(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Here is my interview with Rosaline Chow Koo, Founder and CEO of CXA Group. CXA’s vision is to unlock wellness in the workplace without firms spending more, by converting existing insurance and healthcare dollars into prevention and disease management. CXA empowers employees to become healthier and reduces HR’s administrative workload while controlling rising healthcare costs.
What makes you do what you do? Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
After 5 years of repeatedly justifying business cases to NY HQ at my ex-firm, I was totally obsessed with solving my client’s pain points in Asia. Since they never invested in Asia, I decided to build my dream on my own and ended up investing $5M of my own money and signing a personal guarantee for another $5M.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I was actually hired in at the top as the Asia Pacific leader after disintermediating the brokers since I didn’t think they added any value to me as an insurer. I signed my offer letter the day before they were sued by the Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and had to payout an $800M penalty. So I took over a firm that had only grown to $150M in premiums over 30 years and grew them 800% in 8 years to almost a billion. To achieve this, I changed our value proposition, launched new products and systems, got sibling companies to stop fighting and instead work together on a pan-regional solution and upgraded the talent by moving dozens of people to Asia. We became the dominant firm in Asia with 50% more market share than the #2.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
Yes, I had a mentor who was also a fighter and workaholic, but he left to join a competitor mid-way after fighting for Asia with the global CEO in NYC.
How did you make a match if you and how did you end up being mentored by him?
He was the head of Asia and my boss. Previously he was the head of Europe and also Canada.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
Success in startups is all about having the very best talent. So my job is to aggregate the very best talent in my industry to work together to become the industry leader. Since we invested heavily in technology and data analytics, we’re attracting those who want to move fast and make a difference. We’re now investing heavily in the CXA Academy to develop our talent.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity since there are so few women entrepreneurs and executive female leaders. We need more female role models in Asia so I try to speak at relevant events to touch as many people as I can.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
Great leaders can deliver radical change and results by galvanizing a team towards a different vision of the future and have the execution ability to transform a dream into reality.
Advice for others?
My varied experience across countries, companies and functions really helped me to understand business models and to envision a very different future in each industry I entered. My first 10 years gave me a good foundation in people leadership, new product development/product management, operations management and re-engineering, strategic planning and client service quality. Over the last 2 decades, I took on very difficult stretch roles launching new start-ups and transforming legacy businesses so have honed my ability to deliver results. All of these experiences led me to build my own tech start-up now valued at $US100M after launching 3 years ago. So I encourage people to take on difficult roles outside of their comfort zone to grow their skills and confidence.
To learn more about CXA Group, please see http://www.cxagroup.com/.
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