Life Carriers, Distributors And Vendors Collaborating On Key Technology Initiatives

The life insurance industry is coming together to work on some key initiatives in 2021. The governance of these projects are spearheaded by industry associations like the Life Distribution Technology Committee (LDTC) and ACORD. This is not new as many of our associations have developed projects in the past such as LIDMA’s Process Improvement Team enhancing ePolicy Delivery, Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) developing Straight Through Processing Standards for Annuities, and life data initiatives partnering with ACORD and LIMRA. There are many more associations educating, standardizing, and identifying best of breed solutions for the life insurance industry including new projects this year. This article will focus on the current initiatives of Life Automated Underwriting, Common API, The New Norm, and the Next Generation Digital Standards.

The Life Distribution Technology Committee, formerly known as the Life Brokerage Technology Committee (LBTC) set up working groups (subcommittees) focused on three projects this year: Common API, Automated Underwriting, and The New Norm. These projects were the result of a survey back in the fourth quarter of 2020 asking the industry to prioritize potential projects solving technology and process pain points. The survey allowed the respondents to rank in order of importance including recommending prospective initiatives not listed. There was then a “Call to Action” for subcommittee co-chairs and volunteers to participate/contribute to each project respectively.

A little history lesson on LDTC: From the mid-1980s through 2008 NAILBA had a Technology Committee. This included a technology magazine and developing their own data standards as well as other technology initiatives. After the Financial Crisis of 2008, funding for the committee was no longer available. In 2009, life carriers, BGAs, and vendors formed a new independent committee with a Charter called “The Life Brokerage Technology Committee” now known as the Life Distribution Technology Committee. The purpose is to have equal representation from carriers, distributors, and vendors to create and maintain an open forum to address technology and process issues that affect the efficiencies and costs of member’s businesses. LDTC is focused on the adoption of best practices by the member organizations for their common good and the benefit of their customers. There are no membership dues; LDTC is strictly a volunteer organization. There are currently over 160+ carrier, distributor, and vendor members. The LDTC LinkedIn group has 300+ industry members. The current LDTC co-chairs are Marjorie Ma of AIG, Pat Wedeking of Tellus Brokerage, and Brian Kirkland of SuranceBay. The steering committee, who are also co-founders, is Ken Leibow of InsurTech Express, Joann Mattson of Highland Capital Brokerage, and Jeff Lingenfelter of John Hancock Insurance Company. Over the years LDTC had worked on many important initiatives to help standardize and improve processes from eApp and ePolicy Delivery to developing a Test Harness to validate a life carrier’s pending case status data feed. LDTC had an annual face-to-face meeting at the NAILBA conference who sponsored a meeting room where the annual technology survey results, deliverables on projects from subcommittees, and the latest on emerging technologies were presented. The meeting was open to LDTC members and non-members. This year in the COVID world we are having the annual meeting Virtually in December.

Common API
What is an API? This stands for Application Programming Interface, which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. A fully API-driven data model is critical for the data dissemination process within the life insurance ecosystem to truly make data distribution and usage simple, secure, and reliable once and for all. Driven from within the independent distribution space, this modernized vision of data exchange could reduce costs and operating burdens for the biggest of industry players, while opening up revenue channels, enabling innovation, and removing market entry obstacles for best-of-breed insurtech and accelerators. The co-chairs of the working group are Meg Rose of Insurance Technologies and Amanda Yoho of Proformex. The working group is identifying key industry issues such as data consistency, distribution involvement, use cases, and vendor commonality. They are also building an industry wide adoption strategy.

Automated Underwriting
This sub-committee focuses on benchmarking and providing guidance on a go forward basis as it relates to automated and accelerated underwriting for fully underwritten products. The co-chairs of the working group are Dana Grove of Cerner and Jeff McCauley of MIB. This is different from “Simplified” or “Instant” issue products we’ve all known about from the past, but rather looking forward on what we are doing and should do as technology and data help us underwrite policies faster. One of the key objectives is to identify pain-points in the accelerated underwriting workflow and recommend solutions. The Automated Underwriting Subcommittee is also creating an “Underwriting Programs Search Tool” for the industry to use and an Admin Tool to maintain the content. The types of underwriting programs included are Accelerated Underwriting, Simplified Issue, Non-Med, and Executive Advantage. The tool has search functionality like “show me Accelerated Underwriting programs that will issue up to age 70” and/or “programs for face amounts up to $3 million.” The tool has information on Average Processing Time, Tele-interview Time, and ways to submit business like eApp and Drop Ticket for example. There are underwriting programs from the top 27 life insurance carriers like Lincoln Financial’s “LincXpress” and John Hancock’s “Express Track.” The LDTC Underwriting Programs App was developed in partnership with InsurTech Express and was scheduled to be made available to BGAs online free by the end of October. Here is the website to try it out: https://www.insurtechexpress.com/underwriting-programs/.

The New Norm
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt operating models across the insurance industry, there is still a significant gap for the industry overall compared to other finance or consumer industries, even on the property and casualty side. This sub-committee will identify the next impactful areas for the life insurance industry as a whole to embrace cutting-edge technology or processes in order to better serve our customers. The co-chairs are Mike Carter of National Life Group and Lance Taylor of Vanbridge.

Next Generation Digital Standards (NGDS)
ACORD has been working on a new standard for life and annuities called the “Next Generation Digital Standards” (NGDS). Digital standards are designed to enable “small” fine-grained business transactions between insurance systems. They will define the data structures necessary to support granular messages which can be used in microservices or invoked by API methods.

Reasons for Using Digital Standards

  • Increased Resilience: With microservices your entire application is decentralized and decoupled into services that act as separate entities.
  • Improved Scalability: With each service as a separate component, you can scale up a single function or service without having to scale the entire application.
  • Software/Hardware Flexibility: Each service can use its own language and framework while still being able to communicate easily with the other services in your application.
  • Faster Time to Market: By developing in smaller increments that are independently testable and deployable you can get to market quicker.
  • Improved ROI and Reduced Costs/Development: The increased efficiency of microservices reduces infrastructure costs and minimizes downtime. Development time is reduced and code will be more reusable.

The goals and mission of ACORD Digital Standards is to establish a common approach to setting standards, structures, and implementation guidelines while leveraging ACORD Data Standards. Also maximize data interoperability resulting in seamless and controlled data exchanges between applications. ACORD leverages member inputs across geographies and communities to ensure ACORD specifications developed are cross-domain. What ACORD has done over the years and continues to do is to receive subject-matter expertise and members through sharing business scenarios, use cases, and specifications. This also includes providing feedback for improvement and production implementation.

ACORD kicked-off a NGDS Electronic Health Records subgroup that I am participating in. The goal of this group is to identify the relevant Electronic Health Records use cases and data points needed to support APIs and develop standard structures that are reusable and easily implemented. The scope covers more than just electronic health records, we are looking at the entire life underwriting process from prescription checks to electronic lab slips. We want to normalize the transactions in the underwriting process for the purpose of reducing costs and speed-to-market. Leading the subgroup is Nicholas France of ACORD. The team in the subgroup has top life underwriting experts from carriers like AIG, Transamerica and Prudential; distributors like Highland Capital Brokerage and M-Financial; EHR experts from Human API and Clareto; and representation from MIB, Diameter Health, and Verisk. There are many more industry experts participating in this NGDS subgroup.

If we want to continue to improve and solve industry challenges in technology and process for life insurance, then it requires the professionals in our space to actively collaborate and participate in these associations and working groups. For those that have made contributions in the past as well as the present, we thank you for volunteering your valuable time and expertise as well as company resources. We are working together as a community to make the industry better for all the trading partners and ultimately for consumers who buy life insurance.

As Founder and Chief Executive Officer at InsurTech Express, Ken brings more than 34 years of insurance industry experience, with an extensive background in insurance technology for distribution and back office systems. Prior to founding InsurTech Express, Leibow worked for Genworth Financial, Mutual of Omaha, and as vice president of operations at Diversified Underwriters Services, Inc.

As Chief Operating Officer of Integrated Insurance Technologies, Ken built the largest life insurance data exchange hub in the industry, processing over one million policies per year and $30 billion of annuities (now owned by Oracle, Inc.). Some of Ken’s key initiatives he implemented include innovation in quoting and illustration tools, CRM’s, agency management systems, eApp platforms and ePolicy Delivery for long term care, life insurance and annuities.

Ken is a leader for industry technology standards, working with ACORD, LBTC, LIDMA, NAILBA, LIMRA, LOMA and IRI. In 2019, Leibow was appointed to sit on the ACLI Innovation Committee.Ken is on the ACORD Life & Annuity Program Advisory Council and won the ACORD Leadership Award in 2020 and ACORD Community 50th Anniversary Award in 2020. He is a past winner of the NAILBA Chairman’s Award and NAILBA’s ID20 Award.

Leibow can be reached by telephone at 402-740-7356. Email: ken@insurtechexpress.com.