Sapphire Now 21 - rethinking life insurance for the digital age with Haven Life

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez June 14, 2021
Haven Life integrates SAP for its onboarding, credentialing and commissions, so that engineers can focus on digital innovation.

Image of Haven Life products on laptop and mobile
(Image soured via Haven Life website)

Haven Life was co-founded by Yaron Ben-Zvi when he and his wife were expecting their first child and they decided to take out a life insurance policy, in order to protect their family's future. However, Ben-Zvi soon realized that securing life insurance was far from an ‘Amazon-like' experience and took weeks to receive a decision. 

In a digital world where consumer expectations have dramatically changed, Ben-Zvi saw an opportunity to rethink the whole approach to a decades-old industry - and Haven Life was created. Now owned by MassMutual, an insurance company with more than 160 years in the industry, Haven Life has the backing to create a platform and tooling that will eventually underpin all of MassMutual's work. 

Haven Life is also making use of SAP to support the work that doesn't need to be built in house by the company's engineers, for tasks such as onboarding, credentialing and commissions. Bharat Rao, Senior Product Manager at Haven Life, explained at SAP's annual user event, Sapphire Now 21, that understanding what needs to be built/bought has helped the company to optimize its engineering resources. 

Commenting on the company's opportunity, Rao said: 

Haven Life is a technology company first and an insurance company, second. I put it that way very deliberately because digital is at the heart of everything that we do. MassMutual, which is a large insurance company, is our parent company, and really the mandate we've been given is to build out the digital platform for MassMutual. 

Going forward this is going to be the go to future state platform for everything that MassMutual does. We have had this rare opportunity to build something out from scratch, and I manage a team that looks into three specific areas - there's onboarding, there's credentialing and there's commission.

On Haven Life's use of SAP, Rao added that getting the right products to users quickly is priority number one. He said: 

This is a very fast paced agile organisation, which means time to market is a very, very key metric. That also means that while we like to build a lot of cool stuff in house, just building everything is not going to meet the time to market requirements. So we've tried to be as smart as possible about building, buying and integrating. In certain specific areas that I focus on - onboarding, credentialing, commissions - we found that actually partnering with someone like SAP made a lot of sense. 

It is a very flexible product, it lets us configure plans quickly, it helps us use business analyst resources, without necessarily taking up engineering resources, which is a huge benefit. We also use APM, which is another critical product to house all the advisor data, and is at the centre of everything that we do. 

We also use workflow, where we get the benefits of integration and out of the box integrations with providers of insurance data, like an NIPR - if we were to try to build that ourselves, it would take away from the time to market requirements. We've sort woven these products into our fabric at this point and that's been working well.

Building to overcome complexity 

Whilst SAP is supporting Haven Life in areas that cover standardized processes, the company is having to overcome complex distribution and structural challenges in order to deliver digitally-enabled life insurance to market. A key part of this is how Haven Life engages with buyers across the US market. Rao explains: 

For a very long time in the world of insurance, we've had this agency structure dominate - a top down structure where you have agencies that are territorial in different parts of the country, and each managing its own little corner. You have a general agent on top, and other insurance agents working with him or her, and that's the way it's always been - which to some extent simplifies your compensation structure.

However now what we've seen is a federation of that model, where people do expect to purchase the product. like they do on Amazon. So, you have a direct to consumer offering that's a real thing these days. And then you have a whole spectrum of offerings in between, with the direct to consumer being one end of the spectrum, and a full service being the other end of the spectrum.

Rao said that when you have this spectrum, the insurance industry's agency structure has to evolve and it has to coexist with a digital distribution model. He added: 

That means you have a whole variety of compensation models as well to fit this new world. It introduces a level of complexity, which I'd say we are grappling with every day.

In addition to this, Haven Life engages with up to 15,000 capital advisors and 75,000 brokers - all third parties - which introduces even further complexity when trying to digitally deliver life insurance policies. Rao said: 

Not every advisor is equal to another advisor, they focus on different areas. Some are Retirement Planning Specialists, some are wealth managers. They also have different needs, and when you have that many people with different needs, obviously prioritization becomes a bit of a challenge, because there's someone who wants something and someone else who wants something else. 

Then you also have the more vocal people and the less vocal people, so obviously making sure that we are actually addressing a need, which gets you maximum bang for the buck, is a critical challenge. 

In addition to the above, adoption is also front of mind for the insurance company, where people are at varying stages of maturity in terms of using digital for insurance options. However, Rao notes that this has been aided by people demanding contactless alternatives during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has accelerated adoption. 

Rao said that Haven Life is overcoming these challenges by being agile and putting agile at the heart of everything it does. It seeks to deliver features quickly as minimum viable products and test to see whether they gain traction or not. He said: 

We can then either double down or nix it and move on to the next thing. That addresses the need of a variety of different people without taking up a huge amount of bandwidth. 

The other obvious challenge has been on the adoption side, where you have different people at different points in maturity, from a tech savvy perspective. Some people are absolutely willing to embrace the digital model, whereas you have others who are somewhat more resistant to it. Obviously with COVID-19, having a digital offering has actually gained traction, because digital is also contactless. 

Planning for the future

For Haven Life's deployment of SAP, the company is considering other areas that could be beneficial to the organization, particularly as it begins to scale up its offering. Rao said: 

When I look at other solution areas, I think training could be one of them. We do have tools that we use to train our advisors and educate them about new things, and for now I think they are adequate and are doing their job, but again when I think of scale, I think that's an area that we might look into from a future needs perspective.

I think analytics and NPS and things of that sort are very important to us. We want to be able to evaluate the impact of everything that we do in as quantitative fashion as possible. Again, we do have tools right now which, which I think are doing the job, but again, we are always going to be on the hunt for offerings that might be there in that space to just help us with the kind of scale that we are going to be seeing fairly soon.

But the future focus is really about ensuring that Haven Life develops a product that can be used by MassMutual for all of its insurance products. Rao added: 

We have a full roadmap and the aspiration is to be a multi-product, multi-channel offering. The immediate goal is to be able to offer all the products and services that MassMutual does on our platform. And when you think of life insurance, it is a regulated industry, there are different kinds of products - there is whole life, there's annuities - so, our immediate set of goals center around being able to offer a complete product offering in a digital way, with as little or no paper as possible, with a superior client and advisor experience. We've hit several milestones on our journey towards that goal, but you know there is more to do.

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