Despite steady growth in annual underwritten premiums, the number of issued life insurance policies continues to decline across the industry hinting at a protection gap, according to Chris Behling, head of strategic partnerships and alliances at Swiss Re.

That void is currently at $20 trillion, Behling told a room of carriers, venture capitalists and insurtech startups at American Family Ventures’ InsurTech NYC event, organized in partnership with Montoux.

While acknowledging the existence of external factors as contributors to consumer underinsured levels, Behling believes a big factor within the industry is the average agent of insurance agents, currently at 59 and a half. Most are not selling online, he says, and still rely heavily on in-person pitches and paper work.

“No one wants to have an agent show up at their door or have to get in a car and drive to an office,” Behling says.

Swiss Re's Chris Behling talks life insurance at WeWork space in Midtown.
Swiss Re's Chris Behling talks life insurance at WeWork space in Midtown.

Also see: How Swiss Re tackles underinsurance with analytics

Swiss Re looks at life insurance innovation in three segments: Engage, transact and retain. This isn’t necessarily accomplished by going direct to consumer, according to the insurer. As it stands, only two percent of the life insurance market follows this model.

“I’ve heard lots of pitches on how to do it, but no ideas on how to engage,” Behling added, noting that the real answer to carriers’ troubles does not lie in a fancy new website, but in the value customers receive in exchange for data.

At Swiss Re, that benefit can be found in policyholders learning their mortality age compared to actual age through gamification. Developing products that grow with the customer from early days when a child’s college tuition is a concern up until retirement is yet another value proposition.

“Think of the data you will give someone if you get something else in return,” Behling concluded. “How do we take information and give customers back real value?”

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