In today’s business world, everything is counted—down to the smallest metrics. But it’s also important to know what counts. Often, that comes down to people and relationships. That’s why HealthEquity holds an annual Key Client Summit to connect with the people at the heart of the health and wealth movement. At the event this spring, the Champion Award Ceremony recognized four organizations’ efforts in financial wellbeing.
Recently, the HealthEquity Blog team talked to one of the award winners and associated account executive to uncover why their partnership remains successful after almost two decades. For the Partnership Champion Award category, HealthEquity celebrated the Georgia Department of Administrative Services to recognize a longstanding working relationship. Hear what Al Howell, Deputy Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration Division at the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, and Connie Hart, Director and Account Executive at HealthEquity, have to say about their formula to consistently deliver flexible benefits to a large population.
HealthEquity has been a partner with the Georgia Department of Administrative Services for 19 years. What do you think helps keep the relationship going strong?
AL HOWELL: It's important to know that our team is small and very lean. With just six people, we administer a program that affects about 150,000 lives. That means our vendor relationships are key. HealthEquity has always been very cooperative and collaborative. When I first started here about three years ago, I talked with Connie about ways to get more people signing up for flexible benefits. Connie immediately said she would help us. She and her team have always been available to help educate our employees.
And the assistance we get from HealthEquity is invaluable. A good example is how her team helps us prepare for our annual stewardship meeting. More than giving recommendations, she helps us implement the ideas. We just increased our team meetings from monthly to bimonthly because we rely on her insight and advice on how to get the word out to make the most of the stewardship meeting. More than anything, I like how she and her team jumps in to help us accomplish our goals and objectives.
CONNIE HART: This group wants to partner, and that alone makes our work together easier because they find the relationship beneficial and valuable. The value we add for Al’s team benefits their members, which ultimately strengthens the relationship. Our goal is to continually bring them more and more of what they need.
It’s important for my team to be innovative. We poll their group to understand what products and services they need, and then we deliver for them. They’re very member-centric, and they want to do the right thing. It’s rewarding to work with them because they put their members first and want to make sure their members get the information and products they need.
You both talk about a strategic alignment. Was that easy to do? How do you keep your approach and partnership aligned?
CONNIE HART: We stay very close with a strong service model, including a dedicated Account Executive (me), plus a Relationship Manager and account consultants. Al’s team knows they can call anytime, and we touch base quarterly. Additionally, we send their team a biweekly update to keep them updated on items they need to know about—from legislative happenings to any participant issues.
AL HOWELL: Keeping us informed is key. My staff has to stay current on the latest trends, which is increasingly difficult to do with benefits becoming more complex, and even legalistic in some ways.
A good example of how we stay aligned is how her team kept us current through a maze of new benefits requirements in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Connie and her team monitored the potential legislation in play and kept us informed on what each version meant. She had the information to help our leadership team make decisions about our benefits program. If it hadn’t been for insights and expertise from HealthEquity, our response to our members would have been much slower. The fact that we were able to respond quickly was priceless because benefits administration is just one of many things my team does. Thanks to Connie’s team we were informed and could easily communicate the steps we needed to take.
It sounds like communicating regulatory changes is very important. Can you elaborate on what this entails?
CONNIE HART: With COVID-19, we experienced a lot of legislative changes. We held several conference calls—as many as they needed—to answer questions and help them understand new legislation. We also invited them to relevant webinars and created custom communications and plan summaries to inform their members about changes. It was all hands on deck. We were there to support them, and we still are with any changes that come along.
AL HOWELL: Connie checks in on us and whenever we need her, she’s there. I can't say that about all vendors. The attention is very appreciated. One of my top personal leadership principles is, “your problem is my problem” and Connie’s team embraces that motto.
For instance, her team supports us with a conference for personnel administrators in Georgia. We partner with that council just like HealthEquity partners with us. My team presents on benefits and I asked Connie how she could support us when we talked about changes coming up with flexible benefits. Right away, Connie offered to present virtually and help us cascade the information to that audience. HealthEquity was one of just a few vendors to join online to talk about FSAs and answer any questions in real time. That made a big impression on our clients. It builds trust and speaks volumes about their level of engagement and commitment to our business. I received a lot of positive responses back from that group after Connie’s presentation.
How does HealthEquity continue to innovate and support efforts in Georgia?
CONNIE HART: The State of Georgia has a sizeable population of members enrolled with FSAs and they depend on our tools, services, and support. We’ll be migrating this group to our new platform soon, and we know it will provide them with what they've asked for over the years—like ease of navigation and a better participant experience.
AL HOWELL: We have a goal to expand our FSA program to school systems in Georgia. That means educating and enrolling systems within 159 counties. That’s a ton of school systems, and those schools can pick and choose who they use for benefits. We currently have 20 schools who work with us and use the FSA benefits through HealthEquity. We want to expand that service and Connie is helping us communicate with them by finetuning our messages and helping us think through some of the challenges we may encounter along the way. We just went through our strategic planning process and Connie’s assistance was vital when we met with key stakeholders and participants.
Do you have any advice for other organizations considering FSA benefits for their members?
AL HOWELL: First of all, I highly recommend HealthEquity. Our experience has been very positive. For groups who are considering implementing flexible benefits for a large and diverse population, they'll need a partner that will be by their side and with them through the maze of the benefits world. And they’ll need someone interested in their business. Overall, I value the relationship and look forward to another 19 years working with HealthEquity.
Talking with Connie and Al, it’s clear that the way their teams work together is based on consistency and trust. Their regular communication creates opportunities to adjust and adapt to keep the FSA program running smoothly.
- The State of Georgia connects regularly with HealthEquity to learn about and address upcoming legislative and regulatory changes
- A service model with dedicated points of contact helps ensure clients have a stable experience
- When client needs change, the HealthEquity account team is flexible and can adapt
For additional information on FSA solutions, explore our FSA Guide to see ways to use pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible medical expenses.
HealthEquity and the Georgia Department of Administrative Services are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each others’ policies or services.
HealthEquity does not provide legal, tax or financial advice. Always consult a professional when making life-changing decisions.