Merchant Innovation

The Magic Of Selfies In Life Insurance

“People think the process is too onerous and the product is too expensive.”

That, Legal & General Insurance EVP James Galli told Karen Webster in this week’s TopicTBD discussion, is the perception of getting a life insurance policy. It’s a fact that Legal & General America (LGA) knows for sure — it’s part of the 180-year-old worldwide Legal & General Group that has been in the business of providing life insurance for American families for the last six-and-a-half decades.

The major impediment, Galli noted, isn’t that life insurance isn‘t something that consumers want — they do, particularly as they enter their 30s, settle down and begin forming families.  But, “when we think about what is on people’s minds and what holds people back, it’s that they don’t know how much coverage they need, or what coverage they need, or how much it will cost. So they conclude that it costs too much and must be a very difficult process.”

On costs, he notes, the consumers are often wrong — and on average are assuming term life insurance costs 200 to 300 times more than it actually does. On process, though, LGA thought that there was room for innovation.

“We are part of a very innovative firm that is really striving to create new, different and engaging ways to bring customers in and keep them with us around the world.  In the U.S., we were looking at some of the things that were happening in the property and casualty insurance arena and observed that life insurance was a little bit behind. We felt we could do something about that,” Galli said.

And what they could do about that, Galli told Webster, was work in partnership with Lapetus Solutions and leverage Lapetus’ facial analytics technology to create a better process for starting a conversation about life insurance with consumers:

The selfie.

Selfie Quote

First launched in late July, SelfieQuote.com does exactly what it sounds like it does — it allows a potential customer to simply submit a selfie and let technology estimate the subject’s age, weight and BMI.

“The Phase I goal is pretty simple — we wanted to see if we could engage the customer in a fun way — and also get it right.  To get a consumer to upload a photo of themselves to see if we could get close to the correct age, gender and BMI.”

Webster asked, “How right are you?”

When it comes to gender, SelfieQuote.com pretty much nails it, Galli said. The BMI and age, on the other hand, are more of a learning process — but it is learning, and getting better.

“Not too many people have been overly offended by our being way off on BMI and age — and that is really a success of the technology Lapetus built, Galli said. The Lapetus technology looks at an image on “almost a cellular level” to examine 200 data points that can determine how old the person is, as well as BMI — well beyond a cosmetic level. (So much for getting dolled up in the hopes of tricking the camera.)

In the not-too-distant future, Galli noted, the company plans to add a module that can determine if the person in the picture is a smoker.

At this point, he noted, the technology is purely for marketing, not underwriting, purposes.  Using the selfie quote functionality leads the customer to the digital sign-up platform for Legal & General America life insurance.  But, he noted, this is just the opening use — and a future in actual underwriting is probably coming soon for selfie quotes.

Because so far, it seems, consumers really like it.

Popular With The Right People

The current average age of the Legal & General America customer is mid-40s; the average consumer attracted through self-pay is around 38  — and that downward trend in user age is a positive sign, according to Galli.

“The bottom line is that educating consumers is the biggest challenge we have — this is helping us reach new audiences even with the limited targeted marketing of it we’ve done in beta.”

The goal, he notes, is not to put the cart before the horse — or move to a future where the selfie becomes the only tool in the underwriter box — but the consumer feedback they are seeing makes it clear that this is a tool that customers want to use.  That truth, Galli told Webster, is in the numbers.  They are seeing a persistent uptick in the number of people testing out selfie quotes, and an ever-increasing number of valid selfies.

“We also get a lot of input from industry and our distribution network — and they are very interested.  There are a great deal of people looking to be told more and who want news of when they can use this tool.”

What’s Next

Moving forward, Galli said, the mission will be to find ways to expand this technology — through pushing for more market channels, expanding presence in media channels and rolling it out to their agent distribution network. The goal, Galli said, is to put SelifeQuote.com into as many hands as want to explore it.

Moreover, Galli noted, SelfieQuote.com is just “our first foray.”

Galli said that LGA has been concurrently working with Lapetus on Phase II for more of an underwriting potential use case. Now that they’ve seen the level of interest that people have in the technology, using the technology to support the underwriting process is a logical next step.

It doesn’t mean that starting tomorrow, life insurance underwriting will be done by the selfie and by the selfie alone, Galli said. But it does mean that someday, the process for insurance may involve snapping a picture and incorporating biometrics into a sophisticated platform that minimizes the form fill that is the case today.

“The rule is to go where the customers are going. And since snapping selfies is what they are doing, we’re working on making that relevant to the life insurance process.”

There’s also a second rule, he noted — though it is for customers.  Don’t smile. After going through all the data, James Galli said, they realized that consumers smile when they take selfies.  The problem is that in doing so, they obscure all kinds of things the facial biometrics want to scan.

So, for a more accurate digital quote? Don’t smile.

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