Industry conferences are back! I just returned from a two week business trip. First I flew to Tampa to attend the LIMRA Life Insurance Conference at the end of April. I was then invited by the National Brokerage Agencies (NBA) to speak at their Spring Conference in Dallas. From there, I flew to Denver to attend the Association of Home Office Underwriters (AHOU) Annual Conference. Each one of these conferences had great attendance, top speakers, educational sessions, and exhibitors with new innovative products and services. I learned a lot, and it was a fantastic networking opportunity. There are so many conferences happening throughout this year 2022 hosted by industry associations, IMOs, and technology groups; it’s almost impossible to attend them all. This is a nice problem to have as to which ones to pick to attend, sponsor, and/or where to exhibit. Many companies have the resources to split their teams to cover multiple conferences, especially those that may be happening around the same time. The best part is the positive energy you feel when people appreciate the in-person interaction that was lacking during the hiatus period in the last two years because of COVID. I did attend a couple of conferences late last year but they had lighter attendance, and some were hybrids with remote participation. Just not the same.
Challenges fuel opportunities for Life Insurtech
Exhibiting at both the LIMRA Life Insurance Conference and at the AHOU Conference, I met with the Sapiens team. Sapiens is an industry leader in carrier new business and underwriting systems for both life and property and casualty business. I spoke with Jennifer Smith, vice president of Life and Annuity Products in North America, about the opportunities they are seeing in the market today: “Between the complexities of life products, shifting business models, and ever-changing consumer expectations, the demand for impactful and innovative solutions to support the distribution market continues to grow. New opportunities to increase customer retention and build your multigenerational book of business have become game changing imperatives in this new dimension of insurance. And, of course, technology continues to play a pivotal role in helping to strategically transform the channels in which we communicate, operate and market. The market is flooded with insights on how the challenges of the past two years have caused companies to squeeze in several years’ worth of innovation and ideas into narrow frames. Yet the continual challenge of creating an all-encompassing platform, which can seamlessly support the entire cast of the insurance ecosystem—carriers, brokers, technology partners, and the customer—remains a challenge.”
For many organizations, the benefits of selling directly to consumers—higher margins, faster turnarounds, access to customer data—should be an ace in the hole. The ability to offer your clients an omnichannel “online experience with the similar capabilities and experience of being face to face,” is crucial these days. “During our recent Sapiens Customer Council,” Smith continued, “where a few dozen of our North American customers gathered, one of our life carriers noted that they have an 80 percent close rate when a consumer comes to their website directly and an agent was recommended to them. It was also noted that one of the reasons this carrier is better able to meet customers needs, is that they partnered with a progressive solution provider, Sapiens, who helped them reshape and redefine the ‘sold, not bought,’ and integrate the right tools and technology to support both customer demand and business needs.
“One of the beneficial components, in this new frontier, has become the Sapiens Illustration solution, which is enabling the agent to easily run simple and complex ‘what if’ scenarios to show and explain to the consumer how the insurance product will behave, how value accumulates, and what their premiums are doing to protect them. Instead of competing with the ‘Amazon Effect,’ our customer determined that if they could deliver real-time data insights for the broker and client, reduce time in to fill-out the application, underwriting, and errors, that they could focus more on what matters most—ensuring that customers are given exemplary agent or advisory experiences. Evidence is pointing to the fact that today’s up and coming agents have very different expectations of their experience and engagement with the tools required to explain and illustrate life insurance as the initiation of a good customer experience with an insurance carrier. They want intuitive capabilities that walk a customer through the life of an insurance policy and then they want that detail entered to continue through the process of applying for the illustrated product and hopefully enable point of sale decisioning or indication of the rating.
“We continue to work with consumers, carriers and partners across the life industry, demonstrating digital and differentiating ideas to better help close the life insurance protection gap. Leveraging decades of experience along with innovative ways to drive adoption of life products—either through new direct to consumer channels, or through current (or new) agent networks—we are fueling new methods and opportunities to educate markets on the importance of protecting their families and future.
“While so many things continue to shift and change, those of us who have been in the industry know that there has been one constant on the life side, and that is insurance is a product that’s pretty fraught with emotions. Going forward, the ability to empower agents to continue to educate, empathize and market products that have purpose, value, and deliver a sense of protection and security, will continue to create opportunities for those who are first to adapt to the new reality. Our Sapiens solutions for New Business and Underwriting are already helping life and annuity carriers navigate and evolve in this new era, and yesterday’s challenges only fuel our ability to deliver on the opportunities for tomorrow and beyond.”
Turning on the Power of EHR Data
AHOU is definitely a mass gathering of life insurance underwriters, data scientists, and anyone related to the underwriting process. Exhibiting at the conference was Diameter Health; specifically I met with Dr. Paulo Pinho, vice president and medical director. He explained that medical underwriting has traditionally been a manual process requiring skilled resources to sift through attending physician statements (APSs). Comprised of hundreds of pages delivered as PDF files, today’s APSs—while based on data that is captured in electronic health records (EHRs)—are essentially paper analogs that require underwriters and medical directors to use the same time and resource-intensive processes to find data critical to risk assessment. Some carriers, re-insurers and insurtech vendors have recognized that the ubiquity of EHRs and subsequent availability of clinical data in near real-time could be disruptive for underwriting—delivering data elements that are most relevant to risk assessment directly into underwriting workflows. Theoretically, this should enhance automation, improve speed to issue and improve client experience. However, their exploration of EHR data has uncovered the fact that raw clinical data poses challenges due to poor data quality, inconsistency, and lack of interoperability, particularly in the most complex patients who may see multiple providers in multiple care settings.
“Diameter Health’s Fusion technology is purpose-built for turning raw clinical data into a high value data asset. It ingests multi-source, multi-format data and generates a semantically normalized longitudinal record that makes key data points accessible to underwriters. Diameter Health’s comprehensive and scalable technology has tackled the high volume, multi-source aggregation required by the nation’s Health Information Exchanges, health insurance payers, state and federal governments, and more recently a portfolio of life insurance ecosystem players. Our life insurance clients realize that claims data has its gaps, medications don’t tell the full story, and individual labs represent one point in time and not the line that connects discrete points. They realize that clean clinical data is the thread that mitigates gaps, weaves the full story, and forms the line that transforms the episodic into the continuous—these transformations are critical to an evidence based, client centric and seamless underwriting experience.
“Beyond an APS replacement solution, clean EHR data is the foundation for accelerated underwriting, claims and disability cover. Timely, rich population data can drive pricing, client engagement, fraud detection, new product design and even dynamic underwriting premised on a wellness model. Diameter Health is the enterprise data quality solution necessary to disrupt life insurance through automation and simplification.”
Life insurance technology innovations from back office policy admin systems to distribution digital point of sales solutions and enhancement in automating underwriting are advancing significantly. The best way to get your arms around all the great changes happening in the industry is to get out on the road and visit customers, carriers, vendors and industry events.