Ms. Rosaline Chow Koo is the Founder and CEO of CXA, the first private insurance and workplace wellness exchange in Asia. CXA pioneered the flex wellness marketplace which allows firms to bundle their healthcare budget with benefits and wellness programs giving more choice to their employees.
Ms. Koo’s experiences both in her professional and personal life have led her to CXA’s unique platform and standards.
Learn more about Ms. Koo’s insights, her road to insurance brokerage, and CXA’s role in helping employers and employees by disrupting employee benefits in Asia in her complete interview below.
I started my career in manufacturing before moving into banking, followed by tech and insurance before moving to brokerage.
After studying Cybernetics at UCLA, I moved to Iowa to manage factory lines for Procter & Gamble. I was in way over my head as a 21-year-old supervising 33 older employees. That humbling experience pushed me to learn business, and I vowed to someday become a great leader. Fortunately, I won a fellowship to attend Columbia Business School in New York and stayed to work at Bankers Trust Company on Wall Street, rotating through 8 different roles over 8 years. This included developing and growing retirement and FX products, strategic planning, re-engineering customer service, marketing and running operations.
In 1996, my husband was asked by his firm to move to London, so I got a transfer with the bank and signed a lease on a house. Unfortunately, the day the movers came, we were asked to work in Singapore instead. Since we didn’t know anyone in Singapore, I became the trailing spouse and stayed home with the kids. Three years later, I returned to work to launch two start-ups commuting to Kuala Lumpur during the dot-com boom. I quit the second start-up, a regional payroll BPO when my daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy and a learning disorder.
After settling both kids into special needs school, my client ACE Insurance asked me to help set up their e-business. I agreed to work part-time so that I could drop-off and pick-up the kids, but that arrangement only lasted 3 months before I was put in charge of the local A&H team, regional operations and launching new worksite channels across ASEAN.
I was lured away to Mercer Marsh Benefits after disintermediating the brokers and as fate would have it, signed the offer the day before Eliot Spitzer sued Marsh & McLennan Companies. We used the crisis as the burning platform to get the 14 Mercer and Marsh countries in Asia Pacific to work together transforming 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. Revenues grew 800% over my 8 years, and we became the dominant broker in Asia with 50% more market share in the major markets than the next competitor.
During my last 5 years at Mercer, we had figured out a better way to grow exponentially by addressing major unresolved client pain points. Every year for 5 years, I tried to persuade New York headquarters to invest heavily in technology for 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.
Bundling our flex wellness marketplace platform together with insurance meant that we were creating a new business model that required me to have brokerage licenses. 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 $5M and negotiated with DBS for a $5M loan. My retired husband and my daughter, then a college freshman in Boston, both had to work since I did not take a salary.
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 tech, 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 10 people with the product manager living in our guest bedroom. We didn’t mind leaving since my daughter was banging the piano everyday in preparation for her final exam, my dog was barking incessantly, and my cats kept warming themselves on our laptop keyboards. Fortunately, we were able to move next door to Pan when the adjacent office opened up.
The stealth work really paid off as we were able to launch fully formed day 1 with a large brokerage and 3 marquee Fortune 100 clients in tech, manufacturing and financial services on our new platform.
A year later, we raised $11M of institutional funding after winning over many more large clients from the global incumbent brokers.
We are on a mission to unlock wellness in the workplace by shifting the focus of employee benefits from treatment to prevention. We are transforming workplace health by enabling companies to leverage their existing insurance spend to pay for wellness and disease prevention. That’s why over 500 corporates with 100,000 employees are already on our platform even though we only launched 2 years ago.
The CXA platform is designed to offer employees a personalised and flexible experience.
Each employee is given a fixed benefits wallet equivalent to the monetized value of their insurance and healthcare costs, which they can personalize 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.
Employers are choosing CXA for our ability to solve Regional HR’s major pain points including:
With a fixed, predictable budget per employee, firms can control the rate of 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. Our payment gateway enables payroll deduction and flex spending accounts, and soon we’ll offer credit card payments so that employees can take advantage of our negotiated discount offers.
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 biometric 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.
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 more spending dollars to employees for participation, weight loss, managing their cholesterol levels or stopping smoking. The rewards can be easily redeemed through the wellness or portable insurance shop.
Our insurance and wellness exchange was built to ease 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.
Because of our work with so many clients, HR in Singapore voted us #2 for Best Compensation & Benefits Consultant for HR Vendor of the Year Awards. In Hong Kong, HR voted us top three despite just opening that office. Our healthcare big data work has also been profiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
CXA is a broker with our own technology platform. We work very closely with our insurance, health screening panel and wellness partners to win the largest clients and to integrate our systems for seamless, high-quality delivery to corporates and their employees.
To design and manage their benefits program to help their employees get healthy, our partners and customers get the support they need from our management team of PhDs, Computer Science Masters, MBAs, and MDs, backed up by a squad of over 130 staff, including developers, workplace health consultants, data scientists, brokers, account managers, implementers, customer service reps and claims administrators.
Our goal is to build an end-to-end benefits ecosystem that employers can leverage to meet their insurance, flex and wellness administration needs. With the addition of our retirement module, CXA will become the health, wealth and lifestyle platform for the workplace which can be distributed via our own brokers in Asia to the Fortune 500, while distributors sell our white labelled off the shelf solutions to SMEs.
Most of our Fortune 500 clients have regional headquarters in Singapore and Hong Kong as well as offices throughout Asia. They’ve requested CXA’s platform plus brokerage across the region to support their insurance, flex and wellness administration needs. So we are following our clients to China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines this year. Our goal is to establish our presence in all the key Asian markets including India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thailand.
We are in active discussions with various insurers, banks, FAs, reinsurers and payroll firms to white label our platform for electronic distribution to individual clients and SMEs via their direct, agency, affinity and bancassurance channels. This will be CXA’s enterprise software-as-a-service business model that focuses on SMEs using our distributor’s sales force alongside our brokerage distribution business that focuses on the Fortune 500.
We will soon be commencing Series B funding. We’re raising capital to substantially beef up our tech and product development teams and for our next series of brokerage acquisitions to increase our pan-Asia footprint to meet the demand for our platform and services.
Rosaline, the path you have chosen is different from other insurance companies which I warmly welcome. This is the future and you have chosen to be the leader here. My only wish is that don't sell to other insurance companies or investors who would like to cream out later....