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A Revolution In Underwriting

The race to develop accelerated products has driven life insurers to cautiously embrace the next generation of data.

By, Jeff Roberts senior associate editor at AM Best

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The sweeping letter was a warning to the industry.

It spilled over six single-spaced pages and 2,000 words, putting life insurers on notice for the emerging use of unconventional data in their automated underwriting.

Data such as criminal and civil judgments. Credit information. Retail purchase history. Internet and mobile device usage. Geographic location tracking. Even social media and facial analytics, sources rarely used now but expected to be widely adopted in coming years.

After an 18-month investigation into insurers’ underwriting practices, the New York State Department of Financial Services leveled a stern warning: Apply external data only if you can justify its actuarial validity and independently verify it does not discriminate or contain prohibited criteria.

But also tucked into that guidance was approval for using third-party data that has “the potential to result in more accurate underwriting,” the January letter read.

And with that, the influential regulator became the first to establish specific guidelines just as the exploration and application of nontraditional data in algorithms soars.

“The gist of that letter was insurance companies couldn’t outsource whether [the data] was discriminatory to the vendor. It was on them, so they better know what they’re doing,” said Tom Scales, head of life and health insurance at Celent.

The race to perfect fully underwritten, accelerated products using algorithms, predictive modeling and analytics as a substitute for paramedical exams and fluid tests has driven life insurers to increasingly embrace new forms of data.

Leveraging it enables carriers to provide a shorter, cheaper and more customer-friendly approval process amid rising consumer expectations in an Amazon world.

But that emerging data carries a host of privacy and regulatory concerns. It also presents accuracy and reliability issues that need to be addressed.

However, accelerated underwriting and external data remain “the No. 1 topic” in the industry, Scales said. “How can we change the way we underwrite? How can we do instant underwriting?”

Using alternative data from new sources such as social media and other digital footprints is “the next big thing” in life underwriting, said Mike Vogt, executive director of data, analytics and machine learning for technology consulting firm SPR.

“We are at the beginning of the curve with how insurers are applying unconventional data,” he said. “The biggest change and the biggest risk will be the information that we gather from social media and [artificial intelligence] will actually lead to more accurate risk predictions—at the expense of privacy.”

About 25 U.S. insurers offer accelerated underwriting using nontraditional data streams, and several more are testing platforms.

The objective is to skip the invasive medical tests whenever possible without losing precise risk assessment and fraud detection.

“It’s a game-changer. Unless there’s a regulatory challenge, we’re 24 months from everybody doing it at a fully-underwritten price, at least up to a certain age, because your competitor is going to do it,” Scales said. “That’s the heart of all this. It’s not simplified issue.

“This is the same price as a regularly underwritten product. It’s just underwritten differently. It’s part of an ecosystem change.”

Insurers are using data analytics tools such as LexisNexis Risk Solutions, TransUnion TrueRisk Life Score and MassMutual’s LifeScore360 to cull data and supply a mortality score from a wealth of sources.

Think of those scores as the mortality version of credit scores in the mortgage loan process. They have developed over the past five years, and in the case of LexisNexis, include information from more than 20,000 databases.

Meanwhile, a new frontier of alternative data is emerging from social media, facial analytics, retail purchases, public filings and epigenetics—the study of how environment and lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise and substance use influence mortality at the molecular level—to further understand and price risks. One day, genetics could join them.

The products people buy, the services they use and even the magazines they read can be highly predictive of policyholder longevity, analysts say. And so can the things they say and the photos they post on social media.

Only a “small handful of carriers” are using such information, said Samantha Chow, senior life insurance and annuity analyst at research and advisory firm Aite Group. But many insurers are exploring them.

“You’re talking about everything from scoring data to social data to data from selfies and DNA,” she said. “Over the next couple of years, you’ll see people utilizing more advanced scoring methodology using this type of data.

 

“How soon depends. How scary is it? It’s not about changing how they underwrite. It’s about being more accurate in their underwriting, pricing and improving the overall experience.

eDelivery So Sweet!

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A while back I attended the annual event of a large independent broker dealer. It was a spectacle that rivaled any industry event I’ve been to in years. There were easily thousands of people in attendance and venue was filled with the outstanding entertainment, speakers and training.

 

While I was there I had the rare opportunity to have dinner with some senior level executives at the broker dealer and their carrier partners along with a half dozen or so of their top advisors. Amidst some jovial conversation and the occasional joke, one of the advisors blurted out, “I’ve got a real problem with you guys”. The table went silent, for what seemed to be an eternity, until a polite young lady from one of the carriers replied, “well let’s see if we can fix that”. He went on to say that he felt like the carrier and broker dealer have shifted the costs of delivering annuity contracts and life polices to his office. Almost immediately another advisor chimed in with more comments, then asked if the advisor still wanted to be kept in the loop to ensure his client received the documents and completed the process?

 

The debate surrounding this topic continued for about half an hour where issues like cost, time, compliance and lack of follow-up were all discussed. The waiter must have thought the table needed a little “time out” as he made the rounds twice filling up wine glasses. The young lady with the carrier sat quietly through the discussion, just listening. As the dessert arrived, she asked the group “what if you could have your cake and eat it, too”? She went on to talk about sending annuity contracts and life polices electronically to all the parties in the distribution channel and ultimately the client. “Other industries have adopted eSignature and eDelivery and some have equally as many, if not more, regulatory issues as ours”, she said. “The cost savings can be immense and the time savings dramatic, all while keeping everyone in the loop…in real time”. This thought seemed to resonate with everyone at the table as the group pondered how this type of process would help their unique situations.

 

I can assure you; many similar conversations are taking place daily around the water coolers, dinner meetings and conference rooms today. Electronic document delivery is a hot topic as more companies are looking to streamline processes, reduce expenses and improve the overall customer experience. So, lets take a minute to review some of the benefits and metrics around the next evolutionary step in the delivery process for the insurance sector.

 

More Than Just Polices and Contracts. When looking at eDelivery it’s important to note that there are a lot of documents besides the life policy and annuity contract that carrier could be sending electronically to save time, money and resources. Examples would be: both the pre and post sale prospectus, supplemental life questionnaires that were missed during the application process, client statements, annual disclosures and more. Although required, these documents in a paper process can be burdensome and costly.

 

Staying in The Loop. Everyone, no matter where you sit within the distribution channel wants to know where the document(s) stands once its issued for delivery. Has it been sent out, has it been received, has the client completed any necessary outstanding paperwork and has it been sent back to the carrier? Why? Because in most cases no one gets paid, in the distribution channel, until it’s complete. While in other instances, there may be big risks with areas like free look periods when possession cannot be proven. Electronic delivery satisfies this need by providing each stakeholder notifications at key points in the cycle while everything is logged for future review.

 

Cost Savings. There have been many studies conducted over the years on how much it costs to deliver insurance policies and annuity contracts. Estimates vary, but let’s take the averages around a life insurance policy for example. The cost is about $35 for the carrier, $30 for the distributor (if it goes to the distributor first or it has internal compliance added) and anywhere from $25 for the advisor if the policy is mailed and up to $200 if it’s hand delivered. That’s a lot of coin adding up to be tens of millions annually for the industry! Electronic delivery dramatically reduces expenses, in most cases by nearly 75%. How much could that save your company?

 

Time. We’re all pressed for it these days; with so many things that need to be done, there never seems to be enough of it to go around. Time is precious and when it comes to the delivery process, it’s critical. Each day that goes by brings additional risk. In the paper world, it takes about 27 days for a life insurance policy to get returned to the carrier. Electronic delivery is showing a completed cycle time of under 5 days on average with just over 10% being completed within 24 hours. This time saving is equating to a 5-6% placement lift for new business!

 

Compliance. In some circles “compliance” can be a dirty word, but lets face it, they play a very important part in ensuring we stay out of trouble. Additional paperwork means there is more likelihood of missing a step which can linked to big fines. Because an electronic delivery system can be rules driven, it can force specific forms and require eEignatures throughout the process. This type of platform guarantees compliance requirements are met and provides a detailed history of what took place.

 

Better Customer Experience. Companies all over the world are searching for ways to make the customer experience a better one. They’re looking at how to streamline processes and make these easier, quicker and more user friendly. Our world of selling financial products to consumers is often laden with many steps, start and stops, delays and paperwork that takes an attorney to understand. With eDelivery we can simplify the process, make it easy to understand and quick to complete thus raising the satisfaction levels and our placement ratios.

 

Green Thumb. Consumers are more than ever are expecting companies to provide options other than paper. In fact, its been shown that more than 80% of consumers opt for eDelivery when asked.

Consumers not only see the benefit of eliminating big binders to hold important documents but see it as a way to reduce the damage associated with printing these documents on our environment. It’s estimated that the insurance and financial sector uses more than 53 billion (that’s right folks, that’s billions) pieces of paper each year for documents like life insurance policies, annuity contracts, prospectus and more. Electronic delivery can dramatically reduce this number helping reduce carbon footprints and maintain a healthy environment for future generations.

 

It’s time for our industry to finally “have its cake and eat it, too”. Electronic delivery can solve a number of issues we currently experience using paper processes. Each party can reap the benefits of time and cost savings while providing a positive customer experience. It’s up to us to get more organized and implement platforms to make it a reality.

For information on how you can be more involved in steering the direction of electronic delivery, join one of the many working committees in the industry such as the ones offered by ACORD, LIDMA or the LBTC.

 

#imabeliver

By Roy Goodart, roy@insurtechexpress.com

4 Big Trends Shaping the Life Insurance and Annuities Industry in 2019 (and Beyond)

Digital Transformation

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The life insurance industry has been on the cusp of a revolution for a decade. In 2019, insurers are facing more pressure than ever to reinvent their businesses. With stagnant sales, increased regulations and competition, and ever-evolving customer expectations, maintaining a competitive edge requires the willingness to take advantage of the latest technology trends.

Here is where we see the biggest changes taking place—and the biggest possible points of advantage for industry leaders:

 

Customer Experience Is Critical

Insurance buyers have been marching in lockstep for years. The traditional insurance purchasing process is confusing, convoluted, difficult, and takes forever. Customers want an easier, less painful experience.

Just three years ago, LIMRA found 4 out of every 10 consumers felt intimidated by the life insurance application process. In 2018, 67% of respondents said an out-of-date website prevented them from doing business with an agent or advisor. The fact is, customer experience throughout the life insurance process has not kept up with the transformations taking place in the lives of customers as a whole.

This year, it’s all about the experience—the customer experience. Along with surface changes to the look and feel of customer interfaces, leading carriers and distributors are investing in making the entire process more simplified and efficient.

In a world where customers can apply for a mortgage on their phones and financial apps offer advice on real-time spending using geolocation, customers are looking for an Uber-like experience where they are the center of the sales process rather than the products.

Companies willing to go deeper and tackle the disparate and siloed business processes that are the underlying drivers of customer dissatisfaction will have a significant competitive edge going into the next decade. That includes innovations such as:

  • Consumer portals that walk buyers through a straightforward e-application and purchase process and empower them to make post-sale policy updates easily.
  • One-source-of-truth data that follows a customer throughout the sales lifecycle, speeding form completion and improving the quality of service an agent or advisor delivers.
  • Simple and consistent experiences from pre-sale needs analysis and illustrations through e-application, approval, and ongoing policy management—no matter what products are being purchased.

By Doug Massey, EVP, Sales and Relationship Management, Insurance Technologies

Tech-Tok

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Republished from PaperClip Blog

Tech-Tock is a new column where we address the cyber world connection to Life Insurance and the channels. Several Thought Leaders will discuss the latest technology trends and why you should care about mobile/marketing, web/new business, document management/compliance, security/risk and more; basically, technology, its business effect, and its trends. At the end of the day, we want to intrigue you and give you a sense of urgency to integrate with change.

I think the way to start is to identify our players and their technology. Our players are the Millennium and Baby Boom Generations. The Boomers represent the institutions and the Millennials are the new middle management of these same institutions. As Millennials grew up in the digital explosion, the way they learned access to information behavior is so different that it affects the way they approach problem-solving. At age 30, Boomers would have to call a travel agent to book a flight, today Millennials can hold a portal in their hand and in less than 60 seconds do the same. At age 30, Boomers would have to drag their finger in circles listening to clicks to order a pizza, today Millennials holds up their portal and says, “order pizza”. Millennials have different experiences with transactions today and the process of selling and processing life insurance will evolve and integrate with their portal; point being it will be a marketplace app.

Technology thinking has already changed whereby Millennials are all about outsourcing. I’ve seen in my 40 years of technology a cycle of on-premise to outsourcing cycles changing every 10 years. The new generation has adopted outsourcing and it will never change again. The advent of Cloud computing and soon the new Quantum computing, third-party platforms will host all the applications, and internally all the institutions will host are their portal interfaces (mobile, tablet, desktop & IoT devices).

Recently attending the Nexus Insurance Show (Chicago, Nov 2018) the startup companies presenting powerful new applications understand the demand for hosted applications because the Millennials are the buyers. Artificial Intelligence leads the day with every one of the 40 exhibitors talking about their unique application and benefits of AI. One showed how eights pictures of a damaged car could produce a repair estimate in less than a minute. One showed smart home AI whereby water leaks could be detected and turned off saving millions in claims. One showed a Machine Learning process flow application which could display the real-time movement of the company’s workflow and measure their efficiencies. Many of the companies will be acquired and continue to expand the tool bag of larger established vendors which will be the winners. Winners because with so many startups building out a solution to solve a specific problem, integration has always been the challenge. In the past, the institutions supported standard organizations for supply chain integration but this remains labor intensive with ongoing expenses. As larger vendors acquire technology and accept the responsibility of tight integration, only then will they emerge. The last thing to do is ask a Millennial to key information in, over and over again.

Boomers, no matter the size or number of people in your institution, the message is keep your technology fresh, exciting and outsourced. It’s time to turn off that server in the closet and to start finding outsourced tools to help train, sell, process, deliver and store your business all from a portal. Millennials, you need to be patient. I have not seen much change in technology in the life insurance industry over the last 20 years, for example, independent life production comes in on paper 80% of the time even today. The good news is you’re now in charge and I see the change coming very fast. Congratulations! By, Mike Bridges – President of PaperClip Inc. 

There are great Insurtech articles from the TECH-TOK column you must read. Please visit Broker World Magazine.

Distribution Technology

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Distribution technology is a big part of InsurTech for Life Insurance, Annuities and Long Term Care Insurance. There are multiple distribution channels in the space (Independent, Financial Institutions, Direct Marketer, Direct to Consumer, and Captive/Career). The various channels sell similar products in their respective lines of business. The solutions that they use are similar and sometimes quite different. What sets them apart even further is the process from sales to new business and from policy delivery to commissions. For example: An independent agent will more likely fill out a paper annuity application on a fixed annuity and submit it to their Brokerage General Agency (BGA). A financial advisor on the other hand who works for a bank will submit the annuity application using the bank’s independent broker dealer’s clearing firm’s  annuity order entry platform (AOE) like Ebix’s AnnuityNet. The process on the back end is using DTCC for settling money for premium and netting commissions. Another example is when an independent agent writes a term life insurance application using a multi-carrier electronic application platform (eApp) like iPipeline’s iGO accessed on a BGAs website. Depending on the carrier and product selected the process may be very different such as a term ticket with tele-interview fulfillment; an eApp with accelerated underwriting; or a simplified issue with predictive underwriting and eSignature.

 

InsurTech Express is the place to get educated on distribution technology.  If you are looking to invest in distribution technology, you will find information on solutions and solution providers at InsurTech Express. There are key industry documents on the home page and resource links on the footer of the site. You will continue to see more information on distribution technology as InsurTech Express evolves. Many other resources of InsurTech for Life and Annuities is also available on InsurTech Express.

 

By Ken Leibow, ken@insurtechexpress.com