Unlocking wellness in the workplace 18 July 2016

Rosaline Chow Koo, founder and CEO at CXA Group, outlines why she has invested her family’s entire life savings in creating Asia’s first private workplace insurance and wellness marketplace.

Please give us a brief overview of the solution

CXA’s mission is to unlock wellness in the workplace by shifting the focus of employee benefits from treatment to prevention. Companies purchasing their employee benefits via CXA’s brokerage get our platform without paying more.  That way, firms can leverage their existing insurance spend to get flexible benefits, workplace wellness and data analytics. 

Why did you create the platform?

Prior to starting CXA, I led the 14 Asia Pacific countries at Mercer Marsh Benefits, growing 800% over eight years into the dominant broker with 50% more market share in the major markets than the next competitor. We transformed from a purely transactional broker into a pan-regional consultative provider with new solutions including regional brokerage mandates, flexible benefits, health cost management and off-the-shelf SME products. But during my last five years, we figured out a better way to grow exponentially by using technology to address major unresolved client pain points including:
- escalating insurance premiums doubling every three to seven years in countries across Asia,  
- desire to offer wellness to combat worsening health, but lack ROI data or money,
- employee not valuing benefits or understanding insurance,
- paper-intensive benefits administration with too many vendors.

So every year for five years, I developed business cases and talked to dozens of people in New York headquarters to invest in Asia, but was never given approval. So when the global CEO and my boss in NY were changed, I finally left to pursue my dream on my own.

What challenges did you face in creating it?

Bundling our flex wellness platform together with insurance meant that we were creating a new business model that required brokerage licensing. In order to win back the regional HR decision-makers I had worked with or knew from speaking at conferences and writing white papers, I decided to acquire Pan Resources, Singapore’s largest home-grown employee benefits broker with a loyal corporate clientele.

To finance the acquisition, recruit experienced talent and build the CXA platform, I invested all of my family’s savings of US$5 million and signed a personal guarantee with DBS for a US$5 million loan. My retired husband and my daughter, then a college freshman in Boston, both had to work since I did not take a salary and had spent all our money.  

How was it developed?

We used my one-year non-compete/solicit period to secretly work in my living room to develop the product, gather HR feedback, build the technology, perform due diligence, negotiate the loan and obtain MAS regulatory approval on the new business model and acquisition. My family kicked us out once we grew to ten people with the product manager living in our guest bedroom! We didn’t mind leaving since my daughter was banging the piano every day in preparation for her final exam, my dog was barking incessantly and my cats kept warming themselves on our computer keyboards. Fortunately, we were able to move next door to Pan when the adjacent office opened up.

What are the biggest benefits to users?

Each employee is given a fixed benefits wallet equivalent to the monetised value of their insurance and healthcare costs, which they can personalise to their individual health needs, preferences and life stage. For example, a young healthy employee can choose a minimum insurance coverage and use the balance amount throughout the year for yoga, nutrition, mindfulness and personal development.

Someone already covered by their working spouse’s benefits can repurpose the otherwise duplicated spend for maternity, health screening and stress management. Dual income families with young children can use it for paediatrics, glasses, dental care and maid insurance.

Married older employees can leverage our TCM and chronic disease management offerings.

When an employee uses CXA, a personalised recommendation on their appropriate level of insurance coverage and wellness services is provided when they respond to the CXA insurance and lifestyle risk questionnaire and uploads their basic and advanced health screening results. Employees also have access to other features like our face-ageing technology to help them visualise the impact of their health choices on their face and our post screening doctor video consultation feature to interpret their health check results without having to visit the doctor’s clinic.

The aggregation of over 400 wellness and health management offers in Singapore onto the CXA platform also enables employees to access their benefits without having to pay out of pocket, submit a paper claim and wait for reimbursements. They can either use our e-vouchers for cashless purchases within the CXA network or use the CXA Claims app to scan or check the status on their wellness, insured and self-funded outpatient claims. 

With a fixed, predictable budget per employee, firms can control the rate of premium increase and shift or share the burden of medical inflation with employees who now must take personal responsibility for their health. Companies can also reduce some of their group coverage and use our enrolment engine to offer employee paid voluntary group top-ups or individual worksite products. Employees can take advantage of our negotiated discount offers via payroll deduction or credit card payments.

With our platform, employers can finally get ROI data on their wellness interventions since we capture and digitize claims, lifestyle risks, health screening and wearable device data. We perform cohort analysis to figure out which lifestyle habits are leading to claims and health outcomes and support lifestyle modification programs to address the root cause of the claims. We comply with PDPA by encrypting personally identifiable data and by aggregating and anonymizing the information for HR. 

Our insurance and wellness exchange eases HR’s benefits administration burden by digitizing all the paperwork and aggregating all of their vendors into a one-stop-shop. We also simplified the administration of flexible benefits with a configurable rules engine to substantially reduce implementation times and easier employee census/movement uploads from the major HRIS systems.  

Because of this, firms are engaging us to manage their wellness programs and capture data from their on-site health screenings, health fairs, team step challenges, weight loss, stress reduction, diabetes management, smoking and nutrition programs. Companies leverage our platform to reward spending dollars to employees for participation, weight loss, managing their cholesterol levels or stopping smoking. The rewards can be easily redeemed through the wellness marketplace or portable insurance shop.

How successful has it been to date?

The stealth work in my living room really paid off as we were able to launch fully formed day one with a large brokerage and three marquee Fortune 100 clients in tech, manufacturing and financial services on our new platform.  Since launching two years ago, we now have over 500 corporates with 100,000 employees already on our platform.  

We have raised US$11M of institutional funding after winning over many more large clients from the global incumbent brokers.

Because of our work with so many clients, HR in Singapore and Hong Kong voted us as one of the top Vendors of the Year. We were also a winner in the Invest Hong Kong start-up competition and our healthcare big data work has been profiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

How do you expect it to evolve in the future?

We have signed an MOU with UK brokerage firm Howden to partner across 11 countries in Asia (China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand) so that we can help MNCs with their offices regionally.

We are also finalising partnerships with insurers, banks and reinsurers to white-label our platform for electronic distribution to individual clients and SMEs via their direct, agency, affinity and bancassurance channels.

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