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Risk Strategies “disrupts” consulting industry with new powerhouse

“It’s really been a series of strategic acquisitions of assets with substantial expertise in a few plan areas, and they’re doing work for large plan sponsors, for payers, and for providers,” said John Greenbaum (pictured), executive vice president at Risk Strategies. “Over a five-year period, we’ve been very carefully looking at assets and have acquired a group of them that fit very neatly together. It’s a little bit of a puzzle; we’ve got different pieces, but we finally have the right collection of assets in place to combine them into a single entity that we can then bring to market.

“I think the first acquisition of those companies was somewhat fortuitous. It was early in our acquisition process, and we really hadn’t envisioned the concept of Risk Strategies Consulting. But as we began to coordinate other asset acquisitions over the years, it became a path that really led us to the point where we could collectivize them and launch them as a single entity.”

Risk Strategies Consulting will provide the following services:

  • High-touch consulting and state of the art analytics, strategy and consulting (encompassing health and welfare with deep pharmacy expertise as well as mergers and acquisitions);
  • Actuarial services for plan sponsors, providers and insurers (encompassing captive and self-funded programs, long-term care, Medicaid, Medicare supplement / Advantage, supplemental health, life insurance, disability income, reinsurance and stop-loss, healthcare and network provider consulting and property and casualty actuarial and consulting services); and
  • Benefit audit services (encompassing employee benefit and claim audits; stop-loss services; and plan document, policy and claims review).

Breaking down consulting siloes

By merging the collective specialities of each consulting and actuarial firm, Greenbaum said Risk Strategies Consulting can further support clients with an expert, holistic consulting experience to address complex challenges, and offer advanced, proprietary tools to forecast and plan for their future success.

“A lot of the consulting world operates in siloes,” he told Insurance Business. “Some just offer actuarial, while others focus on audit, or consulting. We saw the possibility of combining and leveraging an integrated suite of services and capabilities, and interestingly, as we looked at each firm’s respective client lists, there was a fair amount of overlap. We were doing audit for some of the same clients we were doing actuarial work for, and the same with consulting – but each firm was offering those services independently.

“Through Risk Strategies Consulting, we now have a high degree of interdependence between the entities, so that any client can come in at one entry point, like audit, and then move seamlessly to actuarial and consulting services.”

To achieve this amalgamation, Risk Strategies has developed a proprietary high-trust certified data warehouse, where all entities will have access to the same information and will work within the same environment.

“One of the big focuses of Risk Strategies Consulting is to provide services that are intensely data-driven,” said Greenbaum. “We want to offer proprietary, predictive, and prescriptive models that give clients actionable data that they can use to make better business decisions. We’re talking about very large companies on the plan sponsor, the payer, and the provider side – Fortune 500 companies that make significant economic decisions based on the information we’re providing.”

How will the Risk Strategies Consulting business fit with the brokerage?

Risk Strategies Consulting will operate independently from the company’s brokerage business, ensuring full business separation of clients and autonomy of consulting work.

“Both companies have a completely separate corporate structure,” Greenbaum explained. “The consulting business needs independence from the brokerage business, and we’ve put structural elements in place to ensure that. We’re highly cognizant of the potential for conflict between consulting and brokerage. Our consultants may recommend the use of various risk management tools that may involve insurance, but ultimately, we need to maintain independence between the two operations.”

The major areas of work that the Risk Strategies Consulting team engages in are: medical, prescription drug, life insurance, disability insurance, dental, and workers’ compensation – all of which are also significant areas of expertise on the Risk Strategies brokerage side, Greenbaum pointed out. The consulting and brokerage businesses may share data insights and potential referrals, with careful disclosure of the common ownership.

“Ultimately, our insurance brokers and brokerage team will be able to and are already beginning to rely on the consulting services to provide them insight into what their clients’ requirements are, and to be able to help guide their clients,” said Greenbaum. “One of the things that we’re learning is that our clients on the brokerage side run a huge gamut from the startup world to very mature large industries, whereas on the consulting side, for the most part, our clients are very large plan sponsors and big insurance companies. We’re really trying to translate some of our learnings from the large market [in the consulting business] down into the middle market and build differentiated tools for our brokerage business.”

What’s next for Risk Strategies Consulting?

After the integration process of combining and rebranding all the entities, Risk Strategies Consulting is looking to add new staff and will hire its own independent management team. The business is currently being run by Greenbaum on an interim basis.

Moving forwards, Greenbaum is eyeing “substantial economic growth” for Risk Strategies Consulting. He believes the traditional consulting market is “ripe for disruption” and that the business’s data strategy will differentiate it and “allow us to offer clients services that they really haven’t seen before”.

Other brokerage firms to house consulting businesses include the global giants like Aon, Marsh, and WTW – and while they’re larger than Risk Strategies, Greenbaum said his team “competes with them every day”.

“Our best teams compete with their brokers regularly, and I think our consulting business will create a distinctive model that will allow us to compete more effectively with them across the board,” said the EVP. “It was an important step for us to take in maturing our business. We’ve been a highly acquisitive company, but we’ve been acquisitive not just for the sake of buying assets, but for building a company that had the right assets to compete in a bigger universe. The conglomeration of assets that we formed into Risk Strategies Consulting has been very intentional, and will support our growth as a company overall.”

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Charlie Bush

Charlie Bush is a personal finance reporter for myexpertech. Previously, she covered personal finance at BuzzFeed. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Stony Brook University and is working toward a Master’s degree in Behavioral Economics.

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