Practice Management

Business Growth through Benefits Education: the Mosaic Model

By Leila Martin

Financial advisors want to do business with the high-net-worth individual at the top of a company’s food chain. One great way to get noticed? Start at the bottom.

Matthew Capone and Steven Armbrust, founders of Mosaic Wealthcare Group LLC in Warwick, Rhode Island, have found that their best relationships with employers form when they move past the siloed benefits sales approach, instead providing employees with a holistic education on their full benefits package and empowering them to make informed benefits decisions.

“The way to the heart of the man in the corner office,” said Armbrust, “is to help him with the engine that creates his wealth, which is his business. Helping employees understand their full suite of benefits in a financial context can empower better decisions, which ultimately aid employees and employers.”

The Philosophy of Holistic Benefits Education

Employers who put in the time and expense to offer benefits can end up frustrated when employees don’t take advantage.

The problem, according to Armbrust and Capone, is in the delivery, not the offering.

“The benefits business is a tremendous opportunity,” said Armbrust, “but it’s a structure in desperate need of an overhaul. The health insurance guy comes in and knows everything there is to know about health insurance. The 401(k) guy comes in and tells everyone to put as much as they can into their retirement plan. But that’s it.” And it’s the same story for each benefit: every sales person is an expert, but only in his or her single area.

Employees who don’t understand their benefits or how they connect can find themselves confused, aggravated and off-put by the siloed approach. Faced with a lot of choice but not a lot of understanding, they can make the wrong choices or, in the worst case, no choice at all.

The solution is holistic benefits education: helping employees understand their full range of benefits options and their financial implications. That way, when it’s time to decide what to do with their limited benefits dollars, employees’ elections are based on their needs, not on what a sales person tells them to do.

“People are making more financial decisions than ever,” said Capone. “But no one is teaching this stuff.”

“What we realized needed to happen,” Armbrust added, “particularly in the workplace, was to have a presence in the room with the ability to look at all the components of a benefits package, translate it into English, and communicate it to the employees in an educational way.”

The Road to Holistic Benefits Advising

Capone and Armbrust came to the world of voluntary benefits by paths that, though different, ended up complementary.

Matthew Capone is a 40-year veteran of the financial services industry with an eye to finding an easier way into the executive suite. “If I could go in and help a guy with his company,” he said, “I could hopefully earn the business at the top.”

Critical illness caused a career interruption. Capone fought cancer, won, and went back to work; this time, with a focus on the protection side of things.

One day, walking down the hall, he ran into someone he recognized from school. In talking, the two almost immediately found that their business goals aligned.

That was Steve Armbrust, whose entry to financial services came much later than Capone’s. He started out working at a manufacturing company founded by his grandfather. Eventually, Armbrust ran the business after his grandfather retired. When the founder passed without an estate plan, Armbrust labored to keep the business running while his father and uncles wrangled.

The company ended up being liquidated, and Armbrust wanted a change.

He decided on employee benefits because under his watch, the 400-employee manufacturing firm’s insurance bill pierced the million-dollar mark for the first time. It went from being a line item on the company accounting to a major strategic concern — one he knew many other business owners probably shared.

“I smelled a problem rising,” said Armbrust. “Small and mid-sized companies and entrepreneurs don’t know a lot about benefits. They know a lot about their craft, or their trade. Wouldn’t it be cool, I thought, if I could bring my empathy and experience to help people find solutions to this problem?”

Capone and Armbrust solidified their vision: proving their worth to executives by helping employees to understand and maximize their voluntary benefits.

“We decided to start a firm with a concentration on bringing financial knowledge to average folks, and the place where we could do that most effectively was through the workplace. “

Success through Advice, Not Sales

The Mosaic Wealthcare Group chose its name deliberately: caring for clients’ financial well-being, no matter the size of their assets, is the cornerstone of their practice and philosophy.

“We’re incredibly passionate about bringing educational resources to people,” said Capone. “We don’t want to start with sales. We want to show them where they are and how to get to where they want to be.”

It’s a ripple effect that touches everyone in a client’s ecosystem and, in the pair’s experience, tends to generate more business.

“The sales hat comes on eventually, but we truly believe in giving back,” added Armbrust. “Conducting your business that way is a slower route to success, but you’ll have a longer tail if you do that work up front. When you prove your worth, you gain advocates. And when people talk to each other, that’s when the phone really starts ringing.


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