By Trevor Thomas
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks seem to have given Americans a graphic reminder of their own mortality.
There has been a major increase in life insurance applications following the attacks, reports MIB Group, Inc., a Westwood, Mass. company that helps process medical information on consumer applicants for life and health insurance companies.
The MIB life index for October 2001 showed an almost 9% increase in activity over October 2000, and a 26% increase over September 2001. The index, highlighting industry trends in application and underwriting activity, represents over 95% of the premium dollars of individual life insurance written in the U.S. and Canada, MIB says.
MIB only recently began to release data that it collects on life insurance applications submitted for review by 550 major U.S. and Canadian life insurance carriers.
Insurers rely on MIB, known as the Medical Information Bureau, to verify much of the health-related data consumers submit when applying for policies.
MIBs data can give an early indication of trends in life insurance sales. It shows how many applications have recently been submitted, whereas insurers put life insurance sales on their books when policies are approved.
“Until now, trends in industry activity were available only on a significantly delayed basis,” says MIB vice president and chief marketing officer Fran Marinelli. “We realized that the industry could benefit from immediate market information. Since most companies that underwrite individual life insurance policies conduct a search of MIB databases as a routine underwriting requirement, we knew we could provide a monthly snapshot and provide it free of charge to the industry. The number of transactions we see correlates with application activity and policy issuance.”
MIB has tracked trends for internal use for many years, Marinelli notes. New technology makes it possible to gather the data more quickly and make it available to the industry in a convenient format, she explains.
The data in the MIB life index for October 2001 supports anecdotal evidence that U.S. and Canadian insurers have seen a significant increase in applications for life policies in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Over 1.4 million applications were underwritten in October 2001.
Insurance executives confirm the sudden surge in insurance applications.
“Activity is definitely up” since the 9-11 attacks,” says Ted Kilkuskie, vice president and chief marketing officer for Hartford Life, a division of the Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., Hartford.
“One of the most amazing things we saw is that financial planners and advisors and their clients who had little interest in insurance are now asking about it. Were hearing this from all corners of our distribution, including wire houses and banks.”
Another executive says the attack has convinced many people its time to meet with their financial advisor.
“The face-to-face relationship is the most important part of our business, and 9/11 has heightened the importance to clients of having a good relationship with a financial services producer,” says Mike Vietri, senior vice president for Met Life Financial Services central zone, based in Aurora, Ill.
Interest in life products has been evident not only from new customers but also from existing customers, many who have increased their coverage, says Vietri.
Prior to Sept. 11, MetLife producers were doing more business in equity products. Now interest has slanted more toward life products.
“Its exciting,” he says, “because its been a long time since so many people realized their need for protection products.”
“Compared to the same period for the year before, the industry in the U.S. and Canada saw an 8.6% growth in applications,” says Stacy Gill, vice president and chief knowledge officer for e-Services Corporation, the marketing, research and development unit of MIB. “For U.S. companies, this represents a dramatic improvement in a trend that has been generally flat or declining. The most interesting aspect is that this trend is consistent across all age groups.”
The October results show that consumers have a heightened interest in financial security in the wake of the terrorist attacks, says Gill. “The trends in future months may very well be less dramatic.”
Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, December 3, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.