I had the opportunity to have an intriguing conversation last week with Vinay Gidwaney, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder at Maxwell Health. Maxwell Health is a player in the benefits space, hoping to disrupt the insurance industry by providing a better customer experience for benefits administration and communication through its technology enabled marketplace. It may be hard for a lot of people to get excited about benefits, but it is a huge industry, and often the second biggest expense beyond actual payroll costs for many employers. But the money in the space isn’t the only thing that’s interesting. The idea that benefits and a better understanding of them can help people reach their full potential as employees and as human beings is a pretty compelling message. Which is the core of the conversation Vinay and I had.
There has been a lot of talk about pay equity recently – even from me. And pay equity is important. But what may be even more important is opportunity equity. It’s one thing to make sure two people doing the same job are paid the same. It’s another thing to ensure they have the same understanding of how to make that money go further or be put to work for them. The average consumer today has access to more financial vehicles than ever before – which means more opportunity to put their money to work, and also more opportunity to put it at risk. And not everyone is equally educated on the risks and rewards of the decisions they make around big investments like their health care or retirement. If you can make access to information around these choices easier, it can even the opportunity equity playing field, helping people achieve their goals in the near-term and long-term.
Vinay and I also talked about the evolution of the workforce, from an agrarian society to the industrial age, and how each evolution has freed people to move beyond subsistence to seek new opportunities, unleashing their human potential. He pointed out that if technology can help us make better decisions, and free us from burdensome tasks, we are more likely to be aware and take advantage of other opportunities for us as individuals. When it comes to the financial resources we all have to live our lives and support our families, as well as fund the pursuit of our goals, everyone deserves access to information that will help them make better decisions. It shouldn’t just be the people who happen to have a natural acumen for finance, or who grew up in a family where finances were discussed.
It’s easy to think that benefits are boring, or that wellness is fluff, or that engagement is a code word for foosball tables and free soda. But the ability to have the health, time and resources to pursue our highest potential is anything but boring. Will a benefits marketplace alone make this a reality? No. But I frequently say that on my best days I get to help individuals and organizations make decisions that make their work life, and ultimately their life, better. Not every day is my best day. But in the end it truly is the thing that drives me. The spirit of using technology to enable people to do more and do better was apparent in Vinay and Maxwell as well. This kind of passion drives a lot of people in our industry, and it’s easy to forget sometimes. But once in a while you have a conversation that reminds you why we are in this business – technology and services around employers and employees, around talent and learning. We could build technology and companies that do anything. But as an industry we have focused on HUMAN capital, and making the most of that human experience. We believe we can make a difference and unleash the passion and potential of our colleagues and coworkers – which would truly be the best of all days.