John Hancock CEO sees a more high-touch future for life insurance

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John Hancock is making Vitality, it's behavior-based program that leverages wearable technology and other data sources to give policyholders a range of benefits, available to all its policyholders.

Previously, the program had been available as an add-on. Vitality, created in partnership with the South African company of the same name, combines wellness coaching and discount incentives to help people stay healthy. It also allows users to share Apple Watch or Fitbit data to back up their self-reported fitness habits; for those customers, life insurance premium discounts are available.

The expanded program will be available in two tiers. Vitality GO is automatically added to all life insurance policies, and provides access to expert fitness and nutritional resources and personalized health goals through the app and website, as well as limited discounts with retail partners. But, policyholders can upgrate to Vitality PLUS for $2.00 a month, but that includes savings of up to 15 percent on annual premiums and more valuable rewards. In addition, this tier of customers can earn an Apple Watch for $25 or a complimentary Fitbit device to record their healthy activities.

John Hancock Insurance president and CEO Brooks Tingle says that the overall goal of expanding the Vitality program is to make the company a more relevant and consistent presence in customers' lives. It's a benefit to both company and customer, he notes; Vitality users, over the two years the program has been offered, exhibit lower mortality risk and hospitalization costs than the general John Hancock population.

"I believe a life insurance company should help its customers live a healthier life," Tingle says. "And we knew we had the consumer interest -- over several rounds of research people preferred life insurance with Vitality vs. without."

Integrating wearable technology into the program is a key component of preserving customer buy-in and ensuring that their healthier habits stick, Tingle adds.

"In the past, life insurers interacted with their customer once or twice a year, but it's north of 40 times a month now," he says."They're getting a discount at the grocery store and it says John Hancock Vitality discount, they're getting points for taking steps. There's power of that dynamic relationship."

The dynamic premium -- where discounts can be applied or removed if goals aren't met -- also is a strong motivator, Tingle says. Customers are more apt to hit their targets if there's a financial reward for doing so, and are more willing to use technology like Apple Watch to record it passively in order to stay on top of things.

"We can see which incentives and rewards actually get people to take more steps. [Customers who leverage] the Apple Watch offer, for example, averages 2,000 more steps a day," Tingle says. "Behind this, there's a ton of time we're spending with scientists, research, academia on what the things we should motivate customers to do are."

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Wearable technology Life insurance John Hancock