How Advisors Use Caribou: A Conversation with Clifford P. Haugen, BLBB Advisors

Caribou Team
February 13, 2024

Ever wonder how other financial planning firms use Caribou’s healthcare planning software? Or maybe you want to hear from an advisor, rather than the Caribou team, what the benefits of offering healthcare planning are. We’ve got just the thing for you! 

Our team sat down with Clifford Haugen, President & Financial Advisor at BLBB Advisors, to ask him about his and BLBB Advisors’ experience with healthcare planning thus far. But before we get into how BLBB Advisors uses healthcare planning, let’s get to know Cliff a little better.

Cliff actually never intended to go into financial planning. He has two Systems Engineering degrees from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, along with a degree from the Wharton School of Business. He always intended to work in engineering, but an internship at an investment management firm set him on a different path. What made him change his mind was the realization that he loved helping families make better decisions about the future with incomplete information. 

“It took me a long time to figure out that what I do for families really is systems engineering. And Caribou is a big part of that. They help us help these families make complex decisions about the future with incomplete information.”

BLBB Advisors works primarily with families that fit the description of the multi-millionaire next door. Although they do have some charitable and institutional clients, the bulk of their client base are high-net-worth, taxable individuals. 

“Individuals go through things that institutions don't,” Cliff said. “Theoretically, institutions are immortal. They’re worried about governance and committee structure and those kinds of things. We work with families and they’re messier, in a good way, and more interesting. And they have a life cycle that institutions don't have, and they can also get sick. Institutions can get sick, but they don't see a doctor. They see a management consultant. Families want to go see a doctor, and that means they have health insurance questions. For a long time, we used to really dread getting those health insurance questions because you don't get into this business to not help people. You get into this business because you want to help people get to better outcomes. But those healthcare questions were always really hard because healthcare is very situation-specific but it's also very geography-specific. And we have clients in almost all 50 states, and knowing how to address those questions was nearly impossible and, before Caribou, it always felt like a big hole in how we could care for the families we serve.”

When asked what initially drew BLBB Advisors to Caribou, Cliff said that clients were coming to their advisors with health insurance questions and no one felt confident enough in their ability to help them. 

“Our pain and suffering is what prompted us to partner with Caribou. We were actively looking at health insurance consulting options but we didn’t like anything we found. We weren’t liking the business models, we weren’t liking the service offering. We had a couple of local consultants in Philadelphia who could help somebody in the area, but as I mentioned earlier, we have clients in almost all 50 states. An insurance consultant in Philadelphia can’t help our client in Miami. But thankfully Christine and I got connected somehow and I liked Caribou’s model and that it had a nationwide ability to answer the questions that I couldn't. And three years later it's only gotten better and better.”

Aside from using healthcare planning to help current clients with an often confusing and stressful part of life (healthcare), Cliff shared that this unique service offering has also been helpful in prospect meetings.

“Prospects key in on it like you wouldn't believe it. It's very helpful for the what-else-can-we-do question. Some of our big brand-name competitors aren't going to touch healthcare planning, and so it’s a differentiator for us. I think it's going to continue to be a differentiator for the higher touch, higher service firms in most marketplaces for some time to come.”

When asked how Cliff coordinates access and use of HealthPlanner, he shared that everyone at BLBB has access to Caribou’s healthcare planning software. 

“Everyone has been trained on it, everyone knows how to use it. It's very easy to use. It couldn't get much simpler; Caribou does all of the heavy lifting and has wonderful follow-through. The only interaction that we really push our advisors to think about carefully is when the HealthPlanning Analysis is done. The advisor gets a notification, as does the client, and we encourage the advisor to reach out to the client and say, ‘Hey, I wanted to make sure you saw that your analysis is done. If you want, you can schedule an appointment to talk to Caribou about it. If you want me on that appointment, I'm happy to be there.’ You know, just to cement the relationship. Because the goal is to strengthen and deepen the relationship with BLBB Advisors. We want to make sure that the client is associating it with us and our brand as we go through the process.”

When asked how he explains the software to new advisors who have been onboarded at the firm since Caribou’s initial implementation, Cliff gave a great summary, “[Name], so glad you've joined BLBB Advisors. We're looking forward to getting you up to speed on our platform. In addition to investment management and financial planning, we offer our clients a fairly wide array of services that some use and some don't. It ranges from estate planning to tax return analysis to health insurance planning. And if you're getting questions from clients, or if you're looking at a situation where a client has a health issue or health insurance need that they may not have identified, we have a great way to help clients address that in a way where you don't need to know anything about health insurance. And you don't need to know anything about your client’s medical situation or history.” 

“It's called Caribou. We've already set you up with credentials on the Caribou platform. When you get a minute I want to make sure you go in there and look at their FAQs, because they've got some great articles about what it's like to sign up for Medicare, what it's like to sign up for COBRA, and so on. There are some great resources and reading in there. But what you really need to know is how to create a household and then how to click the button that says, ‘Initiate HealthPlanning Analysis’. Because that's really all you're doing. You're putting in the client’s name, email, and if you know it, income information. Because income can sometimes be hard for our clients to get to Caribou accurately. So, if you've done the tax planning analysis, giving them the income numbers is super helpful. But once you put that in there, you click the ‘Initiate HealthPlanning Analysis’ button and Caribou does the rest.”

“Let your client know to expect an email and that there will be a profile to complete. We do ask that when you get the notification that the analysis is done, you proactively reach out to the client. Let them know that they can talk to Caribou and offer to be a part of that conversation. That's all there is to it.”

To end the conversation, our Caribou team member asked Cliff how he would describe healthcare planning to an advisor who’s unfamiliar with it, and what he would say to a financial advisor who’s on the fence about offering healthcare planning to their clients. For advisors who aren’t familiar with healthcare planning, Cliff said, “I would suggest that the advisor think about the last time they got a client inquiry about retiring. Let’s say your client tells you they’re retiring before 65 and asks you, ‘What do I do about healthcare?’ Or let’s say your client comes to you and says, ‘My daughter is turning 26, and she needs to get on her own health plan.’ Or, ‘I lost my job, should I take COBRA?’ Any one of those questions is enough to cause most advisors to either break out in cold sweats or just realize that they're going to need to push that question off onto somebody else. Well, why do you want to do that? Most of the people you're going to push them off onto are brokers, and they're probably insurance brokers, and the insurance broker probably sells more than health products.” 

“So what do you do about that? You don't want to say, ‘I don't know.’ As I said earlier, we got into this business to help people. Why wouldn't you want to help your client with this? Caribou gives you a way to answer those health insurance questions without having to refer your client out to someone who might take them away from you. It gives you a way to say ‘Our firm can add more value. We can help you figure out your health insurance questions. Let me introduce you to our team of dedicated health insurance experts. They will look at every plan available in your area and compare that plan to your preferred doctors, your drugs, and other preferences. And they'll tell you the plans that are closest to checking all those boxes.’”

For advisors who are familiar with healthcare planning but are on the fence, Cliff had this to say, “Get off the fence. You are on the fence because, either, you've never had these questions before, and you're not convinced you're ever going to get them, or you're not convinced that any of your clients need help with this. And that’s hard to believe. Maybe your client base is so local that you've got a local consultant, and I guess that's okay, but in my experience with local consultants…Caribou's data is better. Caribou can turn the plans around quicker, they're frequently less expensive, and they're available at a mouse click. It's entirely online and very easy to use. You also don’t need to worry about bandwidth constraints like you might with a solo broker.”

“I think it's one of those things where, if you give it a shot, you're never going to look back and you're going to wonder how you ever lived without it. I would not want to go back to a world in which we didn't have access to Caribou's tools and resources.”

To learn more about Cliff and BLBB advisors, check out his LinkedIn here and his firm’s website here.

If you would like to see a demo of HealthPlanner in action, click here to schedule a meeting with our CEO.

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