How Can the Insurance Industry Contribute to Suicide Prevention?

In Britain, 17 people die of suicide daily on average, and men are three times more likely to take their own lives as women. Suicides have a tremendous impact on humans emotionally and trigger financial costs, so we decided to run a three-day Pop-Up Lab in London to understand how the insurance industry could contribute potential solutions for suicide prevention in the region.  

Suicide: a societal and insurance industry challenge 

When a claims manager from RGA in the UK raised the issue of how our industry could help prevent suicides, we began exploring the problem and learned of a number of people in the insurance industry who volunteer with non-profit organizations that focus on suicide prevention. 

One of these is Samaritans, a UK non-profit. We learned of a Samaritans marketing campaign that displayed posters on a rail line, promoting their suicide hotline. The result? Suicides on the rail lines decreased by 20 percent. This low-cost initiative clearly helped save many lives, as well as helping the rail industry serve their users better.

Considering how suicide affects our industry, healthcare and society in general (we estimate the UK life insurance industry paid out more than £100m on suicide claims in 2017), we were eager to contribute. Running a sprint using Cookhouse Pop-Up Lab would give us the opportunity to learn more and work with people directly impacted by this crisis in the region. If you think of Cookhouse Lab as a test kitchen, then the Pop-Up Lab is our food truck, bringing our skills and experience to collaborate with local experts in global locations.  

Using our network to bring people together to solve problems 

Despite the sensitive nature of this topic, we found that people were eager to get involved to find solutions for suicide prevention. All of the participants had both a personal and professional (i.e challenge in their organization) connection to this societal issue, and they came together to solve it. 

Usually, when running a Pop-Up Lab, we aim for a group size of six to eight participants. In this case, we had such a strong interest from candidates that we chose nine:  a diverse group of re/insurers, insurers and consultants, many with operational experience in actuary, claims, or underwriting. 

Participants of this Pop-Up Lab were from the following organizations: 

  • Agrippa 
  • Aviva 
  • EY 
  • Legal & General 
  • Munich Re 
  • Pacific Life Re 
  • Reinsurance Group of America 
  • SCOR 
  • Vitality 

 Two experts in the suicide prevention field also joined a session on the first day as masterminds, generously sharing their knowledge and experience to help the project team complete empathy and customer journey maps. In addition, the participants grabbed inspiration from 17 lightning demos about male suicide prevention tactics used by others. With much motivation and purpose, the team cooked up a diverse set of ideas and solutions.

In just three days this fast-moving project team created three solutions to save lives – a tremendous feat! Each solution targets suicide prevention at a different level: specific, macro and strategic. Let’s take a look at what they cooked up: 

Specific: This solution was formed to address the fact that the suicide of a relative can be a trigger event for other suicides. The project team came up with the idea for insurers to send a handwritten condolence note including information on how to seek help and self-care to a suicide-related claimant. This small but personal touch humanizes a currently formal touchpoint and could help reduce the claim suicide as a trigger event for another suicide among family or friends.  

Macro: The next solution was a macro-level campaign to promote mental health awareness and human interaction in London communities. The project team envisioned this happening by placing thirty six-foot penguins around London, which would encourage people to stop, think and interact.  

Strategic: The strategic level solution involved forming an industry working group that would catalyze actions within the insurance industry targeted at contributing to suicide prevention activities. The group would span operational teams (e.g. underwriting, claims) to address suicide from all perspectives in insurance.  

Solving an industry problem in one locale can have a global impact 

The problem of suicide is not limited to the UK. By devoting our attention and resources to thinking deeply about a problem, it shines a light on root causes and issues that people may have ignored  or overlooked. One of the biggest takeaways from this Pop-Up Lab was: don’t be afraid to tackle a sensitive subject. We all benefit when a workable solution is created, because it may spark an idea that can help solve a problem somewhere else. By looking at our industry’s processes through the lens of suicide, we identified many simple steps that could be taken to improve things. 

Similarly, there are other common challenges and problems that exist across the insurance industry and global communities. Doing a deep dive into these challenges in a specific region can trigger a positive change globally. 

Want to get involved with suicide prevention?  

Thank you to all of the participants for bringing their innovative minds and compassion together for this project. If your organization is interested in joining this group of innovators for the next steps for this project, or if you have an idea for another social challenge in need of an insurance industry solution, please contact us. 

Thanks to Jonathan Hughes for sharing insights from facilitating the Pop-Up Lab to contribute to this blog.

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How to Simplify Life Insurance Underwriting in 48 Hours

In the life insurance industry, there are many processes we encounter daily that have the potential to be modernized and made more efficient. The current underwriting process is no exception, with outdated rules, blanket questions that don’t allow for personalization, and long customer wait times that can take up to four to six weeks. This is a process that is ripe for disruption and last month, Cookhouse Lab invited underwriting professionals to try their hand at disrupting it in just 48 hours. 

This was done through a ‘taster session’ which gives professionals the chance to sample a variety of design thinking exercises that are used in regular Cookhouse Lab projects in a condensed time frame. 

This sprint, in particular, focused on making the life insurance underwriting process more time and resource-efficient to ultimately improve the customer experience. Read on to find out what processes were used to collaboratively identify three potential solutions in just 48 hours. 

Day 1 – Identifying Pain Points & Determining Customer Personas

On the first day, the team focused on conducting research and empathizing with the customer to really understand their mindset. Empathy is a critical component of design thinking to ensure that the solution has the end customer’s needs are at the forefront.  

Identifying Pain Points

The project team identified pain points of the demographic by running a ‘masterminds’ interview session. This involved meeting with a group of experienced underwriters to understand the current process from their point of view, their pain points and what their ideal process would look, feel and sound like. Through these interviews, the team identified the following pain points:

  • The current process has too many irrelevant questions
  • There lies a big gap in communication between the agent, insurance company, and the end customer
  • All age groups are being treated the same and asked the same questions
  • Data exists, but it isn’t accessible
  • The current application needs to be more dynamic

Determining Customer Personas

The team also identified two main customer personas that the solutions would be targeted towards:

Sam:

  • 27 year old female that is living with her parents at the moment, but planning to have her own home one day and start a family
  • She is commitment-averse and prefers to avoid face-to-face communication when dealing with purchases
  • She enjoys social media and instant gamification.

Chris:

  • 45 year old underwriter who has worked in the same organization for 20 years
  • He has a 15 year daughter and a 3 year old son.
  • He likes his way of doing things and is worried about automation
  • He believes in the power and value of underwriting and likes the medical knowledge he has acquired throughout his career
  • He is comfortable with the current system and is the type of person that feels the need to read every line on applications

Day 2: Developing Solutions

Using the research from Day 1, the project team continued their sprint on Day 2 to develop three possible solutions to better the current process.

Solution #1: Instant data collection, verification and clarity of product

This solution allows the agent to ask for permission from the customer to access various data pools that have collected valuable customer data, which would then be sent to a pre-filled application. Once the application is completed, the customer and agent would look over the information provided. At this point, the customer could make any necessary changes, edits or provide any missing information. Once the customer authorizes the application the agent is then able to provide possible policies based on the information given, which provides a custom solution that fits for each individual customer. 

Underwriter BenefitsCustomer Benefits
Instant and authorized access to the data poolPeace of mind on how the agent is collecting information
Clarification on information collectedA better understanding of what information the agent is collecting
No need to go over the entire questionnaire, which may hold irrelevant questionsClarity on the value of their policy
 Allows for the opportunity to ask questions without lengthy waiting time periods

Solution #2: Simplified Application – Max 10 Qs

Instead of a standard application, this online question solution would contain a maximum of 10 key questions that customers are asked. The questions would have smart logic and adjust depending on the respondent’s answers and would prompt the user it needs further information. In addition to being more efficient, this solution is also millennial-friendly as it allows the target group to skip lengthy unnecessary and/or irrelevant questions. Key question categories:

  1. Lifestyle (Alcohol consumption, Drug use, Driving history, Criminal activities)
  2. MIB report
  3. Medical-related (prescription medication)
  4. Foreign travel
  5. Immigration status
Underwriter BenefitsCustomer Benefits
Shorter application processClear and relevant questions
A questionnaire that is adaptable, and therefore relevant for all customersShorter application process

Solution #3: Starter Plan

A product designed for university graduates and parents with children in university. Starter Plan is designed to be marketed through universities during orientation and months leading to graduation, student loan distributors and entry-level employers. The plan would be based on:

  1. DI protection
  2. 50K coverage for 2 years
  3. Financial education
  4. Personalized dashboard with incentives and possible products as the life of the customer changes
Underwriter BenefitsCustomer Benefits
Financially educated customersFinancial education
Data collection from an earlier ageMore accurate and customized products
Engagement from the millennial generationParents have peace of mind regarding insurance and their young adult’s coverage
 Parents have peace of mind knowing that they’ve set their child up for a good start.

Unlocking Innovative, Disruptive Ideas in 48 Hours

In just two days this project team was able to create three viable solutions to solve an industry-wide problem – which is a huge accomplishment! Through these solutions, they were able to achieve the following: 

  • Offer an efficient and speedy process to underwrite a policy
  • Engage the most challenging age group for life insurance to attract at the moment (millennials)
  • Build customer trust and financial literacy

Want to join in on the innovation? We’ve got a full schedule of projects coming up in 2018. Check them out here!

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