Today's Advisory Career

The Life Sale: Engaging With a Rare Creature In The Wild

Connecting with insurance consumers in the financial wellbeing ecosystem

by Chris Behling

Mr. Behling is Head of US Life & Health Strategy for SwissRe. In this role, he oversees current and future partnerships intended to help insurance clients penetrate new markets and demographics with the goal of closing the $26 trillion coverage gap in the US.Visit

Life insurance consumers are elusive creatures. They are hard to find and even harder to engage. It’s unclear whether (A) there are less of them out there, (B) we are looking in the wrong places, or (C) we are using the wrong approaches to engage with them. What is clear, is that there is a $26T mortality protection gap in the US and it continues to grow. Like any elusive creature, engaging the insurance consumer requires finding them where they live and becoming a part of the ecosystems they inhabit.

In today’s day and age, participating in an ecosystem requires companies to do three things: (1) Know your customers and potential customers really well, (2) Digitize your superpowers, and (3) Partner with other companies in that ecosystem.

While numerous ecosystems exist and most people participate in several on a daily basis, the financial wellbeing ecosystem is one where the insurance industry is increasingly focused. This makes sense. There is a mega-trend around wellness and at the same time, a growing realization that financial issues are at the heart of our overall wellbeing. In addition, our industry is focused on financial and health data which could make insurance a powerful participant in the ecosystem. Finally, institutional clients are realizing that the financial health of their employees is core to their individual and institutional growth and success.

Below is a look at the three factors needed for success in ecosystems through the lens of financial wellbeing.

Know your customers

Our digital age has made it easier than ever to gather data on consumers and potential consumers. We willingly share more data in more ways and at the same time, unknowingly share data simply by living and engaging in the digital world. This provides our industry (and any industry) an opportunity to better understand our consumers.

Insurers have collected information on consumers for over100 years. Back in 1899, the National Insurance Information Bureau employed investigators to collect all sorts of information on consumers and policyholders. To a lesser extent, that still exists today. Think about how the insurance industry still relies on gathering paper medical records and sending armies of para-medical professionals out to people’s homes and offices.

There are better ways to do this, but to successfully leverage the new sources of data to better understand consumers, the insurance industry must realize two things. First, the industry should expand the data it looks to collect, and second, the industry must change the way we think about collecting that data. Instead of only focusing on the data we care about for underwriting, we need to spend as much time and effort thinking about the data that our consumers care about. Collecting data around financial wellbeing, financial stress and the intrinsic and extrinsic meaning that finances and financial protection have for consumers is paramount. This is the data around which engagement can be generated.

Additionally, we should realize that consumers are willing to share data if they get value back in return. For example, most of us are willing to allow the government to know where we travel if it means we can skip the toll booths. We are willing to share our likes and dislikes if it means a company can help us find our next favorite movie or that perfect pair of shoes. Successfully leveraging digital data to get to know our customers means developing a value proposition for them in return. It’s dependent upon being able to provide potential consumers with more personalized products and solutions, based on the data they share, and our ability to turn the data they provide into insights that consumers value. Since the data our industry values is largely financial and health data, one of the clearest ways this can happen is by providing consumers valuable insights into their overall health and financial wellbeing.

By realizing that getting to know consumers is a two-way street, dependent upon give and take, we will be able to gather more data to better understand consumers while allowing consumers to better understand our industry and how we can support their overall financial wellbeing.


This makes sense. There is a mega-trend around wellness and at the same time, a growing realization that financial issues are at the heart of our overall wellbeing...

The ecosystems we live within are becoming increasingly digital. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily “virtual” but rather, that they are becoming more “connected.” We are able to share data across and throughout our ecosystems in ways that create interoperability and therefore, convenience. Consumers are demanding things to fit together, to be integrated and interoperable. For example, in our health and wellness ecosystems we are increasingly able to collect and share data from myriad sources (wearables, mobile devices, electronic medical records) and integrate it in such a way that makes it accessible, actionable and useful for ourselves, our care providers, and other players we choose to engage with in that ecosystem. Unfortunately, insurers are often behind in the trend toward digitalization. As a result, it is harder to participate in the digital ecosystems that our consumers value. If our industry doesn’t think and act digitally, we will remain a “point solution” and not an integrated part of the digital ecosystems where consumers live. Our industry will be increasingly on our own deserted island, while the consumers we seek are living happily on a digitally connected mainland.

In the insurance industry, we gather data on our policyholders from a lot of different places: medical records, physical exams, motor vehicle databases, prescription databases, credit services, etc. We then synthesize this data to get an overall picture of the applicant. This isn’t easy. Yet too often today, we give the consumer nothing back in return. We have the opportunity to take this data, digitize it, and make it available to the consumer in an understandable and actionable way.
Consumers don’t look to life insurers to make them healthy but they can and should look to life insurers to transform the data we collect into insightful and actionable information they can use to understand the health and wealth connection and address their overall financial wellbeing. By doing this, insurers will be able to better understand their consumers and consumers will better understand the value that insurers can bring.


Ecosystems are not a single-cell organism. They are made-up of lots of components, all working together. The digital ecosystems we inhabit are no different. In the health and wellbeing ecosystem, there are lots of players including healthcare providers, employers, insurers, community organizations, gyms, diet offerings, etc. No single player can play all the roles. Yet that ecosystem is becoming more and more connected as companies partner to provide more integrated offerings. Point-solutions are already falling by the wayside. Apps, watches, phones, websites, all ingest data from many sources to create a stickier and more holistic solution. Consumers don’t want to interact with each of these solutions independently. They want to interact with them holistically.

At any one time, we are an employee, patient, policyholder, community member and family member. Good ecosystems allow us to interact as each of these personas. They don’t serve us only as an employee or as a policyholder. They engage us around all of these roles, and pulling this off requires partnerships.

These ecosystems exist and are evolving rapidly. One example is Sharecare. Established by Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, Sharecare is an integrated ecosystem combining physical, emotional and financial wellbeing. It is a platform that partners can leverage to better engage consumers (or policyholders) and provide solutions to help users identify and manage their financial stress and support overall financial wellbeing. Currently, employers, health plans, health providers, cities, states and government agencies leverage the platform and partner within the ecosystem to support users in each of their roles as employees, policyholders, patients and community members.

Insurers have a real opportunity to benefit from participating and can be an important component within these emerging ecosystems. The data, actuarial know-how and large client bases that life insurers have to offer are valuable to consumers as well as to other companies in the ecosystem. To be successful, our industry must really get to know consumers in a new way, digitize our capabilities, and partner with other entities that round out the ecosystems in which our current and future customers exist. ◊