Insurance companies can’t keep up with buyers’ demand for instant product gratification; even “accelerated” underwriting programs aren’t fast enough for some consumers. Meanwhile, companies have an interest in eliminating costly exams and lab fees. So, 21st Century tech to the rescue! Enter Chronos, a new technology from Lapetus Solutions, Inc. (LSI), the science and technology company that uses facial analytics to estimate life expectancy, with an approach similar to what advanced law enforcement uses to predict how a fugitive may age over decades. The client submits a selfie to the insurance company and the insurance company provides an indicative quote for life insurance.
A selfie reveals more than whether it’s a good hair day: Facial lines and contours, droops and dark spots could indicate how well you’re aging. A photo may reveal early signs of heart disease, diabetes, or even dementia. It can help estimate your body mass index (BMI), determine your physiological age (how old you look), and indicate whether you’re aging faster or slower than your actual age. A selfie can even hint at whether you smoke, or smoked in the past.
If a proposed insured applies for coverage with a carrier that uses Chronos, the theory is that buying a policy online could someday take only minutes; clients may also avoid a paramed exam and labs. Many insurers are looking into this new technology, but the makers of the system are reluctant to disclose which ones just yet. “[Chronos] may or may not meet the vetting process to make carriers comfortable,” says Robert Kerzner, president and CEO of LIMRA.
Facial analytics that can predict life expectancy have the potential to revolutionize life insurance underwriting, as the technology may prove as accurate in predicting risk as current methods, and additional electronic checks such as the MIB, MVR or prescription drug database might be used as a cross-check. Chronos could also streamline the process of buying insurance by reducing the number of questions clients have to answer, another sore spot for consumers. But—while the newswires have lit up over the past six months with articles and press releases about selfie insurance being here, they’re wrong! I can’t find a single carrier that will actually write a policy based on this technology right now. I was told by one senior insurance executive exploring Chronos that they’re now just using it for analytics. When someone takes the selfie quote on their site, the responses go to the insurance company which, through the technology, will give the person their facial age. Then the information gathered goes to Lapetus for beta testing and data collection to expand their research. I was told they then delete the information. I hope so.
Will insurance-by-selfie replace traditional underwriting procedures or even the newer rule engines that companies are using to access risk and make underwriting decisions? Probably not. Could it become another tool that insurers can use to assess risk and streamline the process? That’s more likely.
And then there’s the further concern that insurance-by-selfie can become another way the industry attempts to bypass the agent in transactional insurance sales. It’s possible. One of the insurance carriers we represent has the system in the testing stage. Ominously, the company executive announcing it on LinkedIn has the title, “Vice President, Direct-to-Consumer Distribution.”
Smile and say “cheese.” This is one story we should all keep watching…
Jay Scheiner, JD, CLU
JD, CLU, lives in Long Island, NY. For the past 20 years, he has been a partner at Agent Support Group, a life insurance brokerage agency based in New York City. An avid fan of the outdoors, Scheiner enjoys boating and bicycling - in addition to hiking. Scheiner can be reached by telephone at 516-467-1190 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.