How American Home Mortgage Embraced Benefits Innovation With Criterion


When American Home Mortgage (AHM) needed to change the benefit enrollment process for more than 2600 of their employees, they knew it was time to bring in some serious help. They turned Criterion, Travers O’Keefe, and SHPS to help integrate their benefits broker, the HRIS vendor, the enrollment website and carrier link vendor, the carriers, and ADP (the payroll provider).

Previously, employees had been solicited each year with paper enrollment. These paper enrollments were sent and collected via the HR department. Furthermore, many of the employees had joined the company via various acquisitions - bringing their carriers, rate structures, forms and enrollment information from the prior HR administration along with them. All told, they offered several carriers and over 100 plan variations.

Because of this complexity, discrepancies in census, coverage, employee payroll deductions and gaps in paperwork were not uncommon. The process was very disjointed and there were errors related to employees who had separated from the company. For a few plans, the HR system fed the payroll system deduction changes automatically.


AHM underwent a significant overhaul of its benefits process. This began with the selection of an enrollment vendor - assisted by the benefits broker. SHPS was selected to provide the open enrollment, employee self-service, HR enrollment management as well as the financial link between AHM and the carriers. All of the manual processes of maintaining census, enrolling employees, reconciling billing and sending payments were to be replaced.

Next, AHM and the broker determined the new carrier list and negotiated rates. This alone brought the number of total benefit carriers down from more than twenty-five to only nine. It also provided new benefits that were not available to AHM employees prior to the 2004 open enrollment period.

There was a comprehensive implementation of SHPS that included configuring rates, the websites that employees would see, bi-directional electronic feeds with the carriers and feeds to and from the HRIS system.

Criterion was enlisted to help identify the current exceptions to the rate structures (well over 300 types of exceptions) inherited from previous mergers and acquisitions. Criterion extracted the necessary wage information directly from the ADP data in order to determine the rolling 12 month annualized salary for salary-based benefits and helped determine the rules for eligibility and coverage.

Additionally, Criterion built an export to the SHPS system including all-important data for the census and open enrollment. This dynamic 1-click export automatically identifies the information necessary and sends it to SHPS via FTP and/or email.

The HR benefits department worked closely with Criterion, Travers O’Keefe and SHPS to establish a smooth open enrollment. Remote office HR personnel were brought in for training sessions where each of these organizations educated them on the ongoing process and the streamlining that was about to occur.

This consulting proved to be invaluable as each organization was able to enhance the value of the total project with their specific expertise. Criterion was clearly the best choice to handle data manipulation and accuracy. Travers O’Keefe led the benefits design and web enrollment content site creation. SHPS built a customized enrollment site and managed the carrier links and financial links. AHM oversaw the entire project and had a hand in each decision that was made.


Overall, this initiative resulted in significant decrease in the time dedicated to benefits administration, an increase in accuracy and accountability for information, the shift of burden for enrollment from the HR staff to the employee base, financial benefits derived from combining employee populations as well as negotiation, and helping drive major savings for AHM by shifting to a self-insured model for many of the benefits provided.

Specifically, Criterion contributed the following:

  • Identified discrepancies in the employee benefit data
  • Built and manage the export of existing data for upload into SHPS
  • Built an ongoing link to provide census changes on a weekly basis to SHPS
  • Consulted on plan design and relate rate structure to current employee population
  • General project management
  • Built an ongoing link to import benefit changes on a weekly basis from SHPS including dependent demographics and coverage
  • Created audit capability for benefits changes
  • Provided deduction information and changes automatically to ADP payroll system
  • Managed expiration of old plan structure in the HR data and ADP payroll system
  • Trained HR staff on overall process design and specific HRIS considerations
  • Customized their HRIS to limit data entry errors on benefits managed via SHPS
  • Created a bi-directional HR to Payroll audit process tailored to their benefit deductions
  • Brian Kesselman (VP of Technology at Criterion) oversaw the project from Criterion’s perspective. His take on the whole undertaking:

“AHM undertook a considerable project by redesigning its process and its benefits in a very compressed timeframe. By bringing the significant expertise of Criterion, Travers O’Keefe and SHPS together to work with their highly dedicated Benefits Department, they were able to see the project through to an excellent conclusion. The overall positive enrollment during a 3-week period was about 90 percent of the target population. This means that over 2300 employees logged in, read about their benefit choices, recorded their dependent information and decided what coverages to take!”

Because Criterion was part of the process from the beginning, we were able to guide AHM in many areas including technical information, process management, data manipulation and benefits design. We put together a team with over 32 years of HR and HRIS experience on the project in order to ensure success. The monetary and time savings generated by the efforts of all involved are expected to achieve a positive return on investment in less than one year.

Real Estate
Business Needs

Payroll, Benefits

Business Size
5,000+ Employees
Melville, NY
Gwen Deutsch
HR Benefits Administrator, American Home Mortgage
“I have nothing to say but good things about Criterion. Brian Kesselman of Criterion was indispensable and the project would never have been such a success without him! His insight and approach to this monumental undertaking very quickly marked him as the consummate problem solver on a variety of issues. We’re big fans!”
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