(Image credit: Niek Verlaan.)
Four years ago, Haven Life embarked on a focused mission to provide a more technologically driven experience for a specific customer segment—younger, more affluent and self-directed individuals prone to use online banking and brokerage services. The New York-based online life insurance agency, backed and wholly owned by MassMutual, has hit several milestones on its four-year journey to reach the destiny of an end-to-end customer experience. Its journey continues, and this week the company announced the addition of the first health and wellness services it will be offering to customers, from New York-based companies Aaptiv and Timeshifter (see our coverage here). To discuss Haven Life’s progress, Insurance Innovation Reporter had a conversation with Yaron Ben-Zvi, the digital agency’s co-founder and CEO and head of Platform Innovation for MassMutual.
Insurance Innovation Reporter: Would you say that, four years into the Haven Life experiment, things have gone more or less as planned?
Yaron Ben-Zvi, CEO, Haven Life: I think we’ve learned that some of the key pieces to fulfill our mission of creating a more technology-driven experience requires us to grow our vision and scope more than we anticipated. Over time, so much ends up being in underwriting and technology, and addressing the full customer lifecycle. Taking that more end-to-end view wasn’t the mission originally. But at this point we’ve built out this whole platform for an end-to-end life insurance transaction in this very self-directed way.
IIR: Could you elaborate on how that contrasts with the limits of the original mission?
YB-Z: If you think about our goals when we began, we always said we had two main thrusts to strategy. One was about how to reduce friction in the life insurance transaction. The other was how to change the customer relationship and engagement with the customer. So, when you think about milestones early on it was how we make application easier, how to work with data science on models to make underwriting faster, more digital, kinds of systems so that we never have to revert to paper-driven process.
The key piece obviously was we were very early leading the charge on accelerated underwriting and what that looks like in true digital experience. The other piece was changing customer relationship and engagement model, which came a little behind the reduced friction part, but we started about a year or two into it. The first step was brand and website redesign to take into account learnings from the first year or two. Then we started to think about how to drive the customer relationship deeper as well. That’s where things like Haven Life Plus came in—the rider that gives policyholders access to additional benefits as a part of their policy.
Reflecting on where we are today, we’ve come pretty far in those two areas. There’s more work to be done, and we will continue, but we’re now adding on a third leg in some fashion, which is addressing how we take this platform and expand our reach by adding on additional products.
IIR: What would you call out as milestones in Haven Life’s history so far?
YB-Z: I would mention the Haven Life Plus rider, our acquisition of online broker Quilt [Boston], and our related annuities initiative. I’d probably follow those up with how underwriting eligibility has expanded over time. Initially we only offered up to $1 million in face, and now we’re up to $3 million. As part of our accelerated underwriting, we’ve expanded eligibility criteria—initially only up to 45 were eligible and today people up to age 59.
IIR: How would you characterize the way Haven Life has been evolution in a more general way?
YB-Z: I would mention that being part of MassMutual enables us to look broadly at opportunities, which is one way we have gravitated to thinking of ourselves as a platform. Ultimately the technology we’ve built, and the customer-first approach, can be deployed in lots of different ways and add value to lots of different customers.
We look for interesting opportunities, and annuities is one because longevity is such a huge issue and the gap in retirement is so large. If you put those two things together, bringing in the Quilt team was exciting starting with the customer and thinking about the problem and how annuities could be this wonderful solution to it. There are others we’re interested in. other products closer to the customer we’re currently serving, things like disability income, which I’ve talked about and am interested in. We have no timeline for that, but it’s something I would very much like to get to.
IIR: So, while various objectives have gone according to plan, the company has evolved with an openness to the possibilities—which I guess fits with the somewhat experimental character of a carrier-owned startup.
YB-Z: When you begin as a startup, you’re focused on one customer, one use case. Then you build out from applying what you learn in a very iterative fashion. I don’t think we ever started with idea that we’re going to build a platform to support lots of products. But a lot of the efficiencies we built into our platform could be applied to different products and channels.
That relates to my role as head of Platform Innovation for MassMutual, in addition to being Haven Life’s CEO. We’re looking for opportunities to bring other MassMutual products to market through different channels. So, that’s not under the aegis of Haven Life but part of a broader platform mission that we’re now serving.
IIR: Could you tell us more about how the relationship with MassMutual—as parent company—has developed? Specifically, I’m particularly interested in your work with Gareth Ross, who was recently named head of MassMutual’s Enterprise Technology and Experience (ETX) organization.
YB-Z: When I joined MassMutual five years ago, I came into Gareth’s organization, which at that time was much smaller and called Advanced Analytics. Over the last five years, the very positive relationship I’ve had as part of Gareth’s organization has grown in strength. Partly because it required so much collaborative work with the home office, but also because we’ve earned the right to take on more on behalf of Haven Life.
IIR: So, Haven Life, or your function has grown in parallel to Gareth’s organization?
YB-Z: Yes, and we are now a platform for broader opportunities beyond direct-to-consumer [DTC] and Haven Life. Technology and digital is a key piece of MassMutual’s strategy, and we represent some of that. I would clarify in the platform space we’re distribution agnostic—we support Gareth’s organization across channels. My organization now is broadly platform innovation, which includes Haven Life— the DTC initiative—but also other technology supporting other channels and products.
IIR: What would you say about the pace of change in life insurance, and the role of Haven Life and your innovation organization within MassMutual more broadly.
YB-Z: The key point that I’d make is that, in life insurance, there’s still a lot of work to do and change to come both in terms of technology and products. In some ways I didn’t anticipate where we’ve gotten to, but I think the next four years could be even more exciting. There are opportunities that the industry has identified, and I think we’re well positioned to take advantage of them.
Four or five years ago InsurTech wasn’t a word, and there was still skepticism about whether this industry would ever go through any real change. But today the industry recognizes that things are changing, and people are making bets on how that change will impact the players. It’s a very different world, and we’re very excited about our positioning within it.