of a Premier User as a point of contact for our team, it has no impact on what they can do in the product, they are just the users who can call into our Support Team or submit tickets with questions or issues. Some of our philosophies around Support include:
- Support is not a cost center. Rather, providing great support is a long-term strategic advantage. Employee Navigator invests heavily in training and retention of that team.
- The average tenure of the Support Team at Employee Navigator is 2x that of Ease. Retention is so important to us because of how long it takes to become an expert in Employee Navigator.
- Employee Navigator has continued to hire for the Support Team to ensure we can continue providing the same high-quality support to a larger customer base.
Q: How many employees and office locations does Employee Navigator have?
A: We currently have over 316 employees with office locations in Bethesda, MD, Frederick, MD, Omaha, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and San Francisco.
Q: What else has Employee Navigator been working on?
- Integrating Ease employees into Employee Navigator. We are well underway with training Ease employees on Employee Navigator’s platform and vice versa. Additionally, Ease employees have begun our insurance and culture training. We have also invested in having many Ease employees come to Employee Navigator offices to get to know the company and employees better.
- Completed a debt raise with the sole purpose of providing liquidity to Ease shareholders and investors following the acquisition. This was possible because Employee Navigator has been profitable since 2015 and as of July 1st, Ease was operating profitably on a standalone basis for the first time in its history. The team at Employee Navigator has been and will continue to be focused on ensuring the business is in the strongest financial position to give confidence to our customers over the long term.
- Began discussions with integrated carriers about the future fee structure. Ease’s EaseConnect+ fee structure revealed that, in some instances, Ease fees were negatively impacting premium and carrier payments such as tech credits and GA compensation. We are working to implement an updated fee structure with integrated carriers that does not impact 1) premiums 2) broker commission & bonus 3) GA commission or 4) tech credits.
- Updated Ease’s ticketing system to improve the speed of responses and ensure we have insight into ticket issues and trends which allows us to better prioritize Ease software needs.
- Began discussions with the General Agents Ease has relationships with to make sure we understand what features need to be built so Employee Navigator can support those GAs.
Thank you for being a valued customer. Please continue to ask our team questions as you have them. We look forward to serving you for many years to come.
CEO Employee Navigator