Q&A with FedPoint CEO Paul Forte
What’s in a name? If you’re a Portsmouth-based, major federal contractor, a corporate rebranding is no small venture. It requires months of legal and marketing research, due diligence and a willingness to take a risk.
“You can only do a major rebrand once,” said Paul Forte, the CEO of the recently renamed FedPoint. Prompted by a new federal law in 2000, the original company, LTC Partners, began in 2002 to build and administer the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, the group long-term care insurance program for federal agency employees. That program alone has more than 267,000 enrollees.
Forte, who has been with FedPoint since its founding, told NH Business Review the original company was an unlikely joint venture between fierce insurance industry competitors John Hancock and Met Life. The original company served a new and growing market for federal employees to enroll in long-term care benefit plans not subsidized by the federal government.
FedPoint has more than 400 employees in Portsmouth and scattered around the country and handles over $100 million federal contracts. The company has evolved over the past two decades to create new software platforms. BENEFEDS is one of FedPoint’s proprietary online platforms that handles enrollment, billing and customer support functions for enrollees in the large Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program.
“We are leaving behind an old and trusted name, but we are becoming a far more capable and innovative company than we were,” Forte said about the FedPoint name change, which was announced in mid-June. “The rebrand is a better fit — not only with the company we are today, but also with the company we aspire to be.”
Q. Why the name FedPoint?
A. We are a diversified company, an insurance benefits administrator and a third-party administrator. We bring a professional attention to the business of administering benefits because we are conscientious. Our attention to quality and detail is critical to making life easier for the people we serve.
We thought a lot about what we do, and along with connectivity, we offer convergence, a meeting at a certain point. When you look at our business, we are not really an insurance company. We connect a lot of people between various stakeholders — the federal government, private insurance, individual federal civilian employees, retired civilian and military personnel, associations and advisors. FedPoint is a hub, a nexus, where all these stakeholders converge and interact.
Q. How did the renaming process go?
A. We floated the idea on more than one occasion and then we got the go-ahead 18 months ago. Then you have to worry about getting the right URL (internet address), because it can be a real serious impediment to match your potential new name with a URL. There are lawyers who specialize in this, and they investigated 10 to 14 names for availability. We ended up with 10 to 13 at first and then cut it down to two or three. While people will always find something to disagree with about the design or colors, I really liked the idea that FedPoint was the right fit. And we found a URL that had never been in service, which is how we arrived at fedpointusa.com.
Q. You have a diverse academic background. How did you get into the insurance industry?
A. I got into the insurance industry in the early 1980s, because as a college professor I couldn’t find a tenure-track position.
My teaching was fairly interdisciplinary with English literature of the Renaissance and Elizabethan periods, political philosophy and religion, and I taught a lot of rhetoric. I got into the insurance business and brought a nonfiction analytical and rhetorical skill set.
Q. What interested you about this segment of the industry?
A. I had a chance to get involved with the long-term care business that John Hancock was starting. At that time in 1987, it was kind of exciting to be one of the senior managers in that business. We saw the first census reports that showed the aging of America and there would be a demand in the huge baby boomer segment of the population for certain insurance products like long-term care.
Q. What is the talent range at FedPoint?
A. We have many different types of jobs. In addition to specialists, in insurance and marketing and communications, we have a large IT department. We build systems and support them ourselves, software engineers — our business analysts work with coders to ensure the system does what it’s supposed to do. We have claims adjustors and quality assurance testers. We have customer service and 35 registered nurses who work in long-term care. We have jobs in training, speaking and data management. We also do a lot of project management.
Q. How has FedPoint handled the coronavirus pandemic?
A. We have been very successful during the shutdown. We are a federal government contractor, which is not exactly like most businesses. We have to be available 24/7 and have the website up all the time. Most of our employees live in New Hampshire, but others are based on the West Coast and elsewhere. Within a few days we were able to go remote with 97% working remotely with only an essential skeleton crew in the office. We did discover that some of our people did not have the proper equipment, so we set standards of uniform equipment so nothing blocks their abilities to do their jobs. We are also in the process of hiring 35 new employees with training done virtually.