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Explosive Shift to Hybrid Wholesaling & Agent Sales is Taking-Off

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The Life & Annuity “Pre-Covid” Sales Model Will Not Return

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This week’s LIMRA Distribution Conference only confirmed that the rapidly emerging Life and Annuity sales operation is going “hybrid”.

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If you missed the conference, you can read three wonderful articles debating the “Hybrid” trend in Insurance News Net, with reference to some fantastic research by LIMRA:

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– “Virtual Selling Might Be Here To Stay”

– “Hybrid Is The Future For Advisors, Says LIMRA Research”

– “Will Agents Ever Return To The Office”

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Of course, given our (Ensight) discussions with L&A senior executive sales leadership and digital transformation leaders over the past 18 months, this comes as no surprise.

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Indeed, I wrote about the coming transformation of the traditional life and annuity wholesaling model last year. Whether you call it “eWholesaling” or “Hybrid Wholesaling”, it makes no difference, digital sales enablement for wholesalers is the new English Longbow, changing the nature of ‘engagement’ in the sector.

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And, notably, the digital hybridization of the advisor-client discussion has already been underway for several years. It’s worth noting that the majority of financial advisors today already use some form of virtual meeting (Zoom; WebEx; Go To Meeting) in the client engagement repertoire.

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Whether you are a L&A carrier or distributor, if you are not putting a hybrid wholesaling and agent digital model into practice today – you simply won’t be able to catch-up tomorrow.

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But let’s also take a look at 7 additional dynamics at play in the panorama of market forces which are driving “The Shift”:

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1. Millennial “Digital Tools” Expectations – As a Gen Xer, it still shocks me that millennials now span up to 40 years old. As the first purely digital generation, millennial wholesalers, advisors and agents will expect digital tools to support a hybrid sales engagement model, if they are going to work for your company or sell your products.

2. The New Consumer Digital Expectation Bar – The client service model is in rapid transition. Informed by Vanguard, Robo-Advisors, new trading apps (Robinhood), and every VC-backed FinTech firm driving a simplified hybrid digital experience, the mandate now is to engage with clients both digitally and in a personal manner.

3. The “T&E” Transition – The old “Travel and Entertainment” cost centre is ripe for a rebranding exercise. I like to call it – “Technology & Education”. Given emerging Best Interest (BI) regulation and GenX / millennial advisor preferences, spending millions on travel and entertainment – while underfunding digital – is a recipe for disaster.

4. Growing Eyeballs on Sales Effectiveness – Every other sector in the modern economy focuses on sales effectiveness (funnel yield, productivity, efficiency and customer satisfaction) through a data-rich, digital approach. Carriers need to move fast to enable, empower and measure both wholesaling teams and agent channels. Winners and losers will be defined on this battleground.

5. The Rise of “Platform Distribution” – Today, digital “platforms” are the structure of the economy. And every platform is hybrid in nature. When was the last time you weren’t prompted to “chat” in your banking app. The emerging Life and Annuity distribution platforms are already driving the scale adoption of hybrid virtual selling. Many carrier wholesaling teams are at risk of falling far behind the norm.

6. The New “Hybrid” Workplace – The work-life balance trend has been underway for a decade now. And COVID-19 will permanently alter the vision and model of the “corporate office”. The new corporate office is “virtual”; and, the new internal sales desk wholesaler and captive agent is “Zoom-empowered”.

7. The New Power of Talent – As the Life and Annuity sector moves forward into the technology “Arms Race”, talent will define the winners and losers. And talent can demand how and where it works in today’s economy. Today’s emerging titans, upending Fortune 500 firms and sectors, at their heart, are built on talent alone. If you want to win in the life and annuity distribution game, recruit, retain and empower a hybrid top-talent sales force with empowering digital tools.

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We are now entering uncharted waters for the Life and Annuity sector. The “arms race” has begun. And the nature of this arms race is that the speed of digital change and competition will only increase with every passing year. It is Moore’s Law, now applied to the Life & Annuity sector.

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Whether you are a Life & Annuity carrier or distributor, if you are not putting a hybrid sales and service digital model into practice today – you simply won’t be able to catch-up tomorrow.

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Sail with the wind, not against it.

What’s New In Life And Annuity eApp, Illustrations, Mobile And Self-Service

By Ken Leibow – March 1, 2021

Originally Published in Broker World Magazine

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Life and annuity technology solutions are growing in both innovation and in the number of platforms that are available in the marketplace. Today I want to give you a taste of the latest stats on eApp and eDelivery for BGAs; a new simple method of presenting complex illustrations; a mobile modular option for carriers for eApp and illustrations; and self-service tools for policyholders.

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The Latest Stats and Trends on eApp and eDelivery for BGAs

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It was a no brainer to reach out to iPipeline whose eApp platform (iGO) has the biggest footprint in the BGA space. They provided the latest stats and trends in eApp and eDelivery: “Why does going digital today really matter? Over the past year, we’ve seen our world turned upside down in every way. In a business where relationships rule and in person meetings have been the key to selling more, the insurance industry was quickly turned on its head. Many carriers were left struggling with how to get paper polices out the door, agents were scrambling to figure out how to work better with consumers, and consumers were afraid to meet with anyone at the kitchen table anymore.

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The good news is that the industry, although mildly prepared, is pulling through. During these times, we’ve seen a huge surge in adoption by brokerage agencies to push digital processes even further. In 2020, dozens of insurance carriers started a process to bring live more eApps and more ePolicy deliveries. Here are some benefits for you to think about, as a brokerage agency, on why having a digital strategy is essential.”

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eApp

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– Shortens the application cycle time by 50 percent.

– Average cost reduction over paper 37 percent.

– Offers client collaboration where the agent and consumer can both work on the same digital app together—keeping the relationship, and the app, alive.

– On Behalf Of—allows case managers to take over the eApp process for their agent to provide more value in the process.

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ePolicy Delivery

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– Shortens the cycle time by 23 days on average.

– Increases placement ratios by 11 percent on average.

– Has an over 90 percent consumer adoption rate.

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“2020 was a wakeup call for everyone in our industry, especially brokerage agencies whose agents were traditionally paper-based. iPipeline, one of the biggest players digitizing these processes, saw a huge growth in some areas, in both eApp and eDelivery by you and your peers last year—more than 70 percent growth in eApps, and nearly 300 percent growth in ePolicy delivery.”

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“Sales-Stories” Simplifying Life and Annuity Illustrations for Agents and Consumers

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Today there are three exciting sales model transformation dynamics taking place in the InsurTech life and annuity space. First, the consumer experience of financial products is being driven towards simplicity, transparency and an easy-to-understand digital experience. Second, the traditional wholesaling and agent model is on the cusp of radical transformation, shifting towards a hybrid (cyborg) agent/wholesaler who is digitally enabled with interactive educational sales tools. Third, the “pre-sale to application experience” is rapidly driving towards a “single experience” digital workflow, from quote to pre-sale proposal to eApp submission. A seamless experience completed in minutes, “live” and during the engagement with the prospective client. These three strategic shifts are core drivers to meeting the new FinTech “experience threshold.” and will be critical to sustainable growth for the life and annuity sector going forward.

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I am very excited to say that Ensight’s new “Sales Story” platform module has made a significant leap forward in helping to drive these industry shifts. Working in partnership with leading life, LTCI and annuity insurance carriers and national distributors, Ensight™ has created a configurable sales experience engine, empowering the rapid creation of a broad range of different types of consumer-centric sales experiences—based on rich content and personalized client illustration data. For instance, a “Sales Story” may take the form of a new engaging product concept to support a critical market launch, encapsulating the product benefits and performance in an intuitive, personalized interactive microsite. Or a “story” may take the form of an online product training course. Or a step-by-step sales script to walk a client through a proposal at the point of sale. The Ensight “Sales Stories” engine is a highly configurable platform, enabling stories to be customized for each carrier’s or distributor’s sales model.

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Ensight’s “Sales Stories” are also modernizing the traditional “sales concept” experience. The most successful financial professionals engage the client based on financial need and “story selling,” the art of “telling a story with the aim of engaging your client, so they remember, connect, and perceive the benefits of acquiring your product or service.” “Concept-selling” has been at the heart of life, LTCI and annuity sales for decades. Ensight has modernized the art of concept selling for the digital era. Think of an elegantly designed, interactive supplement retirement, Cost of Waiting, or “Life vs Another Asset” concept—that a client can digitally play with to drive understanding.

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Finally, Ensight’s ”Sales Stories” also increase agent sales effectiveness (e.g. higher sales closing rates) for carriers and distributors with agent-based networks, providing the financial professional with a best practice, compliant and engaging (interactive) sales script to run a meaningful client conversation. Every captive agent network is seeking to make every agent, whether new to the business or not, a top selling agent in the field. Similarly, insurance carriers are seeking to digitally scale the expertise, education and pitch of the wholesaler. Ensight™ Sales Stories is the digital sales enablement platform to deliver on both.

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Life and Annuity True Mobile Illustrations and eApp for Carriers

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illustrate inc is proud to have recently launched OPUS Mobile, a downloadable app for individual life insurance carriers. OPUS Mobile is designed and customized to be carrier specific, with the core functionality centering on instant calculations and quotes for virtually any life or annuity product for on-screen visualization and report generation.

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Lyndon Edwards, president of illustrate inc says, “Data shows that mobile users live in the app world and that downloaded apps capture much higher levels of user attention and usage than going through a mobile browser. Accessibility, design, user experience, and overall functionality are built specifically for the app, and users are very familiar and comfortable in that environment.”

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While the entire OPUS line of web solutions—illustrations, eApps, and more—are responsive in design, meaning they will automatically adjust and reorientate to virtually any device and screen size, OPUS Mobile takes it to that next level.

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“Our approach was to take OPUS Mobile beyond the core powerful quoting and reporting functionality through providing the opportunity to add high value features including quote compare, user preferences and tools, product and marketing information, needs analysis, push notifications, and more. Built using a single code base for both Apple and Android, OPUS Mobile is integration ready and highly secure.”

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A major U.S. carrier has recently launched OPUS Mobile to their thousands of agents across the country. This custom branded carrier app is fully integrated with other company apps and systems, covers multi-channel requirements, and has a web service to allow approved users access on their desktop.

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Carriers Deploying Self-Service Solutions for Life Insurance Policyholders

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Sureify, an established insurtech provider, finds that roadblocks like legacy systems that don’t pair well with the new digital capabilities and a complex product line that isn’t typically intuitive are holding some insurers back from jumping into the digital waters where self-service is concerned. But perhaps the biggest hurdle remains confidence in the capability and security of self service.

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“Life insurance agents have historically referred policyholders to call centers—the former pinnacle of self-service—because they had confidence in the ability of those call center employees to answer questions and solve problems,” explained Dustin Yoder, Sureify’s CEO and founder. “In 2021, we are helping insurers build the same kind of confidence into their web and mobile capabilities. Sureify’s goal is to help carriers’ reps and agents feel 100 percent comfortable referring their customers to these digital platforms, like LifetimeService, to find answers and solve problems. Once that confidence is achieved, those agents can focus their time and effort on building and growing business.”

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LifetimeAcquire: Powers omnichannel sales capabilities that drive increased placement rates via quoting, e-application, automated underwriting and e-delivery.

LifetimeEngage: Uses multiple engagement methods and analytics to foster a lifelong digital relationship with policyholders, leading to a greater lifetime value for each policyholder.

LifetimeService: Enables insurers to provide a comprehensive digital self-service suite for their policyholders.

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Sureify is a SaaS platform for the life and annuity industry that provides the digital technology experience that today’s customers expect. Sureify’s platform, Lifetime, is a modular, highly configurable set of software solutions that sits on top of policy administration systems. Lifetime delivers a best-in-class experience that modernizes sales, policyholder servicing and innovative customer engagement.

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The solution platform landscape for life and annuities is growing and the workflow models are multiplying. We are now seeing new innovative digital point of sales solutions that not only help close the sale but are designed for our new virtual world. Even if agents and consumers are not traveling, they still spend more time on their mobile devices than their laptops. As the Millennials are becoming the target consumer, self-service technology solutions are growing in popularity.

How Does The Insurance Automation Platform Save Time?

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How does the MRS insurance automation platform save time?

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There are three primary ways the Management Research Services (MRS) products can save our clients’ time: the technology that allows for rapid decision-making, the functionality of the no-code platform, and our customer-service driven approach to integration.

Many underwriting decisions are easy ones. The issue is that it requires analysis of massive data sets to arrive at the decision. Technology improvements offered in the MRS no-code platform will never eliminate the need for underwriters; they just eliminate the need for underwriters to spend hours upon hours of reading and scanning the intel provided for each client.

Consider the recent history and changes in recordkeeping across the medical industry. Generations of paper records yielded to the first-generation Electronic Medical Record (EMR). EMRs are not standardized across providers; they are really an in-house chart; something of a relic from the days before cloud computing. The lack of standardization means there is a lot to manually unpack and interpret.

Before EMRs achieved industry-wide adoption in 2014, the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) was rapidly expanding. The EHR is more expansive, standardized, and designed to be shared; it is everyone’s file combined and cloud-hosted. Different providers, specialists, labs, and pharmacies share information to allow for informed decisions and coordinated care. If these were old fashioned file-folders, they would be fat files! Complete health histories. Of course insurance carriers want to review all information available, but it’s grown into a momentous task.

An EHR is likely hundreds, perhaps thousands of pages. It can include fifteen different sets of medical codes with over one million unique code possibilities. We have created something beyond the scope of human memory or mental capacity. Luckily, the challenges EHRs present are the exact sort of problems modern AI is designed to handle: rapid, accurate data crunching into short bits of standardized, meaningful output. The MRS system uses the EHR along with other sources to arrive at a score or rating.

The process has been turned upside down: most underwriting decisions are already made. The applications become about seeing how and where each applicant qualifies, according to each client’s pre-programmed rules and decisions. The result is rapid underwriting decisions made at the point of sale; over 95% of applicants are processed within just minutes.

The example of the rise of EHRs provides a behind-the-scenes way technology saves time in application processing. It is notable, but where MRS is truly going to save time for insurance carriers or third-party vendors is with the sleek functionality of the no-code platform. Our system bypasses an expensive and time-consuming step in the process by removing the need to work with developers or IT. We’ve already taken care of that step for you; no programming or coding experience is required in the process. Our clients become empowered.

Our customer service driven approach means rapid integration times for systems customized from the ground-up and with minimal maintenance costs. We want to work with you to build the platform or E-App that best serves your organizational and client needs. We are eager to talk with prospective clients about trying out a customized demo of our time-saving products. To request a demo, contact us at https://managementresearchservices.com/contact

SUREIFY GROWS C-SUITE WITH APPOINTMENT OF NEW PRESIDENT

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San-José-based tech company names Dan Gordon to lead operations

By Lori Zinaich | February 2, 2021

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Sureify, the leader in providing digital enablement to life insurers, has recently expanded its executive level management team, naming Dan Gordon as president of the company. Gordon’s new role recognizes his already-significant contribution to the organization as Chief Strategy Officer, proving him to be a strategic thinker, planner and visionary. In addition to his role as Chief Strategy Officer, Gordon has served as a board member and advisor to Sureify for the past two years.

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Sureify’s place as a leading InsurTech in the Life and Annuity industry has already been cemented with the creation of their Lifetime Platform, that continues to help leading Life and Annuity carriers work towards digital enablement. The addition of this new position and the elevation of Gordon to president, further emphasizes Sureify’s continued rise.

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Prior to his work with Sureify, Gordon led the product management organization at Guidewire for 11 years, during which time that company grew from two customers with $2M in revenue to 150 customers with $350M in revenue. He also served on Guidewire’s management team, participating in key strategic and operational decisions for the company and was involved in sales deals, customer relationships, M&As, and partnerships. Gordon has served at head of product at multiple other technology companies.

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Sureify CEO and founder Dustin Yoder acknowledged Gordon’s experience in product and operations and his proven ability to manage the challenges of expansion as key factors in Sureify’s success. “Dan is brilliant in his ability to scale, manage and grow operations, whereas I am much more involved in strategic vision and evangelization,” he explained. “Because of our different ways of looking at the world, we are very much ‘yin’ and ‘yang.’ Our plans for growth at Sureify follow the same path – to guide more life insurers, and to help those we’re already working with to see even more success. We know that Dan will align us with exciting new opportunities to help insurers thrive in this remote world.”

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Gordon echoed Yoder’s thoughts on the partnership, and on Sureify’s continuing role as an innovator for insurers. “For many reasons, the life insurance industry is a difficult one to move.  So people like Dustin, who sees the potential, but has a realistic vision of growth, are incredibly valuable,” he explained. “I feel like our visions for Sureify are aligned. The product-market fit is there. And industry watchers can expect our continued strong focus on customer success. Referenceable, successful customers are our most valuable business asset, and they are also what drive us to want to come to work every day. We’re going to focus on bringing our customers from their early phase one projects into deeply embedded success that moves the needle for them.”

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Dan Gordon comes to Sureify with an MBA from Stanford and a BA in Political Science from Yale.  He also gives generously of his time, serving on the board of Made in a Free World, a non-profit working to eradicate modern slavery. He lives in San Carlos, California with his wife and two children.

The World Of Electronic Health Records (EHR) For Life Insurance Underwriting

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Electronic Health Records (EHR) are the hottest trend in life insurance underwriting today. The growing accessibility and innovation by solution providers is transforming the life underwriting process. Understanding Electronic Health Records and the benefits are important. We will also explore how you get access to EHR and who is offering EHR services.

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What is EHR and How to “Triage” the Data?

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I first reached out to Drake Livada, life sales, and Nicholas Irwin, director of underwriting, at Verisk to educate on EHR and how it has impacted the industry today. As the COVID-19 pandemic adds risk to countless business and personal interactions, ways of life are shifting toward the virtual world. Suddenly caught up in this transformation, life insurers are urgently seeking electronic sources of information to enable a digital customer journey, and electronic health data is coming to the fore.

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Electronic health data can be compiled from many sources and shared digitally through mechanisms such as health information exchanges (HIEs). Health data can be either structured data such as coded diagnosis (ICD), lab testing results with standardized values, and vital signs; or unstructured data, which often includes narrative style notes to document vital information such as visit summary, radiology results, or pathology results. Some types of electronic health data such as pharmacy, lab, and health claims are much more widely available and easier to use than electronic health records, but the latter can provide greater granularity to support a more refined view of mortality risk.

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The health data information available within the EHR can create opportunities for the digitization of life insurance underwriting. Unfortunately, the structure—or lack of it—in the EHR presents challenges. For starters there are 15 different medical coding systems representing over one million different codes that need to be handled and processed. Even if one built a system to handle these over one million unique codes there is still the challenge of numerous medical coding errors, duplicate values, and transcription errors which requires a robust data validation system to handle. Moreover, many key rating elements, such as cancer stage and EKG interpretations, are only available in unstructured format requiring natural language processing in order to ingest.

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Due to the incredible challenge of processing this data nearly all carriers are still treating EHRs like attending physician statements and reviewing the entire file manually. This can take one to two hours per case as the files are often over 1000 pages long with most of the information being completely useless from an underwriting perspective. To solve this challenge Verisk has made the upfront investment on behalf of the industry and assembled a massive team of seasoned life underwriters, medical professionals, biostatisticians, and IT professionals to develop a comprehensive system to ingest, interpret, and evaluate EHR data in real time. Nicholas Irwin, director of underwriting, explained, “Verisk’s EHR Triage engine is an API that ingests a batch of EHR files (CCDs) via API and generates a one to two page summary of the key underwriting elements in the file(s) as well as providing an overall underwriting score in the form of number of debits. Verisk’s tool is called “triage” as it rates the simple cases that underwriters would rate in their sleep, while referring the more complex cases to underwriters. Verisk’s tool presents substantial time savings even for the cases Verisk refers to underwriters by supplying a summary of the key data elements an underwriter needs to rate the case. The intent of the tool is not to replace underwriters, but rather to enable underwriters to spend more of their time on assessing mortality risk and less of their time on scanning 1000 pages to find the 10 nuggets of useful data.”

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An Easy Connection for Life Carriers and Distributors to EHR Data

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As I continued my research, I discovered all roads lead to Human API. I recently synced up with Nick Zambruno, solutions lead, and Anthony Chan in Product Marketing to learn more about their platform and services. Human API is a leading insurtech vendor in the electronic health records (EHR) category. The Human API platform helps life insurance carriers create better client and agent experiences by delivering health records from a variety of different health data sources, both online and offline. The company started by accessing medical records through patient portal integrations but has expanded their connectivity to health information exchanges (HIEs) and national EHR networks such as Epic ChartGateway and Veradigm, as well as strategic partnerships for the delivery of traditional APS. Over the last few years Human API has helped carriers such as Prudential, Allstate, John Hancock, AAA and Principal offer a streamlined digital underwriting process that relies less on traditional underwriting requirements such as exams, fluids and attending physician statements. Carrier customers have cited hit rates of over 40 percent with the EHR platform and are optimistic that the health data can be used to automate manual elements of the underwriting process. The new EHR data sources added to the Human API platform enable hit rates to exceed 50 percent, while the addition of offline medical record retrieval partnerships will drive hit rates to nearly 100 percent.

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Due to the final interoperability and information blocking rules from the Department of Health and Human Services going into effect in April 2021, Human API is increasingly surfacing more clinical notes in EHR data, positioning the platform to deliver comprehensive medical data access. “Access to comprehensive EHR data is foundational to innovation and transformation of the underwriting process. We’re encouraged by the progress made to date by Human API and look forward to working together to drastically improve the consumer purchase process and experience,” said Susan Ghalili, VP of Underwriting Transformation and chief underwriter at John Hancock Insurance.

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Over the past year, distribution firms have also found value in partnering with Human API directly in an effort to access health data more quickly to expedite the sales process. LIBRA and AIMCOR were two new organizations that announced partnerships in the last year with Human API. Through the Human API platform, a firm can access EHR records and digitally share the data directly with a carrier in a secure setting so automation can still be realized at the carrier level. “The insurance industry is ripe for innovation. We’re incredibly excited to be the ‘one platform for all health data’ that helps carriers create and deliver better customer and agent experiences,” said Andrei Pop, CEO of Human API.

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More EHR Services by Solution Providers You Work with Everyday

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I continue to see more solution providers who actively or plan to add EHR to their services for distributors and carriers this year. Those solution providers who play key roles in the life insurance new business process like Management Research Services (MRS), MediPro Direct, and Employee Pooling (EP) explained the value EHR brings to their clients.

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MRS is introducing Electronic Health Records to their suite of products with guidance from clients’ requirements. Their No Code platform will allow carriers to configure their relevant products workflows based on the data source. As carriers become more confident with their actuarial models with the onset of the data source, they will be able to regulate the data used in the process. They anticipate being able to deliver a searchable interface of CCDA (standardize the content and structure for medical documents)—information that will prioritize APS requirements to improve processing time and decrease non-placement issues.

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As healthcare needs become increasingly mobile or virtual, today’s EHR systems need to do more than track medical records in fixed clinical settings. MediPro Direct’s MedLink software works across all service models, from clinical to mobile to virtual, and ties into MediPro Direct’s network of several thousand mobile medical examiners nationwide. This means their systems not only track patient data but also connect service providers with ways to expand their service model and better meet patient needs.

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Employee Pooling’s (EP) value proposition is to remove obstacles that get in the way of sales and enhance the customer experience. When it comes to formal and informal underwriting, obtaining medical records can hinder the fluidity of the process. “The ability to obtain electronic health records (EHR) within hours versus the days and weeks it could take to retrieve traditional medical records is a game changer and surprisingly cost effective,” says Steven Lacher, VP of Business Development. “With formal underwriting still playing a vital role in our industry, it makes sense to try and whittle down the underwriting process time by getting health records to the underwriter and the carrier in an efficient and timely manner.”

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EP recently partnered with Human API (HAPI) to improve turnaround times related to obtaining medical records for both formal and informal underwriting. EHR has been fully incorporated into EP’s Accelerated Informal platform, which reduces the standard informal underwriting process from weeks to days. Lacher states, “The goal is to help agencies quickly and affordably put their important cases up to bid with conviction. Accelerated Informals stands true to its name with EP’s in-house underwriters, on-demand access to prescription drug and clinical laboratory data, and now rapidly obtained EHR data.”

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In 12-24 months from now, you probably can’t even imagine a world without electronic health records playing a key role in the life insurance underwriting process. The goal is always to arrive at an underwriting decision quickly and accurately. EHR data with innovative platforms are connecting solution providers with more carriers and distributors every month to accelerate the life underwriting process.

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Leveraging Legacy

To meet new challenges in the marketplace, it’s time for traditional insurers to implement non-traditional options.

By Bryan Padgette | January 28, 2021


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A recent article by The Wall Street Journal  highlighted the move of two companies – Bestow, Inc. and Dayforward, Inc. – into the life insurance business, not just as sales platforms, but as carriers.  They are endeavoring to start from scratch, completely rethinking what life insurance is and how it is sold and administered. This presents a conundrum — how are these new companies able to launch with such ingenuity, agility and speed, while established insurers who deeply understand every aspect and nuance of the business are either stuck in “contemplation” mode or handcuffed by their legacy systems and don’t know where to start. 

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In truth, the news is good for legacy insurers.  McKinsey & Company points out that, “Customer demand is at an all-time high. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has only reemphasized the need for mortality protection. Public pension replacement rates are declining, and healthcare expenditures are rising—trends also accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. Economic and demographic trends will also offer tailwinds. The global middle class is rapidly expanding, bringing higher incomes, growing financial wealth, and heightened risks to manage.” 

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So why does it seem that the industry, as a whole, is lagging behind on using these opportunities that McKinsey identifies? As an established digital enabler for the life insurance industry, Sureify has worked with carriers large and small to develop digital capabilities that are needed to thrive in the world today, and we’ve got some specific answers, as well as some ideas that will help traditional model insurers rise to meet this new challenge.    

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“Existing infrastructures supporting our longest-standing life insurance carriers don’t need to be completely leveled and rebuilt from scratch to meet the expectations of the modern consumer. In fact, eliminating the advantages of history would be a serious tactical error. Instead, legacy insurers need to adapt a start-up mindset to bring something new, fresh and groundbreaking to rival the convenience offered with the upstarts mentioned in the WSJ article.”

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First, though – a quick look at what we see holding the life insurance industry back from realizing digital potential:

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  • Legacy environments and underwriting processes, and outdated policy admin systems.

Even digital solutions imported through forward thinking platforms don’t always integrate smoothly, and the patched-together processes still require people to manage and troubleshoot. As Novarica discovered, “From a technology standpoint, trying to leverage existing legacy environments to support new products, services, and markets is deemed to be ineffective.”

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  • Perceived distribution issues related to agents’ willingness to embrace technology. 

These concerns are largely unnecessary – LIMRA finds that “Two thirds of young advisors aged 40 and under are quick to adopt new technology when available.” Novarica echoes the value of technology to the agent distribution model: “If servicing can be made easy using technology, it allows more time for sales—so both the carrier and agent win.” 

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  • Belief that becoming, or building, a digital company is an “all or nothing” proposition.

Many life insurance leaders believe they must go full-throttle into the new world of digitally-enabled D2C offerings, instead of seeing the building process as a series of small steps like research, internal brainstorming and enlisting guidance from 3rd party problem solvers.

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  • An interest rate environment that has made it difficult for insurers to invest in “re-imagining” business practices

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  • A legacy mindset, especially at the senior level.

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As we watch digital capability transform industry after industry (retail, banking, real estate and communications to name a few), it should not be difficult to convince the C-suite at the most historically significant insurers that life insurance should be next in line. But to many senior level managers, digital advancement and a shift toward convenience to remove friction from the customer experience may feel like a denial of the value of legacy.

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Clearly, the old ways of thinking and doing things will have to be addressed, especially as all insurers compete for the new generation of buyers, who are used to the convenience of digital capability in all things. However, convenience is just one of the four main drivers of a life insurance purchase. The other three – price, rating and brand confidence – cannot be matched by these start-ups. 

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It is time to re-evaluate the “weight” that holds back too many life insurers. Carriers in 2021 must realize the power of the cards they bring to the table, including: 

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  • A 360-degree knowledge of the industry and best practices
  • Relationships with state regulators
  • An often decades-long proven history
  • Broad advertising and public relations exposure
  • Existing expertise in areas necessary to grow and transform
  • An established reputation that often reaches beyond the marketplace for insurance coverage
  • The financial wherewithal to be innovative

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Sure, the newer life insurance carriers are brash, bold, creative thinkers who are turning a rather conservative industry on its head. But they cannot yet lay claim to these incredible advantages many of the old guard possess, including a solid A.M. Best history, ledgers full of loyal customers, or a brand name known globally for service and product excellence. 

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What this means is that the existing infrastructures supporting our longest-standing life insurance carriers don’t need to be completely leveled and rebuilt from scratch to meet the expectations of the modern consumer. In fact, eliminating the advantages of history would be a serious tactical error. Instead, legacy insurers need to adapt a start-up mindset to bring something new, fresh and groundbreaking to rival the convenience offered with the upstarts mentioned in the WSJ article. But there’s the rub – it will be necessary to bring in a new way of thinking to build a new product, underwriting, administration, and distribution systems. This new way of thinking may not merge well with existing company technology, human resources and ingrained hierarchies.

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In truth, no good argument can be made for not forging ahead with thinking differently to capitalize on the immense value of history, legacy and reputation. After all, a customer will likely be more comfortable buying protection from a company with a strong 150-year history than from one that has existed for only five years with a significantly lower financial health rating!

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Bestow and Dayforward have been able to address some issues by separating themselves from the historic precedents of the industry. However, these carriers, with their new frameworks, impressive digital capabilities and slick customer experiences, do not have the size, reputation and financial firepower they need to “move the needle” to provide the broader market with life insurance protection. 

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For traditional life insurers who want to stay ahead of the new digital-only players, here are six steps that must be taken:

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1. Don’t “think outside the box” – create an entirely new box within the box.   

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Too many insurers see the way forward as modernizing legacy systems with technology that makes it possible to do business in an omnichannel manner. While the repair/reinvention of processes, systems and the customer experience is a positive step into the digital landscape, it may not leverage advantages like name recognition, brand familiarity, a legacy of good will, and a strong, knowledgeable distribution force. This version of re-imagining what already exists will likely not be enough to take on the new entrants to the life insurance space, who are unbound by traditional methods 

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Rather, it could be time to consider building a new box inside the legacy box.  

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As an example: selling current products in new ways isn’t enough to contend. Instead, it’s time to consider new products – ones that are less reliant on the interest rate environment and on the customer profile data from a time gone by. Thanks to tech and its greatly-enhanced ability to analyze data, new products will be able to meet much more specific demand. And the public relations gained as a “first in” leader in novel product development can go a long way toward building awareness.  

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This new way of thinking must receive support from the highest levels of the organization. The strategy cannot be driven by middle management. Creative, forward-thinking leaders within the organization and leveraging the positive aspects of the larger entity, this “box within the box” can truly drive innovation.

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1a.  …but keep what works. 

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A separate company with a familial lineage has built-in trust. It’s difficult to put a value on such an important asset. Leveraging the parent’s brand in new ways (“Insureco Direct,” for example) can infer newness while assuring target audiences that this new endeavor has big brand support.

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2. Assess the true investment necessary to enter the new space.

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The prospect of cost, time and effort required to rethink any long-established business model seems overwhelming. As technology gains ground exponentially, the cost of digital enablement decreases (thanks to low code/no code options and scale of interest), and a new generation of digital creators and thinkers becomes available to simplify the customer experience, the necessary investments may not be as prohibitive as one would think, and should not be a significant roadblock to moving ahead.

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3. Build a culture of fearlessness.  

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The companies who will lead the industry through the next decade are those who embrace change. In an article entitled, “A Growing Urgency for Change in the Life Insurance Industry,” Boston Consulting Group notes the importance of this new way of thinking, saying, “A corporate culture that embraces change is a prerequisite if life insurers are to make their businesses meaningfully more customer-centric. That begins with having the right people across the organization—be they specialists in data, analytics, or digital technologies—who can thrive in a company built around responsiveness and flexibility.”

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The team assembled to develop and create the new model should be comprised of people with fresh perspectives, and those who are open to possibilities. The ability to think differently, to question the way things are done and to look at what’s being created across other industries will be important characteristics in the leaders and builders of any new digital endeavor.

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4. Turn traditional models and methods upside down.

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One of biggest hesitations holding back the traditional life insurance industry is a reluctance to re-imagine how business can be conducted. As mentioned earlier, distribution is one important example. Digital as a direct channel for lead generation, and the new digital enhancements that are available to any sales force today should be embraced in the new model. These enhance the agent experience and make the process of offering life insurance easier and more productive.  According to McKinsey, “Growth has been a long-standing challenge for U.S. life insurers, and changing customer behaviors is yet another obstacle to growth. However, these changing behaviors represent an opportunity to rethink distribution in ways that meet the needs of customers and address the economic challenges associated with traditional agent-based distribution. Carriers that succeed will be well positioned to capture tremendous growth, improve profitability and provide comprehensive solutions to consumers, many of whom are underserved today.”

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Of course, distribution is just one area of opportunity. Data-driven underwriting, self-service capabilities, non-traditional claims payments … all of these are areas ripe for re-imagination.   

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5. Ask the important questions.

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Introspection and exploration are the keys to seeing the potential value in a D2C offshoot. Some thoughts to investigate:

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  • What is life insurance? What role does it play in people’s lives? (Talk to people in different age groups about what they believe life insurance is, or more importantly, what they wish it was.)
  • Understanding the low margins of traditional bond investing, what risk environment can be created so profitable business can be written?
  • Can lower reserves be held by re-thinking what a death benefit is and how and when it is paid?
  • Can technology allow for resources to be better invested in people and processes?  For example, are money and resources being used in places that don’t ultimately lead to a customized experience?  
  • What new, and more affordable, tools are available for profiling applicants? How can they be used to minimize marketing and acquisition costs? 
  • How can products be priced creatively based on how and when the death benefit is paid?
  • Where is our target customer? Can we meet them where they are?
  • How can we best create breakthrough marketing messaging while leveraging the reputation of the larger entity?

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6. Embrace new technology across the board — but don’t rely on it exclusively.

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A big advantage that Bestow and Dayforward are bringing to battle is the technological advances that are inherent in these business models. In relying on technology, however, they may be missing the most important part of the life insurance experience – the actual human connection. It is the piece of the puzzle that can be approximated digitally, but will never be truly replaced.

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LIMRA, in a report titled, The COVID-19 Effect: High Tech with Human Touch to Optimize Life Insurance Customer Experience, noted that, “…a big part of the value that insurers are gaining from technology has come from the “assist” it’s giving to financial professionals. If technology can help make life insurance easier to understand, less trouble to apply for, and quicker to get, it will be a dramatically better experience for customers.” In other words, technology cannot replace a real human interaction. The quest for answers, the emotion involved in considering why a policy is necessary, the relief of knowing coverage is provided – these are benefits that only a mature, established, trusted community of insurers can offer.

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It seems clear that this new guard of life insurers about whom the WSJ writes isn’t going away anytime soon. If anything, even minimal success in the digital carrier channel will encourage others to venture into the market. That means that, to survive and to thrive, traditional insurers will have to face this competition head-on. It’s going to take a complete re-imagining of life insurance to stay agile and competitive – but the incumbents of our industry, with their built-in advantages of experience, financial firepower, branding and reputation, are up to the task. 

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Existing infrastructures supporting our longest-standing life insurance carriers don’t need to be completely leveled and rebuilt from scratch to meet the expectations of the modern consumer. In fact, eliminating the advantages of history would be a serious tactical error. Instead, legacy insurers need to adapt a start-up mindset to bring something new, fresh and groundbreaking to rival the convenience offered with the upstarts mentioned in the WSJ article.

Novarica Report 2020: Management Research Services is an Established Player

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Management Research Services is recognized by Novarica as an established player in their field

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An industry thought leader granted Management Research Services (MRS) accolades and recognition by profiling them among a select group of vendors in an annual niche publication. Novarica is a leading research and consulting firm that analyzes technology and strategy across the insurance industry. They publish numerous research reports that examine trends, best practices, and vendor options for insurers, clients, and anyone willing to buy and leverage their data. In a November report, Novarica recognized MRS as an “established player” in the field of companies providing partial and full-service underwriting solutions to insurers of life, health and annuity.

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Novarica’s 2020 report on Life / Annuity / New Business Underwriting Systems offers an overview of MRS and 15 competitors. The companies included are not rank-ordered or endorsed but presented as the short-list for new businesses evaluating potential vendors in the marketplace. MRS is recognized as being an established player among their peers, which Novarica defines as “having shown staying power in the marketplace as well as substantial customer experience.”

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Their report includes a several-page company profile for each of the 16 firms listed. The profiles summarize each organization, their client base, and the technologies they incorporate. Each description speaks to their product’s key functionality, deployment options, and approach to implementation. Though the company profiles and associated analysis are not available to the general public, they are shared with Novarica’s consultation clients. Non-clients can also purchase and download the full report from their website.

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Inclusion in Novarica’s annual published research represents a win for MRS on multiple levels. It provides affirmation that our team continues to provide industry-leading technology and customer service in a competitive and rapidly changing field. This is confirmation that our no-code platform is among the most sophisticated and dependable options available.

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Furthermore, inclusion represents another growth opportunity for us; our brand and logo are placed alongside those of the dominant providers in the marketplace. Along with their library of research, Novarica is known for providing consultation. They specialize in taking a needs-analysis approach towards helping their customers with vendor selection. Being on their short-list and getting their stamp-of-approval for our no-code platform can only help us continue to connect with clients that will benefit from our product. For those familiar with general consumer products, it’s like MRS just got the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval!

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We’ve already been growing. Since March of 2020, the staff at MRS has grown by 50%! We are heavily invested in our people and platform; we look to continue working alongside other industry leaders during this time of revolutionary transformation. The old adage, “the only constant thing is change,” remains just as true today as it was when we started in 1988. We are poised to embrace and adapt with continued change and growth in the times to come.

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The MRS no-code platform provides companies with everything they need to build a complex, secure, and powerful application – capable of supporting even the most complicated underwriting decisions. Our hands-on, personalized approach to customer services means our platform can be customized from the ground up and fully integrated in surprisingly short spans of time. We offer a flexible, single solution with low start-up costs, rapid integration times, and little-to-no ongoing maintenance costs. The end result is substantially less expensive for insurers and third-party providers than status quo options.

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Find out more about how our technologies and innovation are leading the industry.

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For more information about the MRS no-code insurance services platform, please visit www.managementresearchservices.com or email us at sales@msrreps.com.

ApplicInt Partners With SBLI to Simplify the Life Insurance Application Process Using U*Complete

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RENO, Nev.Jan. 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — ApplicInt, an industry leader with their suite of insurance application fulfillment solutions, recently led efforts to digitize the Life Insurance application process for Savings Bank Life Insurance Company (SBLI), based in Woburn, Massachusetts. In a Pilot, SBLI successfully implemented ApplicInt’s U*Complete platform for clients to self-complete Life Insurance applications, which is seamlessly integrated into SBLI’s fulfillment process. SBLI is planning for a full production rollout of U*Complete in the second quarter of this year (2021).

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Direct to Consumer Life Insurance Electronic Application software solution.
Direct to Consumer Life Insurance Electronic Application software solution.

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“We are very excited about our partnership with ApplicInt and the opportunity to use UComplete in innovative ways to help our clients,” said Rose Conneely, COO, SBLI. “Our focus is to simplify the application process for agents and their clients alike, and our 100% digital Self-complete Application Process Pilot has demonstrated very positive results. We look forward to rolling it out to the market.”

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“Our goal is to make the application process as simple and convenient as possible, and via our partnership with ApplicInt, we have piloted an easy-to-use 100% digital process for clients to self-complete their application, while automatically providing agents and their clients ‘status alerts’,” said Rose Conneely, COO, SBLI. “We are planning to roll-out this new option in mid-2021.”

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ApplicInt’s U*Complete has two workflow self-service models: “Carrier Direct to Consumer” and “Agent Direct to Customer”. In the Carrier Direct to Consumer process, the consumer has a secure login to the Carrier’s Website. The consumer chooses a face amount/term product and runs a quote. They then complete a Part A Life Insurance Application, with the Part B medical questions being optional depending on the carrier’s fulfillment process. The consumer then eSigns Forms. There is real-time chat available when needed or a warm transfer to a call center to schedule an exam if needed. Forms and data are sent to the carrier in good order. The Agent Direct to Consumer model is essentially identical, except that the Agent initiates the fulfillment process and the consumer can review quotes from various carriers.

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Mike Feroah Sr., Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of ApplicInt stated, “We are overly excited about the extension of our technology that allows a common platform to be used by consumers, call centers and examiners to provide part A or part B application information to carriers. U*Complete also can be integrated with automated underwriting platforms for deep instant decisioning. And if you have existing ApplicInt software, it can be converted to U*Complete in a matter of weeks. U*Complete provides better a customer experience with enormous cost and efficiency savings.”

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About ApplicInt

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ApplicInt, a leading information technology company, has developed several innovative, interoperable solutions that can be customized to meet the unique requirements of each client. ApplicInt was founded in 2003 to provide efficient and cost-effective technology solutions for the collection and distribution of information for life insurance applications. Automating the broker’s world not only means digitalizing their offices but, more importantly, streamlining and simplifying the process of obtaining insurance.

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Media Inquiries:

Trish Gates

ApplicInt USA Inc.

775-325-4610

tgates@applicint-usa.com

Related Images

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U*Complete 
Direct to Consumer Life Insurance Electronic Application software solution.

SOURCE ApplicInt USA Inc

Celent research ranks Equisoft’s illustration software among the best solutions in North America

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Equisoft’s insurance illustration software is acknowledged by Celent for its advanced technology and breadth of functionality, and for providing “the best experience across all illustration systems”.

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Philadelphia, January 14, 2021 – Equisoft, a leading global provider of digital business solutions for the insurance and wealth industries, proudly announced that its insurance quote and illustration software, Equisoft/illustrate, has been recognized by Celent as one of the top-rated solutions in North America.

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Research and consulting firm Celent analyzed 10 vendor-offered illustration systems available for life, health and annuities product carriers. The findings were published in Celent’s recent report: “Life Insurance Illustration Systems: North American Edition.”

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“A life illustration system is a core piece of the sales process in life insurance,” wrote Celent’s Senior Analyst Karen Monks in the report. “Based on solid overall functionality and recent improvements that we’ve seen, we think that vendor-offered illustration systems can improve a producer’s efficiency at the point of sale and, for the investment, will also deliver significant long-term savings for the insurer.”

.Going beyond table stakes quotes and illustrations

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As highlighted by the report, illustration tools are table stakes for life insurance carriers. Every company has a solution, whether developed in-house or sourced from a vendor, that does the required job -showing potential clients the details of what they are thinking of purchasing.

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“Today’s insurers are looking to gain a competitive edge on any front, whether it’s speed-to-market, offering seamless experiences or product innovation. More and more see an opportunity to elevate illustrations from a cost-of-doing-business tool to a critical platform for promoting insurance products,” said Bruno Leduc, Senior Director, Digital Insurance Solutions at Equisoft. “They want a user-friendly and effective tool that will outdo what their competitors could offer.”

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“Based on customer feedback and Celent’s review of the product, Equisoft/illustrate should be on an insurer’s short list when considering a new illustration system,”​ concluded Karen Monks in the report. “It provides the best experience we saw across all illustration systems this year.”

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Equisoft/illustrate is a class-leading front-end solution for comparing compliant quotes and generating the most compelling illustrations to showcase insurance products. Used by top-tier companies in North America, this next-generation software is a strategic asset for insurers seeking to unlock the full potential of their growth strategy and be at the forefront of the market.

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About Equisoft

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Founded in 1994, Equisoft is a global provider of advanced insurance and wealth digital solutions. Recognized as a valued partner by over 75 of the world’s leading financial institutions in 15 countries, Equisoft offers innovative front-end applications, extensive back-office services and unique data migration expertise. The firm’s flagship products include a SaaS policy administration solution, CRM, financial needs analysis, financial planning, asset allocation, fund and portfolio analysis, quotes and illustrations, electronic application, agency management systems, as well as customer, agent and broker portals. Equisoft is also Oracle’s largest and most experienced integration partner for the OIPA platform. With its business-driven approach, deep industry knowledge, innovative technology, and some 500 experts based in the USA, Canada, Chile, Colombia, South Africa, India and Australia, Equisoft helps its clients tackle any challenge in this era of digital disruption.

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Bruno Leduc

Senior Director, Digital Insurance Solutions

Bruno has over 15 years of experience in life insurance technology. He’s an expert in digital transformation, front end implementations, and user experience.

Ameritas Selects iPipeline’s SSG Digital Platform to Enhance Life Insurance Processing for Financial Professionals

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e-Application, Self-Service Capabilities, and Network to Optimize Financial Professional and Carrier Performance

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Exton, PA (January 12th, 2021) – iPipeline® – a leading provider of low code cloud-based software solutions for the life insurance and financial services industry, today announced Ameritas has chosen the SSG Digital® Platform to streamline the application processing experience. Ameritas is a mutual-based provider of life insurance, financial services, and employee benefits. iGO® e-App and Maestro® Self-Service will be integrated with Swiss Re’s Magnum Pure® full-service underwriting automation to accelerate business processing, lower costs, and improve the customer experience for the Ameritas independent distribution channel. iPipeline has the life insurance industry’s largest independent distribution and carrier network within North America.

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“In a recent Deloitte survey, 48% percent of 200 insurance executives agreed the pandemic showed how unprepared our industry was to weather this economic storm. Digital technologies are essential to succeeding in today’s contactless selling environment, and iPipeline’s low code SSG Digital platform has what it takes to power the industry forward in 2021,” said Larry Berran, CEO, iPipeline. “Using iGO e-App and Maestro Self-Service with Magnum Pure will help Ameritas to improve their financial professional and consumer experiences.”

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“Ameritas evaluated several technology providers to find a platform that best fit our needs,” said Robert Sharp, Head of Independent Distribution at Ameritas. “iPipeline is a strong organization in the independent marketplace with integration experience and an innovative end-to-end platform. We look forward to working with iPipeline on automating our new business processes.”

To learn how you can implement iPipeline’s innovations to automate how your products are sold and processed, contact sales@ipipeline.com or call 1-800-758-0824, option 2.

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About Ameritas
Ameritas is a marketing name for Ameritas Mutual Holding Company and its affiliated subsidiary companies, including Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. and Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. of New York. Founded in 1887, Ameritas offers a wide range of insurance and financial products and services to individuals, families, and businesses. These products and services include life insurance; annuities; individual disability income insurance; group dental, vision, and hearing care insurance; retirement plans; investments; asset management; and public finance. Securities offered through affiliate Ameritas Investment Company LLC. (AIC), member FINRA/SIPC and investment advisory services offered through the business name of Ameritas Advisory Services. AIC is not affiliated with any third-party entity mentioned herein. For more information, visit ameritas.com.

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About iPipeline
iPipeline is a leading provider of low code, cloud-based software solutions for the life insurance and financial services industry. Through our SSG Digital, end-to-end platform, we accelerate and simplify sales, compliance, operations, and support. We provide process automation and seamless integration between every participant in our ecosystem including carriers, agents, general agencies, advisors, broker-dealers, RIAs, banks, securities/mutual fund firms, and their consumers on a global basis. Our innovative solutions include pre-sales support, new business and underwriting, policy administration, point-of-sale execution of applications, post-sale support, data analysis, reporting, user-driven configuration, consumer delivery and self-service, and agency and firm management.

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iPipeline’s platform is used by approximately 450 carriers and fund companies, 1,400 distributors and financial institutions, and their agents and licensed advisors in a cloud-based environment. With headquarters in Exton, Pennsylvania, iPipeline has locations in Boston, Bromley (UK), Burlington (Canada), Cheltenham (UK), Dallas, Davidson, Fort Lauderdale, Huntersville, Ontario (CA), Philadelphia, Pleasanton, and Salt Lake City. Visit www.ipipeline.com.

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For iPipeline:
Lisa Shea
Marketing
lshea@ipipeline.com
484-870-6234