Meet the Collective: Michael Nikunen, Vice President of Strategic Accounts
Special Q&A with co-founder and CEO Ali Diab
Recently, I’ve been spending time with some key players on our team at Collective Health. Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Michael Nikunen — our new Vice President of Strategic Accounts.
Michael’s track record in benefits consulting speaks for itself. Over the last 25 years at Mercer and Towers Watson, he’s partnered with some of the largest brands in the world to help them drive more value from their healthcare investments. From his experience and expertise to his unwavering passion, I’m honored to have him lead our most strategic sales efforts.
I sat down with Michael to learn all about his background and why he joined our team.
Where are you from?
I’ve lived all over — Alaska, Montana, England, Germany. My father was an Air Force officer so we moved every 2–3 years. He retired in Omaha, so I attended the University of Nebraska and shortly thereafter moved to Seattle. Today, I get to call the beautiful Pacific Northwest home.
What happened in your career that led you to Collective Health?
I fundamentally believe the healthcare industry is desperate for transformation. Over the last 25 years, I’ve dedicated my career to helping companies better manage their healthcare investments, most recently as a Partner at Mercer and before that at Towers Watson. After more than two decades partnering with large, strategic employers, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated by the incremental and often ineffective solutions available to them. The fact of the matter is, employers haven’t had the tools to truly drive value from this massive part of their business — costs remain out of control and the healthcare experience is still far behind any other part of our lives.
Collective Health is proving things can be different. I’ve been following the company for a while now and after learning more about the mission and the quality of the team, I knew I had to be a part of it. I’m convinced that we can drive the kind of change the industry actually needs.
What excites you most about where Collective Health is going?
There’s so much to be excited about right now. Collective Health is gaining momentum at a really critical time, proving itself in a market that’s naturally resistant to change. I believe that momentum is underpinned by three critical things:
- The courage and commitment of the leadership team
- The spirit of the company to never settle for status quo
- The incredible talent (fondly known as Greggz) realizing its mission
As a former consultant, Collective Health is the solution that I wish I had for my clients — a product that both helps them understand and manage their spend while providing a premium level of service to their employees. Bringing that kind of value to employers is what excites me every day.
What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?
At my age, I’ve learned so many. One lesson I’ve learned is summarized in a favorite quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
”Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
What’s your favorite thing to do?
Laugh with my children.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and how does that inform what you do today?
I always wanted to be an explorer like Jim Bowie, Jim Bridger, or Lewis and Clark. I was attracted to how they would explore the unknown, look over the horizon, and always search for the next adventure. These attributes have helped to challenge me personally and professionally and to not be too satisfied with what I already know, where I’ve been, and the status quo.
Do you have any irrational fears?
I cannot share this with you. I have two brothers and two sisters, so whatever I answer will show up on my doorstep within days.