How Selfies Can Speed Life Insurance Underwriting
By Harry J. Lew
As a life insurance agent, what’s your least favorite part of the business? Making sure prospects accurately answer health-history underwriting questions? Assuring they make their paramed appointments? Waiting too long for an underwriting decision, which delays your commission check? Chances are you agree with all of these. But a relatively new technology might make all these concerns obsolete.
That’s because a new insurance start-up called Lapetus Life Event Solutions is applying new research into longevity and deploying innovative ways to collect and analyze underwriting data. It claims this will allow life insurers to complete underwriting in minutes rather than weeks.
Based on groundbreaking research into human longevity conducted by Dr. S. Jay Olshanksy, the firm’s underwriting platform, called Chronus, obtains key data from prospects about their health and aging, then provides an easy technology interface for insurance underwriters to use the information to approve, rate, or decline a prospective life insurance applicant.
The company is trying to bring life insurance underwriting into the 21st century. Olshansky says insurance underwriters calculate longevity using a formula dating back to 1825, which essentially predicts human mortality based on a person’s age. But what it doesn’t take into account is the fact that people age at different rates. Similarly, even though underwriters have added other factors over the years—body fluids and tobacco use, for example—they still can’t account for the fact that people with the same disease might have vastly different longevity. Olshanky reasoned he could assess longevity quicker and more accurately using a system that probed individual differences.
How does Chronos work? The customer simply takes a selfie, then uploads it to the Chronus website. Then the person visits the website to answer questions about traditional issues such as height, weight, and tobacco use. But the person also answers questions about family-member longevity and others such as how much education completed before the age of 25.
Chronos then uses what it calls facial analytics to extract information on the biological, genetic, and behavioral traits of the applicant and links these traits to variations in mortality risk. It also uses bio-demographic knowledge about human longevity to pose individualized questions to the prospect. These questions, based on the fields of anthropology, ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics, and other fields, uncover individual variations in aging that predict longevity more accurately than standard tools such as blood tests, nicotine use, or body-mass index (BMI).
Between the facial analytics—harvesting data from selfies, if you will—and bio-demographic questioning, Lapetus claims to be able to provide insurers with a more accurate and reliable estimate of individual lifespan compared to metrics based exclusively on chronological age . . . in a fraction of the time and without invasive medical tests.
Better yet, Olshanky says life insurers using his technology may be able to identify sub-groups of people with super-high longevity. This could result in the development of a super-preferred risk category with even lower premiums for prospects who qualify.
According to press reports, Lapetus, which was the name of the Greek god of mortality, has presented its technology to 20 to 25 insurers, and expected one to be up and running with the system by late last year.
- Lapetus Life Event Solutions