With insurance technologies seeping into agents’ lives, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of the cutting-edge ideas floating about the life and annuity world.
Low interest rates have made life difficult for insurers as low investment portfolio yields mean thinner profit margins, and thinner profit margins mean insurers need to operate more efficiently.
One way for insurance company managers to wring more efficiency out of the companies they lead is to turn as many documents, policies, processes and procedures into a digital form.
Consultants say agents and financial advisors should be ready for such changes, even if advisors have never heard of the companies behind these changes.
Insurance distribution “seems ripe for digitalization,” wrote Deloitte’s Gary Shaw, vice chairman and U.S. insurance leader, and Jim Eckenrode, managing director, at the Deloitte Center for Financial Services, in a 2018 insurance outlook brief.
For agents, it’s not a question of whether they will have to adapt, but rather a question of when and how.
A survey of the insurance technology landscape unearthed dozens of small cutting-edge companies. Some may grow, or become subsumed by larger insurance or technology companies. Others may wither and die.
But in most instances, these new companies will influence industry product development and distribution – if they haven’t already – so we highlight a sample of these companies here.
More insurers are adding direct-to-consumer models to their distribution quivers, so here are some small companies in that space.
Abaris Financial has been in the market for at least two years as a direct-to-consumer online platform for deferred income annuities, or longevity insurance. Abaris offers annuities using a simple and intuitive technology platform.
Haven Life, backed by MassMutual, has also reaped plenty of attention as an easy direct-to-consumer experience capable of delivering near-immediate coverage decisions for people under age 45 who qualify, according to the website.
Ladder, like Haven Life, is built on a direct-to-consumer model which eliminates fees and commissions to agents and delivers a policy in minutes, according to Ladder’s website.
A 52-year-old male nonsmoker in generally good health recently received a quote for a $1 million face amount on a 15-year term policy for $177.32 per month.
AccelTree’s software operates behind the scenes so agents may have never heard of the company, but it’s Accelbot technology manages human-like conversations without losing context – during a sales sign-up dialogue, for example.
Then there’s a company called Ostraa, which targets low- and moderate-income customers with term life products, according to insurance technology consultants. Ostraa’s homepage only promises “a new kind of insurance business.”
“We use the power of mobile technologies to create new markets that provide social benefit,” Ostraa’s webpage said.
Sureify Labs, formed in 2012, was conceived as a direct-to-consumer life insurance product that tied premiums to healthy activities.
As interest among insurers grew, the company changed into an engagement and analytics platform to track customers over their lifetime.
For agents looking to improve their online presence, a company called InsuranceDrip offers a “fully automated digital marketing solution,” by automating social media and newsletter marketing to boost retention and generate leads.
Another company positioned around collaboration is Lifester, which “facilitates the presentation and discussion of life insurance products, strategies and services.”
Clients have described the Lifester platform and projects as “like virtual conference rooms” bringing together consumers, producers and advisors.
A company called Marstone offers white-label digital, or roboadvisor, platforms to help banks, brokerages, insurers and asset managers launch a digital storefront.
The company can act as a subadvisor, or provide technology that supports an insurance company’s or a brokerage’s distribution model, according to Marstone.
Life.io engages policyholders through personalized content, tracking tools and health insights, and rewards those policyholders for living a healthier lifestyle, according to the company.
But the platform can also be configured for direct business or to connect agents and brokers to their customers during life events – a marriage, a birth or a home purchase, for example.
The platform offers agents “an unprecedented level of personalization and connectedness, helping them establish a deeper relationship with their policyholders.”
Then there’s the analytics company called Riskalyze, which is positioned to help investment advisors capture quantitative measures of a client’s risk tolerance.
Mining client risk tolerance data is a way for advisors to win new clients, capture and meet expectations and quantify suitability, the company said.
And don’t forget FindBob, a succession-planning platform for advisors from a startup based in Toronto.
FindBob’s platform makes it easy to “find Bob,” in other words for insurance and financial advisors to ferret out opportunities to buy, sell, merge with or find successors external or internal to a company’s distribution network.
Another start-up benefiting from a recent round of seed funding was InsuranceMenu, based in Dedham, Mass.
The companies allow insurers to streamline benefits distribution to help agents serve small business accounts more efficiently using a software-as-a-service model.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Writer Cyril Tuohy has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected]
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