New online platform joins roster of benefits disruptors

A new technology platform has entered Canada’s benefits and human resources industry, adding to the multiple disruptors already active in the sector.

On Wednesday, Rise People Inc. launched an online platform that allows employers to integrate and manage their human resource, benefits and payroll functions.

“After observing how the limitations of standalone HR software solutions were negatively impacting the way companies managed their people, we started Rise to help businesses focus on people and their experiences — instead of struggling with endless HR admin and inefficient processes,” said Faiz Abdulla, founder and chief executive officer of Rise People.

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The technology provider can give advice on benefits and help assemble a package for employers that includes staples such as extended health, dental and vision care as well as life, accidental death and dismemberment and disability insurance, according to the news release. It also offers brokerage services for health-care and wellness spending accounts, employee assistance programs and retirement plans.

Prior to launching the new platform, the company offered human resource, benefits and payroll functions on separate channels, says Abdulla. After hearing employers complain about the disconnect between the three services, the company decided to combine all functions into one platform.

Rise People serves a diverse group of employers that includes government agencies, financial institutions, retail franchises and technology companies, says Abdulla.

He noted employers with strict budgets could benefit from the platform. “We’re pleased to be able to bring an affordable, comprehensive HR platform to underserved small- and medium-sized businesses, which typically do not have the budget for major HR, benefits and payroll software.”

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But while technology disruptors can appeal to small businesses with concerns about cost, their challenge will be how they address the challenges that can arise, says Yafa Sakkejha, general manager at Beneplan Inc. in Toronto.

For example, talk about the possibility of the federal government taxing health benefits earlier this year represented a major threat to benefits providers, says Sakkejha. She notes that if the tax had gone ahead, small businesses would have faced even more pressure to manage their benefits costs and might have looked to choose their providers based on that factor alone. “It doesn’t matter what package it comes in. It doesn’t matter how beautiful it is. If next year, a new provider comes in . . . [and] they have a lower premium, small businesses will switch,” she says.

“The challenge for these guys is, what is their staying power?” she adds.

“How will they be able to deal with new drugs that come up in the market that drive premiums up or other disruptors or the government making changes?”

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Besides Rise People, other technology providers have already entered Canada’s human resource and benefits industry in recent years. In 2014, entrepreneur Michael Serbinis created League, a digital platform that provides employers with wellness services and health spending accounts. The company eventually added health benefits and insurance to its services after partnering with insurance companies and receiving more capital.

And in 2015, a trio of Canadian entrepreneurs launched Collage, a cloud-based human resource platform that allows employers to manage benefits and administrative functions online.