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COVID-19 Is What We Track Now: Sproutt's Assaf Henkin

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Assaf Henkin is the president and chief operating officer of Sproutt — a company that uses artificial intelligence to help wellness-minded consumers find life insurance, disability insurance and critical illness insurance.

The Hartford, Connecticut-based insurtech startup matches consumers who try to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and maintain strong emotional health with insurers that will offer them lower premiums for their efforts.

Henkin has a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

He worked at tech firms such as iXL, eZula, Kontera and Amobee for 20 years before helping to start Sproutt, in 2018.

Via email, we asked Henkin a set of questions that touch both on his professional knowledge and on what he does off the clock.

1. What market indicator, industry statistic, regulatory change or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why? 

We follow several indicators, but in the last few years, COVID-19 morbidity and severity have been important indicators for us to track.

Insurance carriers have been adopting underwriting practices that place limitations on infected and recovering patients, which impacts life insurance sales — particularly online, where those customers need to wait longer for policies.

2. How has it been changing recently and how do you expect it to change now?

In 2021 we saw COVID-19 indicators stabilize to a point where insurance carriers were “comfortable” with the policies that were in place; that allowed for a period of relative stability.

The number of cases started rising again with omicron, but, since mortality was lower, with a very high infection rate, some of the underwriting questions and methodologies were not aligned with this new situation.

We foresee the continuation of new variants in the next few years, along with advancements in vaccines and medicine eventually rendering COVID-19 as no longer life threatening.

3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?

The pandemic served as a catalyst of digital change. Processes that would have taken several years happened overnight. To be successful, advisors should embrace digitalization and learn how to source, sell to, and serve customers using digital channels and tools. This is what customers expect and those expectations will only intensify.

4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this or other trends?

We use our own data first and foremost — this includes data that comes directly from both consumers and advisors. It enables us to detect buying trends, underwriting trends, health issues, financial status, and the like.

In addition to that, we leverage a few industry sources to track news, new products, and other developments in the space. Lastly, we maintain industry relationships so that we can always learn about what’s going on in a more intimate way.

5. Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic?

A few months into the pandemic, we switched to a hybrid working mode which has been working well for us and will likely remain in place.

Our teams have been using more tools that facilitate idea and knowledge sharing such as Miro for graphs and charts, Asana for task management, Confluence for knowledge sharing, and Slack and Zoom for communication.

In general, these tools are working well and we will likely implement them permanently.

6. What’s your biggest hobby and what was the last event/activity you did related to it?

I like swimming and running outdoors, but given the winter weather, that has been a bit challenging.

7. How about your latest community/charitable activity/event/cause?

I’m excited to share that this year, Sproutt will be starting a community service program for our employees as a means of giving back to our community. More details will follow.

8. What book are you reading now and why? 

Currently, I am reading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. As a startup looking to disrupt the life insurance industry, it’s always valuable to learn from our predecessor disruptors across the entrepreneurial space.

9. Any special plans for this new year?

I’m always looking to improve my overall well-being — I’m working on getting more sleep and getting out into nature more.

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Pictured: Assaf Henkin (Photo: Sproutt)