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Digital engagement can help life insurers keep customers, insurtech SVP says

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Digital engagement can help life insurers keep customers, insurtech SVP says

➤ Life.io uses gaming and connected devices to bring in customer-entered and verified data while also ramping up engagement and retention.

➤ As expectations grow for digital tools, technology companies and underwriters have to deal with concerns about how the availability of health and lifestyle data could relate to premiums.

Among the insurance technology companies that dominated the exhibition floor of the American Council of Life Insurers 2019 Life Insurance Conference was Life.io, a company that specializes in engagement and retention data analytics. The Philadelphia-based company employs digital tools and challenges to encourage healthy living through gaming and rewards. Life.io operates in eight countries and represents about 300,000 lives.

Jeffery Wild, senior vice president of revenue, spoke with S&P Global Market Intelligence during the conference. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation.

S&P Global Market Intelligence: How did the company get started and what led you to this area of technology?

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Jeffery Wild, senior vice president of Life.io.

Courtesy Life.io

Jeffery Wild: [CEO and co-founder Jon Cooper] started a company called LifeVest Health in 2012. It was built on the backbone of behavioral economics and behavior change. We served health insurance, self-insured employers and brokers. We were in that space with really strong success from 2012 to 2015.

The health insurers and self-insured employers just weren't using the data strategically enough. So in 2015 we won an RFP [request for proposal] ... and realized that the life business has a lot more opportunity for our data. At that time we were a very small team with five people, and we had to pick our category. We cut our legacy business and said we're doubling down on life. We rebranded to Life.io in 2015.

How do you add value to life insurance?

With a year or two, we're able to show a reduction in lapse rates. So simply by introducing the platform, we see a 20% reduction in lapse rates. For people who actively use the platform, you see a 35% reduction in lapse rates.

The longer-term value is we're going to see customers' life events. Are they buying a new house? Did they change jobs? Are they getting married or divorced? Expecting a child? We're able to introduce the right product at the right time to that person on the individual side. On the group side, we're able to understand what voluntary benefit mix might be right for this person and decide how we can market that to them.

As you know, the insurtech space has attracted a lot of players. What do you think will make you guys stick in the long run?

Because we were one of the early entrants, we have very deep operational know-how to work with the carriers. So from an enterprise risk management point of view, we're very strong. For a lot of their privacy and security needs, we're more robust than a lot of the startups that are still flying by the seat of their pants. Sure, they'll catch up, but right now we're in that area. From a technology perspective, we have deep amounts of data that have allowed us to build our platform a few years ahead of them, so we do have some early-entry advantage.

Life insurance underwriters say they want technological help collecting and sorting data. How do you guys help with that?

We have a balance of connected devices which pull in and confirm data. Then we have user-entered data, which is not 100% validated, but there's enough volume and velocity there where we can say this person is telling truth, here are his insights.

Are there any concerns about platforms like yours possibly affecting some policyholders' premiums and perhaps discouraging use?

So right now, we don't tie any of our programming into premium shifting. Everything is external rewards. A $5 gift card to Amazon or CVS or whatever it might be. With regard to premiums, that is stuff we've talked about with carriers, and there is concern about that even though it's ... not going to happen. People still think in terms of the worst-case scenario, so we have stayed away from that. Research has shown that [premium shifting] isn't a great lever for incentives, so I'd be surprised if we went down that road.