Using an RFP Process to Evaluate Insurance Brokers: What to Know, What to Ask, and What to Look For
Director of Employee Benefits - Northeast WI
Insurance is a major line item for school districts, so it makes sense that you don’t want to miss anything when choosing your insurance broker. Your broker relationship may be one of your most important partnerships, affecting your staff talent attraction and retention strategy, influencing your budget, and mitigating risks for your students, staff, and community. You want to get it right.
That’s where RFPs tend to come in. Many school districts and school boards actually require a request for proposal (RFP) process as a part of their standard practice. It’s not always the most enjoyable process for the decision makers. Not only are you committing to reading through extensive RFP responses, but creating the RFP in the first place can be just as strenuous for your team.
What questions should we ask? What should the timeline look like? How do we evaluate each broker’s response? It is common for organizations to hire outside consultants to help with the process, but at the end of the day school districts need different things from their broker than a typical organization.
What to Know About Insurance Broker RFPs Before You Begin
There is a need for a different approach to the traditional insurance broker RFP process. Some organizations opt to create lengthy documents with numerous questions to try to uncover every detail about their potential broker. However, this often results in repetitive answers or vague responses to avoid duplication – not helpful insights.
When creating your RFP document, consider the goal. Are you hoping to learn as much as you can about a broker to narrow down the pool of choices for a finalist meeting? Or are you hoping to catch a broker out on a detail regarding the formatting or presentation of their response? Allowing brokers to exercise some creativity in their responses without having to adhere to tight constraints can give you a better understanding of your options.
On this note, consider allowing digital responses to your RFP. There are many ways that brokers can showcase their capabilities through multimedia channels that can make your review process a bit more enjoyable (and even show off what they might be able to do for you from a communications perspective!).
What Questions Should You Ask in a School District Broker RFP?
A question about a broker’s history, culture, and vision for the future
This question may seem standard, but it’s an opportunity for your district to see how a firm sees themselves. Are they forward-thinking and innovative? Are they local and relationship-focused? Do they share your values?
A question about the team who will be serving your district
Who will you be working with? This answer will show you the names and faces of the team that the broker is proposing. Often, they are the individuals that you have built a relationship with before beginning the RFP process.
Do they have direct experience working with other districts of your size or complexity? How long have they been in the industry? Why was this specific team assembled? The broker’s response to your question should highlight key areas of interest for your team, and make it clear why these individuals would do the best work for your district.
Questions about the broker’s specific experience serving school districts
Many RFP responses can be filled with pre-written copy that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue: how have you helped districts like ours in the past?
Responses that rely on case studies will weed out brokers who tend to be generalists vs. those who have dedicated experience with school districts, and you’ll get a sense for the kind of impact that the broker sees themselves bringing to your district. Will they be able to reduce costs? Implement an innovative program to cover gaps in coverage? Bring in risk management experts to make your district operations safer? This response will clarify those questions.
A question that asks simply: why would you be the best choice?
An open-ended question like this one allows brokers to highlight their firm’s differentiators. If brokers are neck and neck before this question, you can bet that the responses here will make your decision clearer. The RFP process can be arduous – you shouldn’t have to dig through pages and pages to find out what makes a broker different. You’ll find the answer here in this response.
What other offerings might our district be interested in?
This is a great question to include to give brokers space to showcase any specializations or other offerings that weren’t covered in the rest of the RFP. You don’t know what you don’t know!
How Should a School District Evaluate an Insurance Broker RFP Response?
Once you’ve received brokers’ responses, the next phase begins: evaluation. Whether you have a rubric or a checklist at your side as you’re evaluating, I recommend keeping the following considerations in mind as well.
Look for personalization in the response
Beyond simply adding the name of your district throughout the response, look for hints that the broker truly understands your district’s unique needs. Hopefully, you’re looking to work with a broker that you already have a relationship with in some capacity, so their response should directly address your biggest pain points. It’s easy for responses to become cookie cutter, but truly successful responses will pique your interest so that you want to hear more in a finalist presentation.
Seek out a broker that aligns culturally with your district
School districts are an integral part of our communities. Your culture, mission, and vision are a guiding light for your students, staff, and the community at large – you should work with a broker who aligns with those carefully honed statements. As mentioned above, your broker relationship may just be one of the most important partnerships your district is involved in. Choosing a broker who values the same things you do is choosing wisely.
As a school district, choosing an insurance broker for your employee benefits or property & casualty insurance isn’t the same process as the average organization. You have different audiences to consider, unique challenges to face, and you need a broker who has your back every step of the way. As you begin your RFP process, keep the listed questions and considerations in mind.