For Canadian firms, reaching a certain size means expansion into the huge US market is a natural next step. Manulife, Sun Life and Great-West Life all have operations south of the border, but new names in the life and health space are joining them.
Toronto-based digital health-benefits firm League was founded in 2014, but it wasn’t long before moving into the US became a viable option. That’s exactly what happened in October of 2016, before a more comprehensive roll-out this year. League now operates its main business in Seattle and Chicago, with a much smaller presence in Boston and New York City.
Those four cities constitute tens of millions of people, and a huge potential client base, so the company has saw fit to increase its insurance partners. Andrew Dubowec, VP of Strategy & Operations explains the move to make it in America.
“Going back to October last year, we launched an initial partnership with Royal Bank of Canada Insurance,” he says. “We were selling one type of insurance plan and what we learned over the course of the last 12 months is that employers are looking for a broader range of insurance plans to cover their employees and their families.”
Thus, League extended its partnership with RBC Insurance
, while adding Great-West Life, RBCI, AETNA, Humana, Cigna, United Healthcare and MetLife to its providers list. Through this, the firm aims to have a true North American presence.
“We have learned a lot from the Canadian market and applied it to the US market,” he says. “People’s healthcare challenges, whether they are American or Canadian, are the same. It’s about helping your employees to be healthy every day.”
He continues: “Employers have similar challenges in terms of the amount of work and administration that goes into delivering a benefit program. There is a lot of shared learning across both markets; we have also built a dedicated team in the US markets to build our US business.”
Part of expanding your business is finding the right talent, and League duly hired a senior executive from Blue Cross-Blue Shield as president of its US business. Brian Ancell now heads that division, which has added staff in Chicago and Seattle, primarily in the area of sales and account management/customer services.
Those employees will soon have a new product to bring to the market, too, Health Concierge, launched this summer in Canada and set for a full roll-out in 2018.
“It’s available through the League app and gives our members the ability to chat directly with a registered nurse,” says Dubowec. “To ask questions about healthcare and receive guidance and advice on healthcare issues in real time.”
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Canada-US trade is dominating headlines presently as NAFTA negotiations reach a critical juncture. Whether the long-standing agreement survives in its current state looks uncertain, which is a major concern for businesses both sides of the border. Canada is an export economy, so access to its number one trading partner and world’s largest economy is paramount. The CLHIA has stated the case for cross-border trade in the life & health space, and will be keeping a close eye on how negotiations develop in the weeks ahead.