The changing face of underwriting

Facial analytics may play a key role in calculating future life insurance premiums thanks to a North Carolina technology firm claiming its platform returns lifespan estimates more accurate than traditional methods.

Lapetus Life Event Solutions recently developed CHRONOS, an end-to-end underwriting platform that predicts a person's life expectancy by scanning hundreds of points on their face to extract information. This includes approximate body mass index, physiological age and the rate at which the person is ageing compared to the average.

Life insurance applicants take or upload an existing photo of themselves and answer a series of nine questions before CHRONOS determines the prospect's life expectancy and prepares a range of individually tailored life insurance offers and premium amount options. Payment and receipt of policy can all be done via the platform, and photos are compared against a current driver's licence.

Lapetus said CHRONOS has proven to return lifespan estimates more accurate than traditional methods, without the need for medical exams.

MLC Life Insurance head of underwriting Simon Dent said while facial analytics is not something MLC Life has considered just yet, the technology plays into a space the insurer has been working in.

"It's effectively predictive underwriting through data analytics, which we've been looking at for a little while now. The work that we've done so far does demonstrate that it is extremely accurate," Dent said.

MLC Life recently upgraded its underwriting process for retail-advised policies to include a new Fast Track service, with MLC Life Insurance chief customer officer for retail advised insurance Melissa Heyhoe saying: "Underwriting is an area that has been ripe for innovation in the industry, and we know it is a process that can and should be done better."

CommInsure also recently upgraded its offering, allowing advisers to request a dedicated phone-interviewing team to collect information from customers directly.

Head of life distribution Olivia Sarah-Le Lacheur said CommInsure is interested to see what comes from trials being done by US insurers of the Lapetus technology.

Despite upgrades, even more advanced solutions continue to be sought. Dent believes the next natural progression would be for underwriters to interact directly with applicants via Skype.

"Underwriters are very much at the forefront of the sales process these days, in fact they're often the key contact for advisers when dealing with insurers. When we interview clients today we're doing it over the phone, but there would be nothing preventing us from using Skype or Facetime to cut down the time," Dent said.

Similarly, Lacheur endorses underwriters dealing directly with advice clients although she says it depends on the applicant as many see it as a negative process.

"Some customers believe the process is about us asking questions and then deciding whether they're telling the truth or not. Advisers are important because we also know that once they've connected with the applicant, they know the customer wants to speak to the decision maker," she said.

This is an extract of a news story first published in the latest issue of Financial Standard. You can view the full article on our iPad app.

Read more: USAdvisersCHRONOSCommInsureMLC Life InsuranceNorth CarolinaFacetimeLapetus Life Event SolutionsMelissa HeyhoeOlivia Sarah-Le LacheurSimon DentTrack
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