Life insurer Legal & General America is hoping to close a life-insurance protection gap among younger consumers through increased focus on its SelfieQuote.com quoting tool.

Legal & General (LGA) hopes that prospects will use the biometrics tool and find that purchasing life insurance is not as expensive as they might think. According to LIMRA research cited by EVP of business strategy and innovation, Jim Galli, consumers believe life insurance costs three-to-four times more than its actual price.

“Our normal distribution through agents brings us customers aged between 45 to 47 years old. It’s been that way for a long time,” said Galli. “This tool is engaging people in their mid- to late 30s.”

SelfieQuote.com launched last summer in a partnership with insurtech Lapetus. The online platform enables prospective insurance customers to snap selfies and receive instant quotes based on facial analytics data provided by Lapetus. The startup’s software, Chronos, uses machine learning algorithms to extract human faces from images in order to estimate age, gender and body mass index (BMI) for underwriting purposes.

At this time, LGA is only using the Lapetus’ technology as an engagement tool, according to Galli. All underwriting by the Maryland-based insurer is done through its call center and agent channels after initial quotes are received.

“Lapetus has scientists that would happily argue for selfie technology as a potential underwriting tool,” said Galli. “We believe it’s worth watching, but are not interested.”

The idea for SelfieQuote was conceived in the first quarter of 2017, when Galli attended a three-day hackathon event hosted by LGA’s U.K. parent company by the same name.

The hackathon pitted together 10 teams of five, each tasked with developing new consumer-facing ideas applicable to life insurance. Galli’s group was asked to pitch an online tool that would drive new customers to the company in the U.S. market.

“We thought of tying our potential solution to Fitbit or health and wellness, but I had been following Lapetus closely and told the team about them,” he says. “We pitched the idea at the end of the event, and received funding just like ‘Shark Tank.’”

The biggest build out with Lapetus was on the front-end, Galli added. On the back end, LGA was able to feed the startup’s technology directly into its rating engine with no tweaking.

“We figured we could make some assumptions for the first quote and have customers adjust it afterwards," Galli says. "We assume a customer wants a 20-year policy worth $100,000 and that they live in the state of Maryland. The other three data points come from Lapetus.”

LGA is in the midst of developing its 2018 marketing plan for SelfieQuote, and is expected roll out a new version of the service with its parent company this year as well. Advertising for SelfieQuote today is limited to direct links on the insurer’s website and periodic ads on Facebook.

Galli expects to have more robust data on the percentage of customers that use SelfieQuote and end up purchasing a policy once the tool’s beta tag is stripped away. The company, however, is pleased with the early data coming in.

"We're getting that younger demographic," Galli notes.

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