The Altura Difference: Knowledge + Care


Posted by: Altura Benefits in Insurance

Altura Employee Benefits in Utah

Craig Paulson is the president and founder of Altura Benefits. We recently sat down with him to delve into the details of his company, including how it stands apart in employee benefits. Read the interview below to hear what Craig has to say about his Utah agency.

Tell me about your agency. Why did you decide to start the business?

I founded Altura in 2005. Before then, I was working with another agency, but I felt that I needed more agency support for my clients. From what I saw, other agencies didn’t provide the level of service I envisioned, so I set out to build a better service model.

How would you describe your company’s mission?

We aim to make life easier for our clients. We do this by making it more efficient and cost effective to obtain and provide employee benefits. Altura takes a four-pronged approach to success. The first prong is lasting relationships built on trust, the second is a dedication to quality and reliable service, the third is growth from client referrals, and the fourth is client advocacy.

How does Knowledge + Care make a difference for Utah employers?

I got the idea for “Knowledge + Care” from a partner carrier. She told me she liked working with our team because “you know what you’re doing and you actually care about your clients.” I realized she was right – the “knowledge + care” combination provides employers with many advantages.

On the knowledge side, we’re very experienced. We’ve been in the industry a long time and are committed to training and development. Everyone on our team is licensed and goes through certification classes.

On the care side, we’re unique in the way we value and develop relationships. We treat clients as friends, guide them through processes, and take time to give them the technology tools they need to administer benefits efficiently.

Care goes beyond our clients – we also try to give back to the community. During the holidays, we have internal events to give back. For instance, we have donated to Fourth Street Clinic – a nonprofit that provides healthcare and support services to homeless Utahns.

How does Altura specifically help Utah’s small businesses?

We help create efficiencies within HR departments related to enrollment, even for small companies that are ignored elsewhere. For example, we help them transition from paper enrollment to an online benefits app tool. We also continue to take care of our clients throughout the relationship.

We have picked up some clients that left bigger agencies. Those agencies have tools and resources but only make their solutions available to groups with more than 50 employees. We help groups of all sizes administer benefits much more efficiently.

As an example, we have a client who is larger – with about 300 employees – that hired a new controller. The new controller felt our agency was too small and moved to a national agency. However, they ended up coming back to us within nine months. We had to clean up their Employee Navigator because the national agency didn’t help them with that. It was the personal touch that made the difference. Big agencies have a producer for the sales role, but they then move clients on to an account manager that doesn’t know them.

Owner engagement makes a difference here. As the president, I stay engaged with the process. I’m not just a producer – I’m concerned about the relationship. In my experience, producers who don’t own their companies tend to oversell and underdeliver. It’s often all about the short-term benefit for them, whereas I’m in it for the long-term relationship.

What advice do you have for companies that have never offered benefits?

I relate well with business owners and help them feel comfortable with the process. I talk to them from a business owner’s perspective and from a benefits perspective. I ask questions about their goals, budget and priorities to structure a plan that really works.

For instance, I’ll show them the budget and how it impacts their bottom line. I’ll point out options, like offering bronze level and then allowing employees to level up. This combination of practicality and creativity helps them figure out how to offer benefits in an affordable way.

Since compliance can be challenging when you’re new to benefits, we have a process to help business owners understand compliance responsibilities. This is important for employers who are new to offering benefits because they’re facing new requirements like COBRA and state mini-COBRA laws. We don’t handle compliance for them; instead, we educate them on their responsibilities and teach them about tools to make the process easier.

We have a compliance specialist who meets with groups during onboarding and enrolling. As they grow, their responsibilities grow. For instance, they’ll have to comply with additional rules like FMLA and the ACA mandate. We educate them on those things.

How can Utah employers maximize their employee benefit ROI?

My advice is to make sure they educate their employees about benefits and how they work. I have a strong belief that if employees understand benefits and the associated costs, they will appreciate benefits more. Since richness doesn’t matter if they don’t understand it, education is essential.

A related recommendation is to help employees understand what the employer contributions are. Provide an annual compensation statement. Many employees leave the company without understanding what their employer has been paying. Then, they are then shocked by their COBRA premium – they didn’t realize their employer was paying 90% of their premium.

A lot of value comes from the support we provide. We have processes on the compliance side, such as meeting with groups, where we invite them to a general meeting or webinar. We also offer an HR cloud toolbox. One tool is an HR hotline that answers benefits and HR questions, such as whether you can mandate the COVID vaccine or how to build an affirmative action plan. Other tools like salary benchmarking offer additional value.

To help with employee education, we conduct worksite employee meetings – remote or in person – which we record to enable people to watch at their convenience. We also provide printed or e-versions of employee benefits booklets. The two-page summary is important, as it’s shorter and easier to read. It’s also great to give to new hires and can be customized with the employer’s brand.

Lastly, we make ourselves available on a one-to-one basis for questions and our account managers are available to provide backup for our clients’ HR teams.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about Altura?

I’ve already mentioned that we offer HR and benefit administration tools, even for smaller employers. We can also offer expertise and guidance on how to integrate those systems with payroll to simplify processes and make everything more efficient for the HR team. We don’t provide payroll services, but we can suggest vendors and provide guidance as they explore payroll options.

If you’d like to learn more about how Altura Benefits can help your company offer benefits while improving efficiency, reach out.