Service packages, insurance trends – what moves connoisseurs? – Herald of Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS – As winter deepens in the region, people’s thoughts often turn to warmer climes. But for business people, winter brings another topic to think about: insurance.

Prairie Business spoke to an insurance specialist to see what’s currently in the spotlight in the industry, as well as some people at companies who shared some new things their companies are doing in relation to employee benefits.

“Often insurance is just one part of a company’s day-to-day operations,” said Casey Holland, Senior Insurance and Risk Advisor at Vaaler Insurance. It’s a crucial component to peace of mind, especially during a catastrophic loss “or even a simple loss,” he said.

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Casey Holland

Winter (and spring) ailments

As trends evolve, some things stay the same.

“One of the key factors for companies is workers’ compensation insurance,” Holland said. “Where we live, slips and falls are big problems for employers; wet floors, the icy conditions. For those who drive in vehicles, this is also a problem. It’s one of those areas where you just have to be careful to talk to your maintenance staff and make sure the right deicer, salt or gravel is placed in the right places to avoid injury to these very important workers.”

In short, make sure your insurance covers mishaps — and Mother Nature’s other assaults. Before the snow melts, there is one more point to consider.

“We recommend flood insurance, and the number one thing to remember when buying flood insurance is when spring comes — and here in the Red River Valley, as we like to say — we need to start thinking about flood insurance in January.”

The reason, he said, is that the national flood program has a 30-day wait.

“If you’re looking to get insurance and you know it’s going to be a big deal, make sure you plan ahead 30 days before the actual event because you can’t call and say I want insurance coverage now. … If you call on March 15 and the flood actually occurs on March 31, you don’t have insurance coverage because there’s that 30-day waiting period.”

What companies offer

Jessica Jackson, senior business advisor and pensions specialist at Alerus, has a question.

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“When I meet with clients, I ask a lot of questions,” she said, noting that one of the most important is, “What can I do to help you?”

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Jessica Jackson

A good question that elicits many answers.

She said that when she discusses her employee benefits with individuals, one of the frequently discussed issues is financial well-being, which includes a range of issues such as employee education plans, health savings accounts, flexible savings accounts, among others.

“We talk about what works, what might not work with their existing providers, things like that,” she said.

In the discussions, they will “discuss different contribution schedules, defining characteristics, different vesting schedules. Long story short,” she said, “we’re going to sit down and review the compliance data — and what I mean by that, we’re going to review the average deferral percentages and participation rates in the plan. We’re going to talk about staff training and what that looks like and how it’s going to look like in the coming year. We will review their investment report and discuss these parameters.

She said since the pandemic, “players are asking more about what they can do or offer their team in terms of financial wellness options,” she said.

Retirement provision is a big issue.

“We’re seeing new team members coming on board, and they’re more financially savvy, if you will,” Jackson said, noting that more and more people are asking about retirement options these days. “Different industries may experience this more often than others, but overall I would agree that I’ve heard this feedback from employers, that their people are asking about it.”

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Brenna Großbauer

Sharon Teeples

Brenna Grossbauer, chief human resources officer at Starion Bank, said Starion was in the midst of open registration when she spoke to Prairie Business on Nov. 10 and noted some changes.

“This year, for example, we have added another public holiday to our holiday list,” said Großbauer. “Many of the changes to our 401k program are designed to make it more competitive in the marketplace and to provide better overall value to our employees, and that’s why we’ve changed the matching post.”

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The company has also changed the vesting schedule and is introducing automatic enrollment — a nice feature, she said, but one that doesn’t take away any options from the employee.

“When a new employee joins us, they’re automatically enrolled in a 401k program,” she explained. “They still have the option, they have complete control if they don’t want to contribute for whatever reason, or they can choose not to; but we enroll them automatically, and that’s just to encourage people to participate.”

She said the company goes “roughly halfway” and hires employees at 3% so they get the same for their money. They can increase or decrease the amount they contribute if they wish.

Starion Bank also offers a profit sharing program.

“The contribution there is a maximum of 6% of their voluntary contributions to people’s 401K plans and is based on the performance of the bank,” she said. “At the beginning of each year we set our goals; We’re growing and depending on the various milestones or hurdles or financial targets that we set for ourselves, wherever that may be, that also determines the profit sharing.”

Emergency Savings Accounts

Another thing employers might consider offering employees is an emergency savings account.

“This is something that’s relatively new to Alerus and something we’re pretty proud of,” Jackson said, “essentially a way for employers to offer savings opportunities to their employees.

And why is that important?

“Well,” Jackson explained, “it’s important because if an employee isn’t sure they have a decent emergency fund set aside, they’re less likely to contribute to their retirement plan.” I know this because I’ve met literally thousands of employees while providing employee training and I keep hearing this feedback. They will say, “I know I need to contribute to my plan, but I haven’t saved enough (amount). I haven’t set up an emergency account or things like debt management. I have this huge debt that I need to address and then I can contribute to my plan.”

In principle, an emergency savings account enables the employee to easily deduct wages. “You can set up this automatic deduction from your paycheck into an emergency savings account,” she said. “It’s super simple, easy and you can change the amount at any time.”

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Nancy Bjorndahl has been with DCN for a quarter of a century and has seen many changes during that time. The limited liability company that operates as Dakota Carrier Network started with just a handful of employees but now has about 40 in two offices, Bismarck and Fargo.

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Nancy Bjorndal

It’s a good company, said Bjorndahl, who serves as managing director. She said it offers a range of perks for its employees, including a competitive insurance benefits package.

“People are surprised when they hear that we have five options,” she said.

Some new developments in recent years, which will continue this year, include an option for a Health Savings Account (HSA) – an account set aside to pay for health care expenses – which Bjorndahl says is trending in the industry these days. DCN first started offering this option last year.

“It has to be offered with a high-deductible health plan, though,” she said. “That’s why we offer a total of five tariffs. Three of these are sort of your traditional plans with different premiums, and then we offer two HSA-compliant plans with high deductibles.”

Insurance benefits as binding and binding instruments

Holland sums it up like this:

“I think there are really three things that are big issues for employers right now when it comes to insurance. What we hear is the personnel issue in the first place.

“Almost every single company we speak to is actively looking for new team members or trying to keep those team members. Employers really want to see their options when it comes to employee health and benefits solutions. Employers and employees look at what brings them the maximum benefit.

“They hope their benefit packages will be a differentiator to retain talent and attract new talent. The most important area is probably staffing, no matter what industry you happen to be in. … There’s a wages competition out there – who brings the highest dollar – but you can’t just look at it all the time; You also need to look at the benefits packages because those dollars are also coming from your paycheck.”

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