Jack Stoddard was the executive who understood how technology can fix health care services. He was a crucial early hire for Haven, the company formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase to lower costs and improve medical services for employees.
But Stoddard’s departure this week, after only eight months as Haven’s chief operating officer, is a tough blow for a company still getting its legs underneath it in a cutthroat and complicated industry, business experts said.
“When you start losing key members of the top management team, it’s disruptive,” said James Guthrie, a professor at the University of Kansas business school. “Someone is brought in because you think they’re a good fit, and that fit becomes tighter and tighter because you’ve woven things around that person.”
Stoddard was seen as a key compliment to Haven’s chief executive, Dr. Atul Gawande, the surgeon and author who has deep knowledge of health care practice and policy but less experience directly interacting with health care vendors and technology companies.
Prior to joining Haven, Stoddard helped reshape health benefits at Comcast Corp., which is known for its progressive use of technology to help employees access timely and effective care. He not only brought an extensive business background, but a wide array of contacts in the industry.
A spokeswoman for Haven confirmed that Stoddard left the company due to “family reasons.” After taking the job at the high-profile venture, Stoddard continued to commute to Haven’s Boston offices from his home in Philadelphia, rather than relocating. His decision to leave was reported on Thursday by CNBC.
In recent months, Stoddard had said that Haven was focused on making health insurance benefits more intelligible for the 1.2 million employees of the company, and working with a variety of vendors to pilot novel solutions.
Amanda Stewart, an assistant professor at the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University, said the early exit of a top executive creates instability and uncertainty within a new company. Such a departure can be especially difficult at a closely-watched venture like Haven, which was conceived by its three founders to not only improve services and lower costs for employees of their companies, but also to create a blueprint that could be adopted by other companies across the U.S.
“When you see rapid-fire successions or even just short tenure, where organizations can’t get their leadership footing under them, that’s of concern,” Stewart said, adding: ”I would continue to watch the C-suite.”
Guthrie said additional turnover in coming months would be a sign of deeper problems. “In any kind of startup there’s going to be some churn, there’s going to be some shakeout of folks,” he said. “If you start seeing more turnover, at some point, it almost doesn’t matter if it’s involuntary or voluntary turnover — it’s disruptive. When rates of turnover go up, performance goes down.”