LEAPFROGGING THE WEST

Rosaline Chow

FOUNDER & CEO

CXA GROUP PTE LTD

(Nova Category Overall Winner 2017)

"By shifting benefits from treatment to prevention, companies benefit by lowering their cost"

In her roomy office at Commonwealth Drive, Rosaline Chow and her team of 200 are busy preparing for the company’s next phase of growth. Following a Series A round that raised US$8 million, the team has just received another US$25 million in investments in Series B. Their high-profile investors include Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, B Capital (BCG), EDBI, Philips Healthcare and global life and health reinsurer RGA.

The company, is valued at US$100 million just three years after its launch.

CXA Group, Chow’s third tech start-up, is a digital storefront where employees are given the option to choose their benefits. Unlike conventional models of employee benefits, CXA entirely disrupts the system by offering a radically different proposition. “We deconstruct the money companies spend on employee benefits, and give the employees a wallet to allow them to choose what would benefit them,” Chow explains.

In more conventional insurance systems with one-size-fits-all benefits, there is a lot of duplicate and excessive spend for dual- income families and young employees, with a lot of money wasted in purchasing insurance that employees barely use or simply do not value. “We let employers repurpose their insurance spend on prevention, wellness services and disease management,” Chow says, adding that this is particularly pertinent in Asia where chronic diseases hit 10 years before they even reach the West. As an indication of this phenomenon, she notes that premiums are rising much faster in Asia than in the US or Europe.

When employees become healthier, companies benefit with higher productivity and lower healthcare spend, Chow explains. And CXA makes it much less vexing by taking out all the paper in the system. The model has proven so popular that CXA counts no fewer than 45
Fortune Global 500 companies among its 500 corporate clients, with the figure expected to grow as CXA expands across Asia.

The idea behind CXA came to Chow when she was the head of employee benefits broker Mercer Marsh Benefits’ Asia Pacific region, where she grew the business in 14 Asia Pacific countries with 400 employees by 800 per cent over eight years and made it the dominant broker in Asia. Having identified better ways to improve and grow the business by addressing Asia’s biggest pain points, Chow built business cases to invest in a tech-enabled business model, which Mercer HQ in NYC declined to accept despite her repeated persistence over five years. So she left and started CXA, fully convinced and confident of its potential.

CXA is now integrated with 500 vendors to provide employees a range of wellness programmes such as weight management, diabetes management, smoking cessation, healthy eating, sleep disorder treatment and stress management, etc. “The mission of the company is to help companies shift money spent on insurance from treatment to prevention, so we can enable employees to lead happier, healthier lives,” Koo explains.

Meanwhile, Chow focuses her efforts on taking CXA into new markets, bringing the company’s regional brokerage footprint to 10 countries around Asia. “We just opened in Hong Kong and China, and seven others will soon follow,” she discloses, adding that the platform has already been piloted by several insurers to white-label for their SME clients.
The exponential growth of CXA over the past three years is due to the uniqueness of the business model in the insurance brokerage industry — no other business offers a similar model, and with as much ease and convenience. “We’ve taken an industry that’s been standing still for 50 years and completely changed the rules of the game,” says Chow. “We use big data to help companies and each employee to understand how they can get healthier, and how to personalise not just one’s insurance but also one’s wellness. This also allows companies to project the future trajectory of their employees’ health and costs involved, which in turn helps them to break the cost curve using the same amount of money that they are already spending on insurance.”
According to Chow, the question that every company should ask itself is: Why go back to traditional brokers if all they do is get you the best price, whereas we do that plus give your employees personalised choices, improve their health and lower your costs — all at exactly the same price by appointing CXA as the broker?
As the founder and CEO, Chow’s role also entails overseeing funding with the company’s CFO, working with the team on developing innovative products and services, and speaking at conferences to educate the industry on new ways to do business. Despite having no marketing spend, CXA and Koo are a regular face in the media, having received coverage by publications such as The Business Times, The Straits Times, The EDGE, TODAY, Bloomberg, CNBC, Channel NewsAsia, TechCrunch, Asia Insurance Review, Human Resources Magazine, Forbes and others. It has also won countless awards in the HR, healthcare, as well as insurance industries, further sealing its position as the most notable and fastest growing new health and insurtech start-up in Asia.
To ensure the continued growth and sustainability of the business, Chow says it is crucial to address scalability. “We are now scaling the tech platform and building a share services operation to support the growth of the company in 10 countries. And we need to be sure that everyone’s goals are aligned.” To this end, she is building the CXA Academy to train existing employees and initiate people from outside the industry.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind platform and not yet replicated by anyone else,” she says, further adding that she has since brought in a lot of industry professionals who initially refused to join the start-up when it was small.

When asked what she would have done differently, Chow laughs. “Maybe I would have bought the smallest broker instead of the biggest one! I spent all my savings of $5 million and signed a personal guarantee to borrow another $5 million to bet that this would work out. Because of this, my retired husband returned to the workforce and my daughter had to work for her US college tuition fees. But acquiring Pan Group has helped me a lot and I am glad that I did it. It’s just that it’s exponentially more work when you build a tech start-up and transform a large SME at the same time.”

Although she has her sights on ambitious goals, Chow — who has two previous dot-com start-ups to her credit — has her feet firmly on the ground, and advises budding entrepreneurs to be pragmatic and realistic in their vision. “You have to find a solution to a problem that needs to be solved, for which people would be willing to pay. In my first two start-ups, I thought if I invented something, people would come, but that is simply not true. It has to address a problem that matters.

“With CXA. I am trying to build a Singaporean company that leapfrogs the West to beat the US and European global companies at their games,” Koo concludes. “And we want to build a great firm that will continue to attract the best employees and the largest clients.”

AWARD JUDGE

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai

Director

Seed Global Investment

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai spent 29 years in the Singapore Armed Forces as a military officer. He rose up to the Army’s top leadership and held numerous key appointments.

The years in the Armed Forces provided him a strong foundation in leadership, human capital management, operational planning, training development and critical diplomatic skills.

He retired from active military service in 2016 and is currently a Director with SEED Global Investment, a real estate investment firm. He oversees the company’s portfolio and business development in the US and UK. He holds a MSc in Applied Finance from the Singapore Management University, and is no stranger to corporate finance, portfolio management, equities, bonds and derivatives.

AWARD JUDGE

TIN PEI LING

Member of Parliament
CEO

Business China

Ms Tin Pei Ling is the Chief Executive Officer of Business China, a non-profit organisation that harnesses the support of the public sector & private enterprises to strengthen the ties between Singapore and China. Prior to joining Business China, Pei Ling was the Group Director of Corporate Strategy for Jing King Group.

Pei Ling is an elected Member of Parliament in Singapore since 2011 and currently serves on the Public Accounts Committee. She also serves on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications & Information (from 2018, Dy Chairperson) and Health (2011 – present) and previously for Law/Home Affairs (2011-2015) and Social & Family Development (2015 – 2018, Dy Chairperson).

AWARD JUDGE

RYAN CHIOH

Managing Director

Faseastflora.com

Mr Ryan Chioh joined FEF.com in 1998 as Executive Director of Far East Flora Holdings Pte Ltd.

Always a firm advocator for technology, Ryan identified the direction for e-commerce development and saw a business opportunity to offer FEF.com’s extensive range of flowers and gifts online in 2001. Ryan blended his IT savviness and prudent business sense to steer the company’s website to become the leading portal for flowers and gifts. Ryan also brought the company to another level by spearheading the development of a CRM and ERP business solution, integrating the front-end and back-end operations so that there would be easier identification of customer base.

AWARD JUDGE

NEO SING HWEE

Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore Internal Audit Leader, Risk Advisory Services

Ernst & Young

Mr Neo Sing Hwee sits in the EY Asean Partner Governance Council and leads the Advisory (Risk) Internal Audit Practice in Ernst & Young Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore.

He has more than 20 years of experience in providing risk management, performance improvement, internal controls and business advisory services to clients in various industries, including organisations in the government and public sector such as ministries and statutory boards. He provides advice to Boards and Management on leading practices, insights as well as issues relating to corporate governance, risk management and internal controls.

AWARD JUDGE

DR LIM WEE KIAK, PBM

Member of Parliament
CEO

Eagle Eye Centre

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, is an elected Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC since 2015 and serves as chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth. An Ophthalmologist, Dr Lim is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Eagle Eye Centre.

Dr Lim joined the Singapore Armed Forces as a medical officer in 1994 and completed subspecialty training in Ophthalmology in 1998, with a Master’s degree in Medicine and two post-graduate specialist qualifications in Ophthalmology. During his service in SAF, he led numerous humanitarian missions to neighbouring countries. He joined Singapore National Eye Centre and was awarded the MOH HMDP fellowship in 2003, doing one year of clinical and research Fellowship at the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Dr Lim had been an active grassroots leader since 1998 before joining politics in 2006. For his active community involvement, he was awarded the Young Executive of the Year in 2000 and Public Service Medal (PBM) in 2003.

AWARD JUDGE

Chew Mok Lee

Assistant Chief Executive
ICM & Digitalisation
Enterprise Services & New Industries

Enterprise Singapore

Ms Chew Mok Lee is the Assistant Chief Executive in charge of ICM & Digitalisation, Enterprise Services & New Industries in Enterprise Singapore, a government agency spearheading enterprise and industry development, reporting to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore. Enterprise Singapore is also the national Standards body in Singapore.

Prior to Enterprise Singapore, Mok Lee was with National Productivity Board (NPB), PSB and SPRING Singapore. She graduated from National University of Singapore, majoring in Economics and Statistics. She has a double Masters and is well versed in the area of enterprise promotion, industry development and partnership building, having been involved in various aspects of capability development, support for local enterprises, enabling a viable enterprise eco-system and entrepreneurship for 29 years. She also served as Secretariat to the Action Community for Entrepreneurship and was responsible for working with the Minister in Charge of Entrepreneurship and private sector members to foster entrepreneurship and support start-ups in Singapore.

AWARD JUDGE

CHIA KIM HUAT

Regional Head
Corporate and Transactional Practice

Rajah & Tann Singapore

Mr Chia Kim Huat has extensive experience in capital market, public and private mergers and acquisitions, cross-border joint ventures and private equity investments, both in Singapore and the region. He travels regularly in the Asia-Pacific region advising clients on a wide range of matters, including direct investments and infrastructure projects in China, major acquisitions in Korea, joint ventures in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan and cross-border mergers and acquisitions transactions. Kim Huat also advises foreign investors on their investments in Singapore, including listings on the Singapore Exchange, privatisations, secondary and dual listings.

He has been recognised as a leading lawyer in his field by International Financial Law Review 1000, Chambers Global “Leaders in their Field”, Asia Pacific Legal 500, “Eminent Practitioner” in Chambers Asia Pacific, Who’s Who Legal: Corporate – Merger & Acquisition/Capital Markets – Debt and Equity and Merger & Acquisition, ‘Leading Lawyer’ in Asialaw Profiles and Best Lawyers, 2017 Edition.

AWARD JUDGE

TAN WEE BENG

Deputy Chief Executive (Operations)
SkillsFuture Singapore

Wee Beng is the Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) of SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). He leads the Business Technology Group (Operations Planning Division, Capability Development Division, Operations & Support Division, Security & Infrastructure Division), the Training, Manpower & Infrastructure Group (Manpower & Infrastructure Planning Division, Office of Lifelong Learning, and Institute of Adult Learning which comprises Learning and Professional Development Division, Research and Innovation Division, Learning Services and Support Division ) as well as the Business Services Group (Shared Services Management, Integrated Business Services Division &, Corporate Services Division).

Prior to joining SSG, Wee Beng was an officer with the Singapore Armed Forces, leading both large and small teams. His last appointment was Chief-of-Staff, Republic of Singapore Navy, overseeing a range of staff departments and ground commands. Other key appointments held were Head Naval Operations, Commander of Maritime Security Task Force and Commander, Naval Diving Unit. Wee Beng holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Physics from Oxford University, UK, and a Master of Science in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.