Singapore’s CXA raises $25 million to develop its health-focused insurance brokerage
By Jon Russell for TechCrunch
CXA, a Singapore-based startup insurance brokerage — if such a thing can exist — has scooped up $25 million to expand its service that provide policies with a focus on wellness across Asia.
This is a Series B investment and it was led by B Capital, the BCG-backed fund from Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, and EDBI, the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board. CXA said on record that the deal values it above $100 million. To date it has raised a total of $33 million from investors, according to data from Crunchbase.
CXA is aiming to disrupt the corporate insurance space through a focus on health. That might sound like typical corporate claptrap, but CXA can back the talk up. Rather than simply selling a premium to companies to cover their workforce, it has built in a health component which gives employees access to services which they can pick and choose as they wish.
So, rather than having to use the designated company gym or being limited rigid healthcare options, if anything at all, staff have the flexibility to spend their allocation as they want, to suit their own wishes. Beyond simply helping them stay fitter and giving them more appreciation for their employer and job, there are tangible benefits to the companies which purchase their insurance from CXA. A healthier workforce also means lower premiums in future, alongside potential productivity boosts and increase morale.
What’s particularly compelling about this model is that the cost of healthcare isn’t absorbed by the insurance buyer. CXA’s platform brings on healthcare providers at no charge to the corporate. Beyond the standard insurance brokerage business, CXA makes money via a commission for deals that wellness providers sell to staff. Furthermore, it cuts costs by automating processes that would usual requirement manual paperwork.
From talking to CXA CEO and founder Rosaline Chow Koo, the most difficult challenge at this point seems to be the company’s youth. That goes some way to explaining why CXA is being vocal about its $100 million valuation, to help it command the time and respect of prospective new clients and potential hires — both of whom may be jumping ship from huge players in the insurance industry and naturally seek assurances.
“Why leave a giant firm unless they know we’ll be here for good?” Koo explained in an interview. “I want to show everyone we are well funded and highly valued.”
Small fish syndrome has been an issue Koo, who has quite an incredible background having grown up an immigrant in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles, since founded CXA three years ago. She injected the initial $10 million needed to get the wheels moving, half of which came from savings and the rest as a loan which she said isn’t quite paid off yet.
A long-time insurance executive, her last corporate stint was a senior innovation partner with Mercer, Koo saw an opportunity to blend the rise in data into the insurance business, particularly in Asia where she observed costs skyrocketing.
“Chronic disease comes [to Asia] 10 years before it reaches the West. Employers are saying they can’t sustain doubling health insurance costs, they’ve been trying to understand how they can get their employees healthier,” she said.
The solution may seem obvious, but still big firms are scrambling to rearrange themselves to take advantage. CXA has done that from the word go, but Koo believes her lead is slender as the rest will inevitably catch up.
“It’s a matter of time,” she said. “Because we know more about the industry we have access to clients and insurance we have to keep innovating otherwise they will catch up. We probably have a two-year head start, we can create so much chaos in the market.”
CXA CEO and founder Rosaline Chow Koo
Thanks to the business model, Koo revealed that the company is already profitable but it doesn’t want to stand still and be caught. The plan is to spend this new financing to expand its focus from Singapore and Hong Kong into more parts of Asia. Koo revealed that CXA has signed a brokerage license and revenue-share agreement with an unnamed UK partner which will extend its reach to China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. In the long run though, she admitted it may be prudent to acquire its own license, potentially by buying a brokerage.
Beyond geographical expansions, Koo also wants to broaden CXA’s services to enable insurance firms and banks to cross-sell new packages into existing users, i.e. staff of its customers. That’s to say that the firm wants to unlock the potential for users to gain access to more banking, finance and insurance services that they may be unaware or ill-informed of. An initial pilot with 500 CXA customers went well enough to warrant a fuller rollout soon. The firm is also moving to a Saas platform, which will help give greater access to information for its customers.
All of this disruption has caused ripples. Koo admitted that CXA has been approached for acquisition a number of times.
“We’re too small for that,” she commented. “We’d need to be 5-10 times the size that we are now.”
Rather than selling to an insurance company, Koo said a tech firm like Google might be a better parent. But, for now, she’s still focused on scaling the company so an exit is far, far away.
As of now, CXA claims 45 Fortune 100 clients among its roster and nearly 200 staff across offices in Singapore and Hong Kong. A Shanghai office is due to open in the next month.
First appeared at TC