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Maxwell takes ‘grunt work’ out of benefits

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Maxwell chief product officer Vinay Gidwaney,
brother to CEO Veer Gidwaney.

From the very beginning, Maxwell Health CEO and co-founder Veer Gidwaney intended to revolutionize the health and benefits industry with dazzling technology that simplified the complexity of HR tasks, particularly for startups and small companies. However, if he’s successful, it just might be the old-fashioned way: with customer service.

“Every time I call them, I get a response,” said Danny Shachar, director of operations for Manhattan-based Compstak, a startup that compiles hard-to-get real estate information. “Sometimes in minutes.”

Three thousand miles away in San Francisco, Entelo office manager Laura Levinsohn echoes the sentiment. “I usually have a lot of questions about benefits and HR, “she said, “and they’ve been very patient with me. A couple of times I’ve even had to call them on a Saturday. Someone always gets back to me right away. They’ve been great.” Entelo is a startup that provides job recruiters with a database of software engineers and designers.

For the record, Maxwell’s technology is equally appreciated, though perhaps not with the same breathless awe that a promptly returned phone call inspires. Maxwell’s software is designed to consolidate a company’s entire HR and benefits information – or a broker’s full complement of carriers and benefits – in a simple-to-use program accessible on any device connected to the internet. Brokers working with Maxwell can easily show clients comparative data on the health care plans and benefits they offer. And firms that have their HR house in order are welcome to port that data into Maxwell’s secure platform, making the information paperless and easy to access for employers and employees alike.

The cost to employer-clients for all this? Nothing. It’s free.

Instead, Maxwell, which has offices in Manhattan and Cambridge, Mass., earns licensing fees from brokers.

On this point, Gidwaney takes pains to stress that Maxwell is not selling any particular program or carrier to secure that commission. Rather, brokers bring their clients to its platform so that those employers can have as many options as possible.

Last year, Maxwell secured $8 million in venture capital funding, money that will be used to support not only its core business but an expanding palette of services including 401(k) administration, payroll and business insurance.

Of course, as in so many instances in the business world, however much Maxwell hopes to change the world, others do, too.

And that’s why customer service may be what helps Maxwell stand apart.

Gidwaney gets this. In an interview with BenefitsPro.com, he stressed his company’s flexibility and creativity in helping clients select or switch benefits, willingness to work with any insurance carrier or broker, and ability to provide payroll services, a wellness component, even a concierge service.

“When it comes to helping our clients with their benefits,” said Sara Hopson, Maxwell’s marketing manager, “we try to think outside the box. For example, we’ve put together packages with nutrition and fitness coaches, telemedicine, and healthy meals. If a company has a lot of single employees or employees with kids, we look for benefits that those workers might need and appreciate.”

Entelos’ Levinsohn recalls that her company “really wanted to provide employees with a gym benefit. But we’re in one of those warehouse districts and there aren’t really any gyms or fitness clubs nearby. Maxwell researched the area and found a yoga studio and few other places that might work for us. On many occasions, “ she said, “Maxwell has asked us what they can do make things better and easier for us.”

Maxwell’s concierge service in particular is one feature the company is deeply committed to. “Every employee should have an advocate in the health care system,” said Hopson. “Our concierge program helps clients understand their medical bills, find the best doctors, best hospitals, and best prices for various medical procedures.” The concierge is a knowledgeable health care professional who is available to answer questions by phone, e-mail, or from Maxwell’s web site.

The company also has a fun wellness app that works with an employee’s smartphone and encourages physical activity by keeping track of the number of steps taken during the day. Those who take 10,000 steps earn various premiums such as an Amazon Gift Card.

If Maxwell Health succeeds, it just might streamline, if not revolutionize, the health care field after all.

Maxwell advisor Amitabh Chandra, professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, thinks Maxwell has charted the right course to doing that. “If you want to change health care you need to offer better value and lower costs,” he says.

Though still a young company, Maxwell has certainly enjoyed its share of success, attracting some clients with headcounts in the hundreds.

There’s definitely potential for more growth, Chandra said.

“Startups may want to offer their employees good benefits,” Chandra said, “but they don’t have the expertise or the time to devote to HR. They’re working all the time just to make their business successful. Maxwell is going after startups because that’s where they can enter the marketplace. Plus, the Mercers, Aons, and Towers Watsons aren’t paying any attention to them. So today Maxwell is working with startups. A day after that, maybe they’re servicing smaller, listed companies. Then one day a Fortune 50 company takes a look at what Maxwell is doing and hires them. That’s how I think they may revolutionize the industry.”

Revolution, of course, can be glorious and exciting, but for Comstak’s Shachar, the battlefield is a lot more immediate and routine. “Maxwell takes the grunt work out of benefits,” he said.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story may have left the impression that Maxwell Health acts as benefits broker. It works with brokers and plan sponsors, but does not directly handle benefits selling.

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