The AXA Acquisition: Behind the scenes

By Rob Butler, Chief Executive Officer

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As you may know by now, Maestro Health has been acquired by AXA. It’s been hard to keep the news to myself especially when you take pride in leading a company with an open book-type culture. So, when you know your company is about to take a huge next step in their mission to transform the U.S. healthcare industry, yet you’re unable to share your excitement until the appropriate moment, it’s tough. So, now that I’m able to, I’d like to share the behind scenes events that has led to this momentous occasion for Maestro Health.

As a privately-owned company, acquisition was always an inevitable outcome.  However, this happened way before anyone imagined it, and frankly, fell into our lap. This was not in our plans, nor was it on our radar. I actually took the first meeting with AXA last spring on a recommendation from a friend. Since that meeting, a pretty interesting chain of events occurred – one that culminated in Maestro Health being acquired by a French company that happens to be the largest insurance company in the world ($100 billion in annual revenue, in euros, that is).

Wow. Just writing that number is a bit mind boggling.
It’s kind of cool to think that after only four short years since its founding, Maestro Health is now part of the AXA family— an international company that operates in 64 countries and has over 1mm clients. What an opportunity for both our employees and clients.  

Acquisitions by large companies like this don’t always feature great outcomes for all the key parties such as clients, employees and management teams. Many times, it will be a good thing for some of the key constituents, but rarely do all the parties have favorable outcomes. We CEOs stand up in front of our employees, clients and partners and ensure them that all will be OK, and sometimes it is – but, frankly, sometimes it’s not. 

This one just made too much sense to say no.
Imagine. If you were in my shoes and sat down over the course of three months and discovered the 42nd most recognizable brand in the world shared the same vision, strategy, culture and aspirations as we do – to ultimately transform the U.S. healthcare market by simplifying the experience, lowering costs and empowering consumers—or what we call “making health and benefits people-friendly again.” And then, to top it off, you uncovered they were seeking to enter the U.S. market with a continuum of care model that truly empowers consumers in making the right healthcare decisions—exactly what we have. If you are like me, when I first heard it, I didn’t believe it. So, I listened closer. And it got better. They also recognized that the HR profession wasn’t meant for professionals to be bogged down in paperwork or disparate systems that left them no time to build teams or support their employees. In addition, they saw that the current system of health and benefits is not setup to truly empower employees (consumers) to lead healthier, happier and ultimately, better lives—inside and outside of the workplace. I was now thinking this could be very interesting. And then the final piece. They looked at our comprehensive platform, maestroEDGE™, and knew this was exactly what was needed to turn the U.S. healthcare industry upside down.

I must admit, even with all the proverbial stars aligning, I still just wasn’t sure. When I started Maestro Health, I did so by hiring and acquiring the most talented and driven people I could find who shared our vision and mission to make employee health and benefits people-friendly again. We built this company with a lot of long nights, hard work and determination—and have had a ton of fun along the way. I needed to make sure this partnership would be in the best interest of those wonderful people that have become my second family.

That’s when I knew for sure.
AXA has no team in the U.S. to run Maestro Health, nor any desire to do so. They insist we stay long-term and run the company. When I heard that, and fact checked it, I knew. Here was my chance to keep our team and employees together for a long time to come. That’s exactly what I was looking for and maybe the most important factor in considering an opportunity like this. There is so much we want to accomplish and keeping the team and employees together is vital to that success.

Besides our employees, clients win big too.
I’m thrilled that we will eventually have a breadth and depth of products and services that most others cannot provide – with the same people and same service teams our clients know and trust. And of course, going from the most experienced startup to now being a part of the 42nd largest brand in the world (and the number one global insurance for eight consecutive years) will provide even more reassurance to our clients that we have long-term financial viability dedicated to the long haul. Plus, being a standalone subsidiary ensures we won’t get lost or stifled with corporate bureaucracy and lose our entrepreneurial spirit, which our clients appreciate so much. We are going to get our cake and eat it too, which is pretty rare, in my experience.

Thomas Burberl, AXA CEO, visited the U.S. and invited me to sit down and talk. I’ve had the privilege of meeting several Fortune 500 CEOs. Thomas, by far, is the most genuine. He wants to make an impact in the U.S. and the lives of every healthcare consumer—and he is committed to doing so. He said he heard we had a great team (I’m biased, but yes, I believe we do), and he asked me if I would stay and run the business. I shook his hand on that day and promised to do just that. I intend to keep my promise.

This is going to be a fun ride.

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