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Tribal Nations: RFP Evaluation of Insurance Brokers

Government, Property & Casualty

Evaluating insurance brokers can be difficult work. Many tribal nations require a request for proposal (RFP) process as a part of their standard practice for goods or services over a fixed dollar amount, and – to be frank – it’s not often something that any member of the selection committee is looking forward to. Reading through 50+ page RFP responses can be time-consuming in and of itself, 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 tribal governments and their business enterprises need different things from their broker than a typical organization.

My experience with various tribes has shown a need for a different approach to the traditional insurance broker RFP process. Below, I’ve shared the questions and evaluation considerations that best serve tribal organizations when seeking out a broker that will fit their benefits and risk management strategies.

What questions should you ask in a tribal insurance broker RFP?

Describe your company’s culture, history, and vision for the future.

Any iteration of this question is a useful starting point for a broker RFP. This question may seem like just a standard opening, but it’s an opportunity for your tribe to see how a firm sees themselves. Are they forward-thinking and innovative? Are they local and relationship-focused? Do they share your values? There is a lot to be gleaned from this question.

Share the team structure that you are proposing for our tribe. Detail their qualifications.

This question shows you the names and faces of the individuals that you will be working with on a daily basis regarding your business insurance and employee benefits. 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 tribes of your size or complexity? How long have they been in the industry? Why was this specific team put together? 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 tribe.

Share specific examples of your experience providing service to similar clients.

Many RFP responses can be filled with pre-written copy that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue: how have you helped organizations like ours in the past? Case study-type responses will weed out brokers who have dedicated experience with tribal governments and businesses vs. those who tend to be generalists, and you’ll get a sense for the kind of impact that the broker sees themselves bringing to your tribe. Will they be able to reduce costs? Implement an innovative program to cover gaps in coverage? Bring in risk management experts to make your tribal operations safer? This response will clarify those questions.

Why would you be the best partner for our tribe?

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 tribe 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 tribal nation evaluate an insurance broker RFP response?

Part one of the RFP process is complete – you’ve created the RFP and sent it out to your prospective brokers. Once you have received their responses, the next phase begins: evaluation. Every organization approaches this process differently. You likely have members from risk management, finance, government, casino, hospitality, and other businesses leaders on your selection committee. 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.

Consider a partner that is personally invested in the success of your tribal operations

Tribes are not like a standard organization. You have many operations that span industries and even geographic footprints. The broker that you choose should showcase that they have practical experience in your field, that they are involved in tribal organizations/associations, and that they understand the internal and external challenges you face as a sovereign nation in today’s political, social, and financial landscape. A firm that has a history of serving tribal clients will bring the greatest value to your tribe and help you achieve your business insurance, risk management, and employee benefits goals.

Seek out a broker that aligns culturally with your organization

You are well-versed in creating and maintaining a culture within your organization. Your broker should be a piece that fits into that puzzle seamlessly. A successful broker for a tribal government or enterprise must demonstrate that they “do the right thing”, and that they can navigate group decision making, as you do each and every day. Your benefits and your business insurance are not just something your tribe needs to check off a list. They are ingrained in your operations day in and day out. The partnership with your risk and insurance broker needs to be built on trust. Having a partner you can confide in and lean on with some of your most confidential, contentious matters is what you deserve. Don’t settle for anything less.

Know that your chosen broker appreciates your strategic goals as a sovereign nation

Tribal nations have more to consider than their bottom line. A broker who understands that their work directly impacts your goals to improve the lives of your tribal membership, workforce, and community will represent you best in the marketplace. Brokers with tribal experience bring strategies that protect you as you economically diversify, they understand that protecting sovereignty is everything, and they assist you in building the social and economic infrastructure to take care of future generations.

As a tribal nation, choosing an insurance broker for your employee benefits or property & casualty insurance isn’t the same process as the average organization. You have broader goals to consider, unique challenges to face, and you need a broker who has your back every step of the way. As you enter into your RFP process, keep the listed questions and considerations in mind. If and when a formal RFP is required for your tribe, the professionals at M3 can help make the process less daunting from the very beginning. 

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