Lauren Cohen is a young guy — too young, it seems, to have the track record he does. A former Yale and UPenn professor, he’s now an associate professor in the finance arena at Harvard, where he’s tackling life settlements in one of his Harvard Business School classes.
In addition to a few other schools around the country, HBS uses the case method for teaching, which, according to Harvard, “is a profound educational innovation that presents the greatest challenges confronting leading companies, nonprofits, and government organizations — complete with the constraints and incomplete information found in real business issues — and places the student in the role of the decision maker.” For students, Cohen admits, it’s one of the scariest parts of the HBS experience.
Cohen used the case method during a session at Monday’s LISA conference in New York, asking the 150+ in attendance about the current state of the life settlement industry. The responses, as expected, varied greatly:
- The life settlement industry will be a $35 billion business in 10 years;
- It’s not about how many buy, it’s about the system of originations. It will remain a niche market;
- We’ve weathered a huge storm. The biggest problem we have now is not enough successful investors to point. There are too few examples of people who have successfully gotten into this industry. What we need to do is focus on successful investor stories;
- Who has the power? The policyholder, the investor or the provider? Investors do.
Cohen also posed the question of what, exactly, will bolster the industry — will it be focusing on writing small policies or large policies?
Panelists Alan Buerger, CEO and co-founder of Coventry, and Gary Brown, CEO of CMG Life Services, took sides.