Aon’s former outsourcing business is now fully independent from the brokerage and intent on providing unique benefit management capabilities by combining health, welfare and DB/DC administration.
- Regulatory changes: Covering health reform as well as changes in benefit design and decision-making processes, says Bryan Sansbury, Alight’s president of health and wealth solutions. “We are focused on decision-support tools and helping people find proper plans,” he says. “We factor in the claims experience to get the right folks to the right [plans].”
- Consumer experience: Alight does more than consulting for clients, as it focuses on assisting with communication aspect of company changes, such as a merger or acquisition, by helping clients draft employee value propositions and bringing together total reward statements. “We have a set of creative and digital [people], that is what they think about,” Sansbury says. “We make sure the messages are understood and received.”
- HRIS: Alight focuses on the entire spectrum, including advisory and deployment, applications management and works with multiple services and operators across platforms, says Pavan Bhalla, Alight’s president of HR and financial solutions.
As an Aon subsidiary, the company was No. 1 in health and welfare administration and defined benefit administration, as well as HR services, according to research by NelsonHall. Sansbury expects that to continue as independent company.
Alight has 22,000 employees across 14 global centers and at its launch date on June 6 as an independent company served more than 19 million employees and their 18 million family members. The firm has more than 1,400 clients, including 60% of the Fortune 100 and 50% of the Fortune 500. In 2016, the company handled more than 22 million calls in its call center and its website had more than 250 million unique logins. “We will start in a strong position and expand that,” Sansbury says.
While company executives know Alight is in a crowded benefits and HR management space, Bhalla believes no one has the complete spectrum that Alight provides. “We feel very good about where we are positioned in the marketplace,” he says.
“We have companies that compete [against] us in deployment and our value prop is not only we do deploy [software], but we operate [it throughout the user experience] as well. We don’t just build the car; we know how to drive it,” he adds.
With Alight no longer exclusively tied to Aon — Alight “needed our own runway,” says Alight CFO Katie Rooney, who previously served of CFO of Aon Hewitt — the company is looking at growth opportunities. Growth will focus on expanding into new sectors beyond Aon’s focus, working with smaller employers and expanding to Asia, Europe, the Middle East and more.
“That will require some investment for sure, but I don’t think there is a significant dollar amount. A lot of that will be through redeployment of capital — this is highly cash-driven business,” explains Rooney.
Alight has “no desire” to be in the development of products but instead plans to partner with the best, Sansbury says. Part of that growth will come from partnering with brokers in a white label capacity.
“As an independent firm, we will have the opportunity to look across partnerships,” Rooney says. “We will maintain a strong relationship with Aon, but we will also be able to look for new partnerships, including in the brokerage space.”
She believes there is an opportunity, “particularly in the middle-market [broker] space.”
This is welcome news for the middle-market brokerage sector, which has “needed for a long time more independent providers,” says Rhonda Marcucci, area vice president of HR and benefits technology solutions at Gallagher Business Services in Chicago, adding that many brokers serving the mid-market “don’t have an appetite” to be in the technology business themselves.
Rooney is monitoring market trends to drive the next wave of growth for Alight. “If you think about the rise of consumerism, if you think about the shift to cloud-based technology, we now have the opportunity to really capitalize on those and go faster as we think about … enhancing our capabilities to drive additional solutions,” in the administrative and regulatory aspect of businesses and cloud-based solutions to participants, she says.
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