Tech At The Front End: The Trend In Many Products
Life and health insurers keep on debuting tech, or tech-enhanced, features with their products and services. These features include cursive e-signatures, e-underwriting, e-forms and more.
Enhancing products with tech is nothing new, of course. Its been going on for years, says Shane A. Chalke, president and CEO of Annuity Net/VARDS, Herndon, Va., a firm that offers electronic annuity order entry and other automated services to insurers. But the 2003 approach is very different, he says.
“In the past, the companies used to invest in product technologies that drove back-office efficiencies,” Chalke explains. “Today, that is very rare–because the payback on those systems doesnt show up for three to four years. In todays tough economic environment, thats too long.
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“Now, the trend is to spend money on tech that grows the market advantage or differentiation for products,” he says.
Specifically, providers are debuting tech features that make it easier for producers and customers to do business, he says, by speeding up the sale, enhancing product knowledge, and/or improving data accuracy. And, the advisor or consumer does not have to be a tech whiz to use the features.
Whats more, says Chalke, “their payback period is six months or less.”
This article looks at some recent examples.
E-signatures (cursive). One example is Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Companys decision to allow attachment of “real” cursive signatures to term life applications. The agent can walk the customer through the entire application process over the phone, including the signature, explains Monty Edson, senior vice president-marketing of the Glenview, Ill., insurer.
Consumers “sign” their name by using the mouse on their own computer. There is no special program or hardware that they need to have.
The technology is available with LivingLife Plus, a 10-year, simplified issue term life policy with a critical illness acceleration rider included. It is being used by Virtual Insurance Technologies, Inc., a Gainesville, Fla., firm that developed the technology and that builds Web sites for agents. It serves as a general agency on this product.
“Were still experimenting with it,” says Edson. “And we are looking at ways to have our other agents use the technology, too.”
Why do it? The requirement that insurers collect the original–”wet”–cursive signature of an applicant has long impeded the growth of online-assisted sales of life insurance, says Edson. But GTL believes the technology will give it a “clear and important competitive advantage” in the online life sales market.
Now, he says, “all paper is eliminated, along with the costs and inefficiencies associated with paper transactions.”
But the customer is still talking with a licensed agent.
Issues GTL had to resolve before implementing the technology were: What is an e-signature? And, will a signature captured in this way–a mouse-written cursive signature attached to an online application–stand up to any challenge of legitimacy?