Each week, Nava will introduce you to a different member of our team who'll share their thoughts on Nava, the industry, and the mission ahead. Read on to learn more about what brought Marcel to Nava:
Tell us a bit about yourself:
My story starts a bit earlier than most. Back in high school, my school received support from major companies in addition to public funding due to our very savvy and well-connected principal. PaineWebber, the brokerage firm acquired by UBS in 2000, was one of those companies. I was always impressed with the team, and ended up interning for them while attending UC Irvine. I officially started my brokerage career upon graduation, promptly getting my Series 7 and 66 licenses and sold retirement plans. After a year of keeping up with legislation updates, licensing requirements, and changing financial directives, I saw the light and moved to the employee benefits side of the industry at Brosnan & Associates and never looked back. My time there provided a crash-course into the benefits industry and sparked my technical curiosity on how health plans work. Towards the end of my tenure at Brosnan, I wanted to take what I learned and bring it to a bigger platform, so I moved to Barney & Barney, which was later acquired by Marsh & McLennan Agency in 2014. I had a unique view at merging a national and regional footprint, while continuing to immerse myself into the industry and rising through the ranks of the firm. By the time I left in late 2020, I became the #1 producer in San Diego, was an active member of the Barney & Barney Foundation Grant Committee, and was named Principal.
In my spare time you'll find me at the CrossFit gym, exploring the food scene of San Diego with my wife, and chasing my toddler.
Why healthcare? And why Nava?
Coming from a blue-collar family, I've felt the impact of even marginal changes in take-home pay. In today's climate, so many American families feel that pain more acutely as healthcare costs continue to outpace the rate of inflation and the marginal year-over-year pay increases they may be getting (if they're getting one at all). And everyone has a personal healthcare story that highlights what's wrong with the industry. For my family, that was our child's severe allergic reactions and our challenges navigating the complex, non-sensical bills that followed her treatments. If I — as someone who's been in the industry for almost two decades, who's designing self-insured plans to employers, who is a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist — had a hard time making sense of our claims and how to resolve them... what chance does a regular employee have?
I joined Nava because the company is making a bold bet on not only itself and its ability to drive change in an arena where few have been successful, but also on the potential of this country to innovate and find better ways to serve employers and their employees. The company is extremely nimble; from Day 1, Nava has been leveraging tools that even the big firms haven't adopted at scale. HR leaders are an incredibly savvy bunch; they've met with a lot of brokers, and they're sick of hearing the same pitch over and over again. In addition to being part of a compelling and important mission, I get to present HR leaders with a fresh, transparent, and accountable take on employee benefits that's fueled by better tools and technology.
What do you find so interesting about the benefits brokerage space specifically?
Well, to start, benefits is more than just health insurance. I love that Benefit Partners can make a significant impact on an employer's Total Rewards value proposition. If I do a good job and keep up my end of the bargain where I'm delivering world-class benefits at a cost they can afford, those companies can hire better people and retain them longer. And to boot, that person (hopefully) won't have to go through the same issues I did navigating their insurance and benefits.
What's one aspect of employer benefits that you are most excited to reinvent?
From a technical standpoint, I'd love to dive into and solve for the complexity in the Pharmacy Benefits Manager space. Left unchecked, pharmaceutical spending is going to outpace medical inflation. Between understanding how Pharmacy Benefit Managers price to how they make money — it feels like a shell game where a Benefits Partner is trying to negotiate the best contract for their clients but isn't privy to all information to do so.
Before working at Nava, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
In college, I worked three jobs. One of them consisted of setting up and breaking down performance stages at the Bren Events Center. It was a pretty cool experience to see artists like Sarah McLachlan do a sound check in front of a handful of event center workers, on the stage I helped build.
What do you hope to accomplish with Nava over the next year? The next five years?
Nothing would make me happier than to have meetings with future clients and hear them say "wow, you don't sound like every other broker." That validation means that we're onto something special, and able to deliver an offering that responds to what HR leaders actually want and need. And, if we can do this while doubling-down on our California market growth and attracting other great Benefits Partners to join our business... I'd say that would be a tremendous success.
In five years, I want Nava to do something truly revolutionary with the deployment of benefits that fundamentally forces fellow brokerage to change they way they compete for business. I want Nava to be known for embedding an unprecedented level of transparency that compels the rest of the industry to level-up their offering, for the betterment of employers across the country.