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Q&A: How Genworth's Technology Strategy Supports IUL Product Launch

The carrier has added the ePolicy Delivery process to its Quick Request short-form tickets for new applications to create what Senior VP Chris Olson calls a front-to-back electronic offering that is hard to beat, from a producer's perspective.

Genworth (Richmond, Va.; $9.6 billion in total 2012 revenue) has invested in an expansion of its Life Quick Request distribution platform to simplify and enhance the sales process in preparation for the launch of the company’s new index universal life (IUL) product this week. Chris Olson, Senior VP of Operations in Genworth’s U.S. Life Insurance division spoke with Insurance & Technology’s executive editor, Anthony O’Donnell, to talk about the business strategy and the technology underpinnings of the product launch.

Chris Olson, Genworth
Chris Olson, Genworth

AOD: Chris, to get an idea of where Genworth's distribution capabilities are, what is the extent of the company's use of e-applications and e-signature technology?

CO: For the past few years, Genworth has sold hundreds of thousands of policies using short form tickets for new applications in all product lines. We call it "Quick Request" or "QR," and it is with this process, integrated seamlessly with a robust and efficient new business platform, that we are really seeing the difference. We have used e-signature in various forms across all lines of business as a key part of both new business and policy delivery processes. In 2013, we launched an integrated electronic policy delivery process for our Life products called ePolicy Delivery. The combination of QR for policy application and ePolicy Delivery for policy delivery gives us a comprehensive front-to-back electronic offering that’s hard to beat from the producer’s perspective.

Anthony O’Donnell, I&T: What is the market strategy behind the release of Genworth's IUL product?

Chris Olson, Genworth: As we were preparing to enter the index universal life insurance market, we conducted a tremendous amount of research with our producers and distribution partners. We then used the insights we gained from that research to build a protection and accumulation solution, Asset Builder Index UL, that is easier to sell and quicker to close with an easy-to-follow illustration system, clearer illustrations and marketing materials, and ePolicy Delivery and Life QR compatibility. We wanted the product to be competitive for maximum distributions for clients in the 30-55 age range who do not use nicotine. We wanted a familiar index, so we went with the S&P 500 Index, and we added an optional rider for long term care services. In addition, we will offer extensive producer education and training through The Index Institute.

AOD: What was Genworth's thinking about the technology needed to support that strategy?

CO: Genworth continuously looks for ways to bring great customer service and technology together to add significant value for our customers. Service and technology are key parts of Genworth's value proposition and will always feature prominently in any strategy we undertake. I certainly expect all future product launches to lever both new and existing technologies - we will bring easy-to-use tools to both the pre-sales and sales processes. For example, when we launch IUL, we will launch an easy to follow illustration system that produces clear, understandable illustrations that agents can sell from, the QR short form ticket process that we have used extensively for other products, and our newest technology offering – ePolicy Delivery – to expedite policy closing/binding.

With IUL, we see two distinct distribution segments: First, those currently selling IUL and, secondly, traditionally strong universal life [UL] sellers who do not sell IUL. The first group is interested in speed and ease and our “easy to sell” and “quick to close” technology will be attractive to them. The second group needs education to help increase their knowledge and dispel their perception that IUL is too complex to sell easily.

AOD: In general, what do you see as the potential for technology to improve life sales? What are the impacts, respectively, of increased speed of closing/binding and ease of use for distributors and customers?

CO: It all comes down to simplicity and speed. Technology has already made the seemingly complex process of applying for life insurance faster and much easier — for both our producers and policyholders. We’ve been using some of these technologies for years now, and we’re seeing strong results in our business today. We've levered technology to reduce typical policy issue cycle times by 50% and to reduce the time to close/bind a policy by over 50% as well. Those time savings, along with increased speed and ease, have produced a meaningful improvement in "placement rate," i.e., more applicants are accepting the policies we issue with the technologies than the policies we issue without them. Clearly, customers are having a better experience, and both distributors and companies benefit from a higher placement rate. Additionally, we find a segment of our producers who select these processes for both ease of use and cost efficiency.

AOD: How must technology work together with the human element, and what are the implications of that for the kind of technology needed?

CO: Whenever technology is integrated into the customer experience, the human element is imperative for success. Whether getting status or ordering requirements and working through the Underwriting process, we believe our customers should get extraordinary service – and extraordinary service only happens when the people and technology are seamlessly integrated. The user experience is at the forefront of our design process, and the technologies we deploy must be easy to use, accessible from various computing platforms, and provide transparency and insight on the overall customer experience. Our mantra is “anytime, anywhere, any device,” e.g., mobile tools and native apps for use “offline.” We want to provide tools to help our customers and clients where they live and work, to make it easy for them to do business with us on their own terms, which, in turn, will help them to be more profitable. Smart development and implementation of technology facilitates “straight through” processing which plays to both our and our customers’ strengths - we do the processing effectively and efficiently so that our customers can concentrate on selling our products and enhancing their clients’ sales experience.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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