Beneficiary care and Empathy at InsurTech NY

Published on May 8, 2023

On March 30, Empathy’s CEO Ron Gura joined Sean Madgett, Vice President at New York Life Ventures, and Tommy Smoot, Guardian Life’s Vice President, Head of Inforce Engagement for Independent Markets, at InsurTech NY for a panel on “Using Life Claims to Create Lifelong Relationships” moderated by Lisa Wardlaw, President and Founder of 360 Digital Immersion and former EVP, Global Chief Digital Strategy at Munich Re​​. Here is some of what we learned at the enlightening event.

Even life insurance professionals are often surprised by the burden of loss.

The panel kicked off with both Lisa and Tommy telling personal stories about their own parents’ passing, and how challenging they found the logistics they had to deal with. Lisa explained that her mother had owned her own business and was very organized, she had life insurance, so the financial end of things was taken care of. And even though she herself was a life insurance executive, she still experienced added pain and difficulty because of issues like turning off her mother’s phone service.

Tommy added his own similar story. He had grown up within the industry—his father was a life insurance agent. But when he passed away, Tommy had a lot of trouble dealing with it all. “The amount of confusion that you go through and that you experience is just profound. Even though I had lived in this industry my entire career, my entire life…now I was faced with all the stuff that goes with the passing of someone.

“While a lot of our beneficiaries today do have advisors in their lives or financial professionals to help them, in many instances their experience is not unlike the one that I had …In addition to figuring out all the financial stuff, there’s switching off the accounts, finding out what accounts there are—because they're everywhere. Years later I was still digging stuff up.”

Carriers are looking for ways to do more—beyond improving the claims experience.

Tommy said Guardian had thought deeply about what it really means that claims professionals are their “first line,” the company’s initial point of contact with beneficiaries. “We’re very serious at Guardian about tracking our customer experience, and our CX scores with respect to claims are as high as you can get.” He explained, “so we knew we weren't going to move numbers. This was about something a lot more existential. “There was one call in particular that will always stay with me. A woman called in, she had lost her adult son to Covid. The claims rep was wonderful in the care that they brought to the situation, but you could tell afterwards that they both wished there was something more that could be done. So we started thinking about what we could do to help those individuals in those situations…we started to think about what are the things that we could put around that experience to bring that promise further.”

Loss support represents a major opportunity in life insurance.

Ron discussed how Empathy helps relieve the burden of loss for beneficiaries and others affected by loss. And really reaching and helping them means creating a new category: beneficiary care.

“We think this is the single largest consumer sector that is still untouched by innovation,” he said, referring to those dealing with loss. “And it doesn’t skip any of us, though we tend to avoid contemplating our own mortality in any way possible.

“But when the inevitable happens, of course we want technology to prefill our forms, to do our financials, our taxes, all the things technology is good at. And we want a care manager—a quarterback in our corner to help us with everything emotional, including re-engaging with life.”

Sean gave us his insights on the opportunity this presents: “If you look at the first wave of insurtech, so much of the focus has been on challenging existing distribution models and improving the purchase experience. But very little focus was on the very important persona of the beneficiary. [The] question…is how can we help families beyond the core of what we do as an insurance company, while still remaining very much connected to our mission, our values, and our purpose.

“I would venture to estimate that if you go to the claims page on most carriers’ websites, it’s still a paper-based process. A paper-based process for someone who just lost a loved one. And that’s just one of dozens of administrative tasks that they need to navigate. There’s a huge opportunity here to make improvement and headway.”

Beneficiary care and loss support can help claims professionals too.

In closing, Tommy told us to “go talk to your claims people. [T]hey’ll tell you how things like this can really change not only the work they do, but what we bring to people’s lives and how we change lives.”

He went on, “We quickly found the champions on the claims team, people who got it right away, who understood the conversation, who understood the applicability… And what’s really cool to see is how proud they are that they can do this now.” And they see the results immediately, he explained, when speaking to a beneficiary “who says, ‘Oh my goodness, this is exactly what I needed.’ That’s what it's all about. That really brings it to life.”

Watch the full discussion

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