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When Paul Martinez was setting records for kicking and scoring as a University of Oregon football player, he got used to it. Whenever the game came down to Martinez’s foot, the opposing team would call a timeout, maybe even two, to “ice” the kicker. “Icing” is a practice designed to throw off the kicker as the pressure builds. During these times, you might see the kicker returning to the nets on the sideline where they could continue warming up. But not Martinez.
“I was different from the typical kicker,” Martinez remembers. “I didn’t kick into the net. I joked around with my teammates, and my coach had a rule: Every game, it was my job to learn a new joke before each game. My coach did, too. Whenever those pressure moments came, we would get together and we had to tell each other the joke we had learned for that game.”
It was a move that even made the news on ESPN and game broadcasts. However, that wasn’t the only thing that got Martinez noticed. After his junior year, Martinez was the NCAA’s statistical leader as a kicker. His path to the NFL was clear. The best years of his life were about to begin.
A torn hip flexor injury during his senior season, however, derailed his plans. Martinez could have spent the rest of his life angry about what could have been. But that isn’t how Martinez handles adversity.
When interviewed, the principal and SVP of employee benefits at Newfront didn’t bring up these stories. He was prepared to talk strictly about the success he’s found at a brokerage with 14,000 clients, a ninety-nine percent client retention rate, and a footprint in more than one hundred countries. But part of his success stems from the life he had to leave behind.
Different Game, Same Strategy
Martinez has found parallels between his football career and his insurance career.
“In a lot of ways, I think my life in athletics defines the way I do business,” Martinez says. “It took me a while to realize it. But any time my team goes through something, I want to review it and break it down and figure out what went right and what we could improve on. I call it the ‘game tape’ because it’s exactly what we would do after games.”
Martinez says that it’s a commitment not everyone might be ready for. But, ultimately, the upfront investment of time will make life better and easier for his team down the line.
Much like Martinez, Newfront is an increasingly well-known name in the business. The tech-forward brokerage has made waves by working on the frontlines of technology to enable its tens of thousands of clients to win better coverage from insurers and to manage their policies more easily and efficiently. In November, the company introduced a custom-built AI-powered tool that could be integrated directly into Slack. Newfront’s Benefits Assistant can be trained on a company’s benefits handbook and related documents and provides immediate responses to employee questions about their organizations’ total rewards programs. Based on existing data, Newfront forecasts the Benefits Assistant can save People teams up to four weeks a year in manual work, freeing them to focus on strengthening their benefits program.
Martinez is also excited about Newfront Navigator, the company’s solution to centralizing all benefits on a single platform. Human resources leaders can quickly access their Total Rewards program information, easily navigate to the latest updates on employee benefits compliance, find recommended vendors, and communicate with their brokers, all in a safe and secure environment.
“We built a platform that is incredibly intuitive,” Martinez explains. “It’s secure, easy to use, and helps consolidate medical, dental, vision, contracts, and policy documents that can often be all over the place. We’ve also got several applications in the pipeline that we will build on top of it. Most brokerage firms simply do not have something like this, and those that do just can’t compete at our scale.”
Sticking With It
If Martinez’s incredible second act seems like he may lead some kind of charmed life, he understands. Kicking a football came easily to him. The difference, however, was that total rewards consultation did not.
Early on, Martinez moved from the financial space into benefits. In his own words, he “fell on [his] face for an entire year.” Nothing seemed to make sense. He could feel himself floundering. But he turned to a longtime mentor who gave him advice that is critical for anyone beginning a career in the benefits space.
“He told me that it was going to take me three years to fully understand what I was doing,” Martinez remembers. “I trusted that and stuck to it. After three years, he was right. Everything fell into place.”
Regardless of whether his success would have come on the gridiron or in the boardroom, Martinez says he tries to keep things simple. He knows that at the age of eleven, his grandfather was picking cotton, living in a glorified tent. He’s grateful for the family that came before and wants to give his kids and family the time and the investment they deserve.
How do you handle adversity? Paul Martinez put one dream to rest and made another dream possible through commitment, humility, and—as ever—watching the tape.
MetLife is the Group Benefits industry leader providing coverage for 95 of FORTUNE 100® employers, in total serving more than 50,000 group insurance customers and over 41 million employees and dependents. The business has the broadest product set in the industry meeting the diverse needs of an evolving workforce. With over $22 billion in revenues, Group Benefits is MetLife’s largest business. MetLife takes great pride in our steadfast partnership with Paul Martinez and Newfront.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making the health system work better for everyone by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. In the United States, UnitedHealthcare offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 1.6 million physicians and care professionals, and 8,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified health care company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at uhc.com.