Anyone who runs a business knows the hefty costs of insuring your staff. SMEs and startups have little or no leverage in getting good deals and no one has any interest in reducing costs for small companies.

Well, except for Mednefits. This startup is helping to tackle these issues by using technology to replace the middlemen like third-party administrators (TPAs), and connect healthcare providers directly with companies seeking to provide employee benefits.

This platform-based solution pools all the companies together — big and small — to negotiate lower rates from healthcare providers. Thus providing leverage for smaller businesses to negotiate at the same level as MNCs.

Recently Mednefits raised a Series A round of USD 6 million led by BLoyalty Sdn Bhd. Fresh off this raise, we had a chance to speak to Chris Teo, CEO of Mednefits about their plans for the region and what they hope to achieve in the coming year.

Congratulations on your recent fundraising. How will you be using those funds?

We have raised SGD 8 million, following the conclusion of our series A funding. With these funds, we will focus on expanding our operations in three key areas: incorporating technology to improve our platform, building our client base, and talent acquisition and retention.

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Different companies have different HR needs, and we are continuously working to improve our platform, so it caters to a wider array of organisations. By investing in expanding the types of user interfaces and dashboards that we offer our clients, we will be able to meet the needs of a greater variety of HR requirements from companies both large and small. This is our strategy for expanding our client base — creating employee benefits solutions that are customised to meet each company’s specific needs. Having the right talent on board also plays a key role in the success of our organisation, and we are sparing no expense in building out the right team for the job.

What have been some of the challenges faced building the company to over 500 clients?

Initially, we wanted to ensure that we had a complete understanding of the industries and businesses that we were going to work with — this of course includes the panel clinics that we have on our platform. In early 2015, my fellow co-founder, Hadiyanto Wibawa, and I, spent three months as part-time nurses in clinics, while our other co-founder, Clarence Zhang, spoke to several HR executives to gain a full appreciation of their business practices. By investing this time, we obtained insights into the various operational needs, workflows, and challenges faced by clinic staff and HR departments.

With this knowledge, the next hurdle for any technology disruptor is getting clients on board to try new things. We found that once we clearly demonstrate the benefits of our platform — such as cost savings and streamlining administration — it becomes much easier for our clients to take the leap.

Why do you think clients like 7-11 and ERA chose to work with your company rather than another provider?

Our platform uses technology to replace the middlemen, and connect our clients directly to healthcare providers. Mednefits allows employers to customise benefits plans to meet the specific needs of their workforces, and opt out of cost-inefficient, one-size-fits-all insurance plans that traditional providers offer.

With traditional employee benefits plans, middlemen and third-party administration make up a fair chunk of the total healthcare cost to companies. On top of that, many providers bundle up inpatient and outpatient coverage, leaving businesses with little option to customise benefits packages according to the specific needs of their employees, or reduce overlaps with existing coverage like Medishield.

The reason clients choose Mednefits is because we help them save time and costs while customising benefits plans that match their needs.

Who would you say are your biggest competitors and why?

Currently, digital platforms like Mednefits that connect clients directly to healthcare providers are not as prolific as traditional insurance providers.

However, COVID-19’s impact on businesses, coupled with rising healthcare costs, have clearly highlighted the importance of automated, affordable, and accessible healthcare options. Even amidst the pandemic, we are seeing continued growth, and are confident that as we continue gaining traction, the case for digital employee benefits platforms like ours will become clearer to those who have yet to take the leap.

What do you think 2021 will hold for your industry?

With hybrid working situations unlikely to revert even after the pandemic subsides, designing hybrid work environments that suit emerging employee needs will become the new norm. HR leaders will have to design models where employees can come to the office only when needed, and ensure that typical business functions — such as catch-ups or meetings — can be conducted efficiently in a virtual setting.

New technologies will play an increasingly important role in other HR functions. There are already companies leveraging data analytics to assess their employee data and make informed decisions on retention, productivity and other employee-facing programs and initiatives.

Additionally, digitalisation and technology will be used to implement more comprehensive employee benefits plans that provide workers with the stability and support they seek in changing work environments. The companies that learn to put their employees first will stand a better chance of getting ahead, in the new era of work.

What’s next for Mednefits? 

Mednefits just concluded its series A funding, pegged at SGD 8 million. We were able to maintain our course of growth and recently expanded into Malaysia, granting members with access to over 1,000 medical providers across the country. 

The Mednefits platform currently serves over 50,000 members across Singapore and Malaysia. In line with our vision to lead the employee benefits transformation in Southeast Asia, we will continue to look at other markets in the region for more growth opportunities.