3Qs with Dan Flahive, Senior Director of Carrier and Distributor Relations at Breathe Life
Q: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the life insurance industry during your career?
A: I started my career in the insurance industry back in 1992 so I’ve got more than 25 years of experience, and I can tell you that the biggest changes I’ve seen in this time have occurred during the past two to three years. Selling life insurance had been done the same way for decades prior to the pandemic – lots of face-to-face interaction, lots of paper-based processes, and very little incentive to change even as technology transformed the world around us.
Typically, advisors and carriers make money selling bigger, more complex policies to the relatively wealthy few who already understand the value that life insurance protection provides so tolerate the sales process even though it’s undeniably outdated. So many consumers think life insurance is too expensive and only for the rich – which is such a shame. Life insurance protection is critical and should be part of every family’s financial plan.
Today, however, many of the changes driven by the pandemic have the potential to level the playing field for consumers and provide new revenue streams for insurers. Instead of meeting an advisor face-to-face, consumers can increasingly engage in the life insurance buying process on their own terms. Some people want to chat, others want to video conference, email, and/or text. For advisors, it’s a drastic reduction in the overhead cost of customer acquisition.
A great example of this is the medical exam. Consumers didn’t want parameds coming to their homes before the pandemic, but certainly not during a pandemic. And guess what? The industry didn’t collapse, it adjusted. Now technology-driven underwriting is more commonplace, with many insurers either reviewing or adopting a fully automated underwriting process.
Digitizing the end-to-end sales process will help eliminate the points of friction that have turned off consumers, limited the market for advisors, and ultimately create new revenue opportunities for carriers.
Q: Assuming the pandemic recedes, what is stopping the industry from reverting to its roots?
A: The pandemic provided a forcing function for change that had been in the works for several years prior. The industry knew that consumer expectations had long since changed but lacked the sense of urgency needed prior to COVID. Once change became a business imperative, 5–10-year modernization roadmaps where compressed systemic changes happened faster than anyone could have imagined.
It’s also true that people simply aren’t willing to go back to the old way. Consumers expect a modern, digitally enabled buying experience on their own terms. Advisors don’t want to spend months pushing paper. Carriers need to increase sales, especially with younger folks that are used to doing just about everything digitally. Life Insurance has been a digital laggard in comparison with the rest of the financial services industry, but I believe that gap will begin to close
Q: Why did you leave the corporate insurance world for an InsurTech? Any ‘surprises’ since making this move?
A: I’ve had a great career in the insurance industry and wasn’t necessarily looking to leave the “corporate side”, but the opportunity to work with the Breathe Life team was too good to pass up.
While working at RGAX I was privileged to be introduced to hundreds of InsurTech companies over the course of nearly four years. Some had good ideas, some had great ideas. Some had good management teams, others had great management teams. Breathe Life stood out as one of the few with both great ideas and leadership. In various conversations with Ian (Breathe Life CEO), it became clear to both of us that joining the team was a good fit for both sides.
The biggest surprise I’ve experienced is a positive one, it’s been the Breathe Life culture. My only experience with corporate culture has been with large organizations that tend to be very buttoned up and formal….and there is nothing wrong with that. The culture at Breathe Life is much more dynamic. And while the environment is more casual, the work is serious and ideas are constantly flowing. It’s been a blast being part of a growing team over the past year, and I really enjoy being part of this entrepreneurial endeavor to modernize the life insurance industry!