James Crook interviews the different stakeholders involved in bringing the MGIS and Employee Navigator partnership to fruition.

He speaks with Jeff Brunken, President of MGIS; Paula Hanson, AVP Benefit Technology Solutions at Reliance Matrix; Jessica Myer, Manager – Benefits Technology Solutions at Reliance Matrix; and Maggie Wills, a Senior EDI Account Manager at MGIS.

This episode explores the what, how, and why of this new partnership.

James Crook (00:06):

You are listening to the Broker Advisor Podcast, where we explore the disability insurance market specifically as it pertains to protecting the income of doctors.


The goal of this podcast is to arm you with interesting tidbits and anecdotes you can share with your clients and prospects. We have found that the two best ways to do that are to speak with doctors who have suffered from a disability and to pick the brains of industry experts who excel in their fields.


As always, this podcast is brought to you by MGIS, insurance doctors expect. If you like what you hear, please remember to rate and subscribe to the show. Thank you.


Recently, MGIS and Employee Navigator, one of the nation’s leading benefits in HR solutions for brokers, announced a new partnership to bring leading edge HR and benefits technology integrations to doctor group practices. The new partnership builds on MGIS’s relationship with Reliance Matrix, a leading benefits and absence provider and its unique Employee Navigator integration. Today we’re going to take you through the why, what and how of this new partnership.

Jeff Brunken (01:24):

Our focus is providing disability insurance for doctors in group practice.

James Crook (01:29):

You just heard Jeff Brunken. Jeff is the president of MGIS. To understand the partnership with Employee Navigator in context, I asked him to explain the history of the company to me.

Jeff Brunken (01:42):

We’ve been doing that since about the time doctors began forming group practices, which was back in the early ’70s. Back then it was basically individual doctors, Marcus Welby and so forth, and then over time these group practices began forming. But there wasn’t really a, back then, there wasn’t a group doctor disability insurance industry, and so MGIS was the first. We’ve really been the leader in that segment ever since, and that’s involved a lot of innovation in the product, our service model, how we work with brokers, how we support the whole sales process, the insurance carriers that we partner with. It’s all part of how we specialize in doctors’ disability insurance for groups.

James Crook (02:42):

I asked Jeff to expound on the market changing over time and why MGIS felt Employee Navigator was a critical piece of its continued success.

Jeff Brunken (02:52):

Benefits administration systems is something that didn’t exist 20 years ago. It’s certainly part of the industry now. It’s a big part of how brokers work with their clients to help those clients enroll their employees in all the different employee benefit coverages that they work with. It’s become more of an issue or more of a presence in our area, disability insurance.


I mean, back in the day, historically, most of what we did was employer paid. It was just basically an automatic thing. The employer would just pay for it and so forth. But a good portion, almost half of what we do now, is voluntary. Everything’s expensive, and so employers really have been trending toward having the doctors in particular voluntarily sign up for this coverage.


Employee Navigator is one of the prominent benefit administration of ben admin systems out there. Because of our model, because we administer on behalf of our carrier and we’re very tightly integrated operationally, technologically and so forth with our carrier partners, we really did need a carrier partner that was committed to innovating technology, integrating and so forth with us. We can’t just do these things on our own. We need the insurance company to work with us. Employee Navigator is in our segment of the market is, if not the, it’s one of the most prominent benefit administration systems. We work with about 30 ben admin systems, but as far as true live integrated data technology both ways and so forth, this is really a pioneering step for us with Employee Navigator.

James Crook (04:59):

MGIS, one of the things that MGIS has been known for is the white-glove service model. I’m wondering about what, in your opinion, what is maybe unique or interesting about what MGIS is doing with Employee Navigator?

Jeff Brunken (05:19):

To really leverage the capabilities of a ben admin system like Employee Navigator, the broker works with a client to basically have that benefits administration system act as the system of record. When the client is in there updating their employee census and so forth or making changes and so forth, that’s the system of record and so forth. The trick really is making that work seamlessly with the other in place where here at MGIS, we bill everything and we remit quite a bit of financial data back to the insurance company and so there’s tons of data going back and forth all over the place. For that ben admin system to be the system of record, there’s quite a bit of work that needs to go in behind the scenes, and that’s what we’ve been doing with Reliance. They’ve got dedicated teams. So do we. These teams have been working together for months really to make this work and test it and all of that.

James Crook (06:36):

Is there anything else of note or interesting about how MJIS is working with Reliance to make this Employee Navigator system work?

Jeff Brunken (06:49):

What they’re doing is unique on their own side too. Their implementation with Navigator is unique. They use third-party technology that’s quite a bit different than what brokers will see with other carriers. We were able to leverage what they had already done to make it work from our side, because we do list-billing, we’ve got complex coverages that work differently than most LTD coverages, we’ve got different types of plan designs that are complex. To get all that to work where you’re considering, again, Employee Navigator is the system of record, yet on the back end, we’re matching that all up with all this complexity. You can just imagine all the different things need to be worked through. Yeah, there’s a ton of commitment on their side, great attitude, great just culture of partnership that has been so obvious to us at MGIS among the Reliance Matrix folks.

Paula Hanson (08:01):

I’m Paula Hanson. I’m the AVP of Benefits Technology Solution, and by that I’m in charge of our platform partnerships and setting up all of the integrations between Reliance Matrix and our third party vendors.

Jessica Myer (08:20):

Hi, I’m Jessica Myer, and I’m the manager of our Benefit Technology Solutions team. My team works on the individual case level builds with our integrated platforms.

James Crook (08:30):

After speaking with Jeff Brunken, we wanted to talk to Paula Hanson and Jessica Myer at Reliance Matrix. Paula and Jessica have worked closely with MGIS to make sure that the MGIS Employee Navigator connection goes off without a hitch. I asked Paula to talk to us about Reliance Matrix’s history with Employee Navigator and what makes Reliance’s approach to Employee Navigator unique.

Paula Hanson (08:53):

Reliance Matrix and Employee Navigator have been partners since 2020, and we felt this was a very important strategic relationship that we needed to bring to market. We were able to do that in 2021 with our go-live and our integration. But in our small to mid-market segment, we found that this was a very, very important platform for our brokers and their ability to provide enrollment and benefit administration solutions for their clients, and so an integration with Employee Navigator allowed us to become a partner.


The criteria from the brokers in this space was that they really preferred to do business with carriers that had a partnership and an integration with Navigator. To stay relevant in that space for our brokers, we formalized the relationship and went to market in 2021. When we went to market, we did it a little bit differently. Our integration was thought out through the eyes of the customer and the broker and how could we provide maximum efficiencies for them on the platform. We did it in a unique way that took the burden of billing and EOI off their plates. We didn’t go to market asking for files and mapping and error reports and monthly audits. We want to use the platform as the system of record and enable them to have a one-stop shop for everything that they want to do for Reliance Matrix on the Employee Navigator platform.

James Crook (10:32):

Excellent. Now entering into the relationship with MGIS, when did everyone realize there was this opportunity to connect MGIS to Employee Navigator through this existing relationship that you had?

Paula Hanson (10:48):

For all the same reasons that the relationship was important to Reliance Matrix, it was also important to MGIS. MGIS was able to leverage all the efficiencies we created for our customers and still extend the same white-glove concierge service you have grown to expect from the MGIS team. All in all, this was a win-win for both of our organizations to formalize and go to market with a strategy that would enable us to continue to provide everything that you love from these two organizations through the Employee Navigator experience.

James Crook (11:26):

Okay, very cool. Thank you. Jessica, Paula touched on some of the cool things about what Reliance Matrix and MGIS do with Employee Navigator, but can you talk a little bit more about what are the benefits of Employee Navigator in this context for the broker.

Jessica Myer (11:44):

What we created was a unique proprietary way of using Employee Navigator as a system of record to produce a monthly invoice for the customer. We eliminated the need for a billing file feed, which means no more file testing, no more error reports, and most importantly, no more dual entry into the Reliance Matrix billing portal and into Employee Navigator. As Paula stated before, it’s a one-stop shop.


We also simplified the evidence of insurability process by keeping the employee in the digital experience. By that, we are allowing our brokers to add the PowerForm Link into Employee Navigator so brokers don’t have to as well as our customers reach out for missing information, where’s the paper form, things of that nature.


Lastly, another unique value that Paula mentioned earlier was our claims eligibility process. At time of claim, our teams can reach out to my team and confirm the eligibility for an employee. Our team has access into all that data in Employee Navigator, so that eliminates that first contact with the customer and broker regarding eligibility.

Maggie Wills (12:58):

My name is Maggie Wills. I work for MGIS. I’ve been in the employee benefit space now for 25 plus years. I’m coming up on 17 years with MGIS. I have a dual dual role.

James Crook (13:10):

That’s a long time.

Maggie Wills (13:11):

Oh, sorry. Yes.

James Crook (13:13):

No, that’s a long time, but that’s great. That’s great.

Maggie Wills (13:15):

I have a dual role with MGIS, working with our file connections and account management.

James Crook (13:21):

After speaking with Jeff, Paula, and Jessica, I wanted to speak with Maggie Wills. Maggie is going to be one of the MGIS boots on the ground, so to speak. We wanted to learn more about how MGIS will be deploying Employee Navigator and the benefits MGIS brokers and clients should see from the rollout.

Maggie Wills (13:42):

Broker client’s going to be happy with this because we’re enabling more success for them. We are the experts in what we’re doing as far as the MGIS coverages, and we can build those out for them, whereas they’re more focused on maybe medical, dental, those types of things. We are resident experts in the field for our particular coverages, and we can take that off their plate and again, meet them where they’re at.

James Crook (14:12):

Okay, excellent. Now, does a broker have to use the builder services or if they really do want to be in the weeds, are they able to set things up themselves?

Maggie Wills (14:22):

They absolutely can themselves set it up themselves. However, we’re happy to do screen share, anything like that, and take a look at it and say, “Hey, maybe here’s some points where we can make some updates so that we have a successful enrollment.”

James Crook (14:41):

Maggie, why are you excited about MGIS now being able to offer Employee Navigator to its brokers and clients?

Maggie Wills (14:49):

It’s finally time for us. This is just something that has been out there for a few years, and it’s just another way that we can build our relationships. We’re following through on our promise and treating brokers and clients the way they deserve, and it just is the next step. It’s just really exciting, and our partnership with Reliance has been wonderful. This is just the beginning really.

James Crook (15:27):

To wrap up, I wanted to ask Jeff Brunken where he sees MGIS and Reliance Matrix going from here.

Jeff Brunken (15:35):

I think both Reliance Matrix and MGIS, we’re interested in expanding what we do. We need to be thoughtful. We need to look at where we’re working together. There’s a lot of discussion internally about what to do next and which platforms to consider and so forth. It’s not if, but when. As we get into additional segments and so forth, we look forward to making additional announcements.


We also look forward to continuing to reinforce the message to our broker partners, just what we can do here, which includes builder services. What we’re really trying to do is make MGIS and Reliance Matrix as easy to work with as possible, and we want to be the most effective partner as we can, and we’re just looking for ways that we can really provide the most value. Offering the builder services with the expertise that our team has with these coverages, including some of these plan designs can be complex, you’re talking about high value coverages. We hope that that’s valuable to our broker partners who are busy, they’re stretched thin, they’re looking for ways to get things right, be streamlined and focus their efforts too.

James Crook (17:08):

Excellent. Well, thank you, Jeff. We appreciate your time.

Jeff Brunken (17:11):

You bet.

James Crook (17:24):

Thanks for listening to the Broker Advisor Podcast. If you liked what you heard, please remember to rate and subscribe to the show. Have feedback? Please remember to send it our way at brokeradvisor@mgis.com. Thanks again.


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