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Smaller companies better able to deliver innovation says Teachers Life CEO

By Susan Yellin | February 04 2016 07:00AM

The insurance industry must shrug off its old-style ways of doing business and instead lead the way by delivering innovative products and services consumers want, when they want them and how they want them. And it’s the smaller, more agile life insurance companies that are better suited to meet this need, says the president and CEO of Teachers Life.

“I say: if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got. I think in some ways that’s the older paradigm that the insurance industry is caught in. But I think the way things need to move is to be delivering programs and services where the consumer wants to be met,” says Doug Baker.

Many other industries have faced similar innovative shifts over the past few years: look at Uber and the taxi industry, on-demand movies and Blockbuster movie rentals or travel agents and Expedia.

 

“At some point the industry is going to be ‘Napstered,’ the way Napster changed the music industry,” says Baker.

 

Millennials – those born 1980-1985 and who are expected to make up the largest cohort in the country in 15 years – are the biggest demographic pushing this change in insurance.

Online insurance

Teachers Life, a fraternal benefit society whose members must be part of the educational system, launched an online insurance package in the fall of 2014, aimed specifically at millennials. “I think it’s got to be one of the coolest things out there and to be honest, no one else is doing what we’re doing,” says Baker.

What Teachers is offering 10-40 term insurance (and any term in between) for coverage of $25,000- $500,000 with no medical tests. The insurance is completely underwritten, paid for and issued all online in 12-15 minutes. Compare that, says Baker, to industry statistics that say it can take anywhere from 26 to 42 days to fully underwrite and might well include medical testing.

Baker says Teachers isn’t “shooting the lights out” with this new package, but the message is getting out. Potential clients conduct an online needs analysis dealing with obligations and family status and they can speak to an advisor if they wish.

Many millennials, in particular, have already looked up information and done their homework about specific products. They know, for example, that the older they get the more difficult it may be for them to buy insurance, says Baker. And since Teachers has cut out the advisor and medical testing, its rates are 10%-30% lower than most other packages out there, he says.

Teachers was incorporated in 1939 and became federally regulated in 2008. Currently, its members come from Ontario only but Baker said the organization is licensing across Canada. “We really believe that the internet has no boundaries. Smaller organizations can gain some scope and scale by using this technology.”

Faster decision-making

As well, he said smaller insurers are more suited to adapting to consumer demands because they can move faster in their decision making than larger organizations. Baker does acknowledge that larger companies probably have more dollars to spend on areas like marketing unlike Teachers’ soft launch of its 15-minute insurance package in the fall of 2014.

“But we have some real advantages over the larger organizations. We’ve put ourselves into a great position in order to take advantage of it. It was a long process. We launched our first online product in 2007, but the product we have online now, there is nothing like it,” says Baker.

Baker says “innovation” has become a catchall phrase as of late, but is meant to spur change to meet the needs of current and future clients, particularly millennials, who have grown up knowing nothing but online and instantaneous.

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