Zenefits co-founder’s new firm is offering its benefits tech to all brokers
Parker Conrad may be trying to repair his relationship with the advising community by adding more brokerages to his list of clients.
The Zenefits co-founder and former CEO announced Tuesday his new startup software company, Rippling, is now available to every benefits broker in the U.S. The company is also starting a new broker partner program, which includes cost savings for advisers and clients, and one-on-one support, among other services.
Rippling, which launched last May, is coming off a $45 million series A funding round in April and positioning itself as an all-in-one employee management system for payroll, benefits, information technology and identity verification. The system boasts broad integrations with a variety of vendors including Slack, G Suite and Salesforce, among others.
Rippling allows HR managers and brokers to access a number of benefits including PTO, health insurance and payroll via a single sign-on platform. HR managers can also use the tool to hire new employees, set up access to company email accounts and order electronics.
Conrad says the company is hoping to give HR and payroll giants — most notably Gusto, Namely, ADP, Paychex and his own brainchild, Zenefits — a run for their money. The tool could be a game changer for brokers by allowing them to bring a more comprehensive HR and benefits solution to clients while easing some of the administrative burden, he says.
“We’re handling the direct carrier connection; they can spend their time on the advisory piece of this,” Conrad told Employee Benefit Adviser.
Conrad co-founded Zenefits in 2013, which initially shook up the industry by offering free digital broker software to small businesses, a move that cut out many benefit brokers. Although the company eventually pivoted to offer services through brokerages, it left many advisers feeling unsettled, says Erik Hansen, president at Vita, a boutique brokerage.
“There’s still a bad taste in most brokers mouths about that,” he says. Conrad eventually resigned from his role at Zenefits in 2017 amid regulatory and compliance issues.
Ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, Rippling beta tested its tool with a small group of brokerages, including Vita, Hansen’s firm. So far Hansen thinks the tool has been a good fit for some clients — mostly startup tech companies that are doing a lot of hiring.
“Rippling is a compelling solution when it’s paired with expertise on the advising side,” he says. “The technology is constantly improving like most startup tech, which is always a good thing.”
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Conrad acknowledges the tension that existed between his prior firm and the brokerage community, but the experience also taught him about the dedication that many employers have for their local broker.
“They have a tremendous amount of loyalty to their insurance brokers,” he says. “Yes, we won a lot of deals, but we also lost a lot of deals just on that fact.”
So far the response to Rippling has been mostly positive, Conrad says. Companies want integrated technology to help better administer benefits, and combining both the broker and the software can create a powerful solution for employers, he adds.
“[Brokers] believe — from the second you get on the phone call — that we know how to build software that’s going to win,” he says. “They want to be able to win against some of the modern all-in-one systems.”