Start-up health and protection advice firm Alltoogether is imminently launching a fundraising round to begin its growth and expansion plans with an aim to more than double its current team.
Founder Zak Fenton opened the firm in April with its initial employee benefits platform targeting SME businesses in the North West launched this month, but he is seeking to speed up its growth.
“We’re about to start doing a seed raise which of course is exciting,” Fenton (pictured) told Health & Protection.
“This industry is a very profitable industry, so growing organically is definitely achievable, but I really want to take the brakes off, get funding and start to hire a really solid team around us and try to hit the market hard.”
A team of four is already in place at the firm, which had started life as an appointed representative of Health Net Services, and a trio of plans are on the table depending on how much capital is raised in the next year.
“We’ve effectively put three strategic plans together depending on whether we receive A, B or C funding,” he continued.
“Of course plan A will be for a slightly smaller amount than plan C, so we could be looking at hiring anything from around three or four people all the way up to 10 people depending on the level of funding that we get.”
Developing technology and AI support
Fenton has been in the industry for more than a decade with experience on both sides of the market including at PMI Health Group, WTW, Jelf, Mercer Marsh Benefits and Unum.
Having already co-founded one advice firm his desire to embrace technology solutions and support within the employee benefits advice space triggered the move to setup Alltoogether.
As part of the process he developed the benefits platform after teaching himself to do so using a variety of tools, although it did require several rebuilds along the way.
Plans for further development of the system include automating the onboarding process to link in with HR information systems and aiming to automate a lot of the manual processes that advisers face going through. And of course there is the potential for using artificial intelligence (AI).
“We’re continually looking at how we can leverage AI; I know AI is a buzzword at the moment, but I think the industry is just ripe for the picking,” he continued.
“When it comes to that, how the Financial Conduct Authority will view AI is a different question. We have to view it as more of a tool to get things done quicker to support the advice process.
“I don’t see it ever becoming an adviser, but I can see it helping put reports together, making advice, recommendations.
“For example, if I can train it on health and wellbeing data and use that data to suggest better care pathways for individuals or better insurers, depending on who has better mental health support or better cancer support, that’s sort of the direction I want to take it to.”
Target market and future plans
But for now Fenton is keen to get the basic version of the platform out to as many SMEs as possible, and that is the key market for the firm – employers of around 50 to 250 employees.
Fenton noted that larger firms tend to start reaching into full flexible benefits and voluntary benefits schemes and he did not want to begin competing with well established firms in that sector.
But for smaller organisations of 50 to 150 employees, the cost for a full flexible benefits platform can prove restrictive.
“You’re looking at at least £25,000 to £50,000 for a company with 50 to 150 employees, and I just think that’s ridiculous given advancements in technology and how much we can develop,” he said.
“I just thought I could do something a lot better and leveraging these technologies enables us to pass those savings on to people.”
A dedicated team for micro employers and enterprises is also likely to be a key part of the plan, and there may even be scope for larger employers who find their way towards the firm by one route or another, should the opportunity arise.
There is also no offering for individual or retail clients at present, although that is not ruled out and could become a natural development on reaching the right scale and if employers are willing.
“I will look at it in the future. If we’ve got so many thousand employees onboarded onto the app, I don’t see why we wouldn’t also look at offering individuals policies like dental and optical plans, or even some individual protection offerings,” Fenton continued.
“It would make sense to do that further down the line, but that involves a more robust compliance procedure and I’m also not sure how comfortable employers would be with a broker selling to their employees through a platform they’ve paid for them.
“There’s a bit of an ethical and ethical conversation to be had there.”
The emphasis on using technology and data to improve outcomes support is a keen interest with the hope of tying together employer health and wellbeing data to health protection providers and benefits?
While this is a common aim within much of the sector now, it is being able to combine these data sources which Fenton most wants to make progress on.
“If we’re doing it a really evidence based survey of an organisation and we identify it has issues with musculoskeletal or mental health, we should be immediately link that in to the added value benefits that comes with any of the health and protection policies,” he said.
“That’s such a simple, basic thing, but it’s just not being done very well at the moment.
“First it’s the mechanics of joining it up, second it’s a knowledge thing – at the moment you either have health and wellbeing experts or employee benefits experts, very rarely do they meet in the middle.”
‘Clients don’t like suited and booted advisers’
For the moment though, the focus is on ensuring a smooth and well-managed on-boarding process for new clients, taking feedback to improve any processes and ensuring sign-ups are working well with insurers.
But there is the realisation that with so many acquisitions in the advice firm market, there is a new space opening up.
“There are so many acquisitions there are going to be very few health and employee benefits specialist organisations left,” Fenton noted.
“Another trend we’ve sort of spotted is that there aren’t many young people coming into the industry either.
“With very few young people coming into the insurers and coming into brokers, who is there going to be left to set up brokers? I think it’s a real potential issue.
“There can’t just be the big firms running everything and many clients don’t like the suited and booted corporate adviser anymore.
“If you think about who HR and finance leaders are they’re early to mid-30s and millennials, and the feedback I get is they don’t want corporate insurance salesman anymore.
“So that presents opportunity to do something a bit more fun, a bit more casual. But the plan is to grow, enjoy it and do the best we possibly can and try and continually innovate,” he concluded.