“Brokers Can’t Be Afraid to Leave Our Comfort Zones”: Meet Bryan Davis, Nava’s National Practice Leader
As Nava Benefits’ National Practice Leader, Bryan Davis brings over two decades of benefits expertise to lead our Partner team in bringing healthcare benefits innovation to small and midsized employers. Hear from Bryan on why he chose to join Nava, how he perceives the role of technology in benefits brokerage, and why the status quo won’t work for brokers any longer.
You have been working in the brokerage space — either as a broker yourself or as a senior leader supporting brokers — for over two decades. How have you seen employers’ expectations for brokers change over time, and where do you think they’re going?
I believe that, fundamentally, brokers have three critical functions they serve for their clients.
Number one, they have to drive innovation and create value that will ultimately lower costs and improve quality.
Number two, they have to ease the administrative burden on HR in some fashion.
And number three, they have to improve the member experience within the healthcare system.
Frankly, I believe that those three functions have always been expected — but their importance has only grown over time. Traditionally, brokers may have been able to get away with not delivering on all three of these expectations, but I don’t believe that’s the case anymore.
Down the road, I expect to see a growing emphasis on the member experience. If an organization is paying millions of dollars a year for their health plan, and their HR teams or employees are having a bad experience, it reflects poorly on the employer — and, by proxy, the broker. In my opinion, the influence that member experience, good or bad, has on the broker value proposition will only continue to grow.
Unlike many other industries, traditional brokerages have been slow to innovate or adapt modern tech solutions. If you were talking to a broker who was a little hesitant to try incorporating tech into their client support, what would you say to change their mind?
There’s this great quote from Justin Trudeau: “The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.”
So what would I say to that colleague? If you haven’t already begun to modernize your brokerage business, as well as the solutions that you’re bringing to your clients, then you’re already behind — and you’re only going to get more behind.
After twenty years in the traditional broker space, what made you decide that Nava Benefits was the right next step in your career?
For me, it was all about the mission: high-quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.
In recent years, a couple of my close friends and family members went through some pretty difficult health challenges. During that time, I saw firsthand the level of dysfunction that exists within our healthcare system. It was incredibly frustrating to find myself feeling helpless while trying to navigate this broken system, even though I’ve been an active part of the healthcare ecosystem my entire career.
It became painfully apparent to me that in order for us to be successful as a society, this problem has to be fixed. The system that exists today is simply unsustainable, economically and socially.
And I want to be part of the solution. The brokerage community has the ability to make a positive impact on our society — but before we can do that, we have to actively choose to lean into technology and innovation.
Brokers hold such a strong influence on our healthcare system, yet we think it goes largely unrecognized. To that end, what role do you think brokers can play in transforming healthcare?
I agree that brokers have a very strong influence on the system. We sit at the junction between innovation and strategy, and our ability (or lack thereof) to bring these innovations to our clients has a huge influence on the bigger picture.
It’s clear to me that small and medium-sized business have been underserved when it comes to innovation. It simply hasn’t trickled down, and as a brokerage community, we have to level up our support.
Bringing that large company playbook to SMBs is going to be critical in addressing the cost and quality issues that are facing the overall healthcare system.
If you had to describe your approach to your work with one song, movie, or book, what would it be?
I really like Leif Babin and Jocko Willink’s book Extreme Ownership.
In my experience, the most successful teams and organizations are those who embrace teamwork, take accountability, and truly believe in their mission. I feel really good about my work and personal life when I’m able to set my compass around those principles.
Right now, the workplace and the benefits industry are both changing at an unprecedented pace. The once-comfortable status quo is about to get, well, very uncomfortable, as employees seek benefits to support their modern lives and SMB employers feel their pursestrings tighten under rising healthcare costs. When you think about the next five years in the benefits industry, what advice do you have for brokers working with SMBs?
Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. Most SMBs desperately need new innovation, and it’s incumbent upon us as brokers to have these strategic discussions with our clients.
Brokers can’t be afraid to leave our comfort zones when it comes to the solutions we bring to the table to support our clients. We can’t blindly accept the status quo any longer.
What do you hope to accomplish over the next five years at Nava?
It’s simple: #FixHealthcare.
I envision Nava not only leading our industry’s pace of change, but truly setting that gold standard for how a broker drives innovation to their client base.
If at the end of five years, we look back and see that Nava’s influence drove positive change to our healthcare system and to the members our clients serve, then we’ve been successful.
Have a question for Bryan? Reach out here.
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