Optimistic EBCs are planning for growth

  • More than half of Employee Benefit Consultants are optimistic about the year ahead and two out of five plan to recruit
  • But concerns about rising benefit costs for employers are increasing

 Employee benefit consultants (EBCs) are increasingly optimisitic about business prospects for the year ahead with more than half expecting growth, new research[i] from MetLife UK shows.

Its half-yearly EBC Pulse survey shows that 52% of firms are optimistic for their business over the next 12 months, a slight increase on the 48% who were optimistic when the research was first conducted.  The number of firms planning to recruit and invest in technology and training is also increasing.

The nationwide survey of more than 200 EBCs found that nearly two out of five (39%) plan to recruit more staff in the year ahead while 57% will increase investment in technology and 54% will invest more in training for staff. Results for all three measures have ticked up from six months ago when 36% planned to increase recruitment while 55% expected to invest more in technology and 49% planned to boost training.

Growing optimism is translating into business growth with 45% of firms expecting increased profits and sales compared with 42% previously. Companies are however expecting modest growth with just 6% of those surveyed planning for significant growth compared with 2% six months ago.

There are however some storm clouds – around four out of five (80%) of EBCs say the rising cost of benefit provision for employers is a concern for the next two years. When MetLife first asked the question the number was 73% who said it was a worry over the next two years.

Worries about cost are increasing concerns about demonstrating the value for employers of providing benefits – 63% now say linking benefits to improved productivity is a concern compared with 58% the first time the questioned was asked.

The potential impact of Brexit remains a worry – 77% of EBCs questioned said it was a concern over the next two years but that is virtually unchanged from the 78% recorded six months ago.

Adrian Matthews, Employee Benefits Director, MetLife UK said: “The employee benefits market is proving resilient in the face of economic and political uncertainty with EBCs increasingly optimistic about their own businesses.

“More than half of EBCs are now confident about the year ahead and that is translating into increased recruitment and investment as well as business growth despite worries about the rising cost to employers of benefits.

“Our own research shows that employees increasingly value the benefits they receive through their employer (source: EBTS 2017) and that satisfaction with benefits is growing, highlighting the need for providers to help EBCs and employers in communicating the value of benefits to staff.

“Indeed, in uncertain times, employees are looking for ways in which they can protect themselves and their families from the impact of disruption to their incomes as well as looking to their employer to provide purpose and motivation.  Employee benefits, as part of a well thought-through employee value proposition, are invaluable in helping employees feel motivated and engaged.”

The EBC Pulse survey shows that EBCs believe that the industry will continue to see mergers and acquisitions in the year ahead – around 38% of firms said they planned to acquire other companies in the year ahead slightly down on the 42% who said they would buy firms the first time the question was asked.

MetLife is established as one of the UK’s largest Group Life providers by the number of schemes it insures[ii] and the sixth largest Group Income provider by premium. It has generated significant market momentum through its focus understanding customer needs and by employing staff focused on delivering customer excellence supported by strong partnerships.

[i]Independent research carried out by Pollright among a representative sample of 202 employee benefit consultants using an online methodology during March and April 2018

[ii]Swiss Re Group Watch 2017 Report

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