Haven Life CEO on the Launch of Haven Technologies

IIR talks with Yaron Ben-Zvi about the launch of Haven Technologies as a separate entity aiming to support carriers across the life, fixed annuities and disability industries.

(Haven Life CEO Yaron Ben-Zvi on stage with MassMutual executive Gareth Ross at Insuretech Connect 2021. Source: ITC.)

In 2015, Haven Life (New York) launched as a direct-to-consumer insurance agency offering a modern online customer experience. Earlier this month at Insurtech Connect 2021, Yaron Ben-Zvi, CEO of Haven Life, took the stage with Gareth Ross, Head of Enterprise Technology and Customer Experience at MassMutual—Haven Life’s parent company—to discuss the debut of Haven Technologies. Ross recalled that the potential to launch a technology vendor serving other carriers became apparent two years ago following a conversation with an agent relating how the end-to-end functionality built by Haven Life made it possible for him to receive commission from a policyholder he’d never met. Ben-Zvi, who is also CEO of Haven Technology, remarked, “Everything we’ve been working on for the last seven years is coming together as Haven Technologies.”

Now a separate entity from Haven Life, Haven Technologies is a software-as-a-service platform that powers the Haven Life customer experience and enabled the company to seamlessly roll out new products and make enhancements to existing products during 2021. For example, in May, Haven Life launched Haven Disability, a new short-term disability insurance product issued by MassMutual. As a separate company, Haven Technologies’ software is now available to other insurers. After Insuretech Connect 2021, Insurance Innovation Reporter reconnected with Ben Zvi to talk about the innovations of Haven Life leading eventually to Haven Technologies’ launch.

Gareth Ross, Head of Enterprise Technology and Customer Experience, MassMutual.

Insurance Innovation Reporter: To understand the launch Haven Technologies, let’s review for our readers how Haven Life came about, and how it was taken up by MassMutual.

Yaron Ben-Zvi, CEO, Haven Technologies and Haven Life: The inspiration for Haven Life came when I was expecting my first child. Knowing I needed life insurance, I started researching my options. What I quickly realized was that purchasing the financial protection I needed for my family was easier said than done. Applying was a time-consuming, paper-based process that required lab draws and, once submitted, weeks-long decision making.

From this experience, Haven Life was born. Our mission was clear from Day 1: Make life insurance simpler and more accessible. A key component of that was making it easier to purchase, and we launched as a direct-to-consumer online experience in 2015.

Our relationship with MassMutual dates back to our early years. Knowing that our Haven Life customers were making a decades-long commitment when purchasing a term life insurance product, we needed the credibility and financial stability that a start-up alone could not provide. Enter MassMutual. As a wholly owned subsidiary of MassMutual, Haven Life customers can have the stability and peace of mind that they are backed by more than 170 years of industry expertise.

Tell us how you came to be where you are, from the origins of Haven Life and its relationship with MassMutual. Where did the idea come from, and how did it funded and eventually backed by MassMutual?

Details about Haven Life’s direct-to-consumer evolution is above.

IIR:  Would it be more accurate to say that Haven Life has worked very closely with MassMutual or that it has gone about its mission independently as the autonomous provider of a modern online life insurance consumer experience, eventually spinning off Haven Technologies?

YBZ: What is less well known about Haven Life’s relationship with MassMutual is that, for the past several years, the same technology underpinning our direct-to-consumer experience has powered their core end-to-end digital advisor platform. This technology has helped MassMutual launch new products and seamlessly migrate legacy policies.

From an advisor perspective, Haven Technologies has helped MassMutual create a better digital experience for their advisors and customers and drive operational efficiencies. Practically speaking, that has meant faster time-to-issue of policies and substantial cost savings.

From a product development point of view, it’s meant condensing the traditional timeline from years to months and weeks. In fact, during the early days of the pandemic, our technology helped MassMutual build and launch HealthBridge—their free online term life insurance product for frontline healthcare workers and volunteers, all in under a month.

From a legacy migration standpoint, we’ve helped MassMutual migrate over hundreds of thousands of existing policies onto a single platform—all done at a faster pace and cheaper rate than previous migration efforts. This work continues, with the goal of migrating the vast majority of legacy MassMutual policies onto the Haven Technologies platform.

Ultimately, we’ve long believed that the solution to making life insurance more accessible to the millions of underinsured and underserved Americans who lack the financial protection they need runs through better technology. We also know one carrier alone cannot meet this market need. It will take us all acting together. Realizing the power of our platform on both the direct-to-consumer experience and advisor-sold policies, we decided to start scaling our technology and are now offering it as a SaaS solution to other carriers.

To be clear, however, while Haven Technologies is a wholly owned subsidiary of MassMutual, we operate as a standalone and distinct company. That includes having our own Board of Directors, corporate functions and technology footprint.

IIR: What were some of the early challenges in meeting your own and MassMutual’s expectations?

YBZ: While we are proud of our results to-date, like all start-ups, we had our early challenges.

As it relates to Haven Life and starting a direct-to-consumer life insurance agency, one significant early challenge was launching an insurance product that was subject to different regulations in all 50-states. While the Interstate Insurance Product Regulation Commission helped provide some uniformity when it came to launching products nation-wide, as the first digital life insurance agency to offer coast-to-coast coverage, we very much had to blaze our own trail.

As it relates to supporting MassMutual’s end-to-end digital transformation, our biggest challenge was supporting change management efforts. This is not a unique hurdle for an initiative of this size or scope, especially when undergoing end-to-end transformation that impacts hundreds of home office employees, thousands of advisors and hundreds of thousands of customers–albeit for the better. But, our commitment to building a true partnership with MassMutual (or any client) is what allowed us to achieve organization-wide buy-in, bring users along in the journey, and ultimately help them realize the value and benefits of what we were trying to accomplish.

IIR: Tell us how the creation of new technology capable of supporting Haven Life’s mission led to the genesis of Haven Technologies.

YBZ: When we first set out to create Haven Life, our guiding mission was clear: create the simplest, most accessible life insurance experience possible for consumers.

As we looked to execute against that goal, we worked with vendors who could provide the underlying technology. We ultimately realized that in order to fulfill our vision, we’d have to create our own technology from the ground up—including our own application taking systems, underwriting platform, policy administration system, and customer and operations portals. We also eventually built our own claims platform.

In the process of creating this technology for our direct-to-consumer channel, we quickly realized that there was a real desire to use the technology we were creating in ways we hadn’t originally thought about. It wasn’t just for consumers, but for others in the industry too, including advisors and underwriters. Collectively, we saw this potential, and we soon began piloting several initiatives supporting MassMutual’s core digital advisor platform.

Haven Technologies was born from this evolution.

IIR: What are some of the major milestones in the evolution of Haven Life’s technology capabilities, as they bear on both back and front office?

YBZ: From a Haven Life perspective, we launched with one product and one way to distribute that product—our website. Today, we have several products, including both life and non-life products, (Haven Term, Haven Simple, Haven Secure, AgeUp and Haven Disability) that can be purchased directly through our website or through our various partner distributors. Developing the capabilities to support additional products and new distribution channels are some of our proudest achievements.

For our work with MassMutual, we are incredibly proud that our small 2016 proof-of-concept pilot to power their core end-to-end digital advisor product scaled quickly (organization-wide today).

However, two other milestones also stand out.

First, by the end of this year we will have helped MassMutual migrate over large blocks of legacy policies onto the Haven Technologies platform in a short period, far exceeding the rate and driving down costs as compared to previous efforts. As a result, MassMutual plans to migrate the vast majority of their legacy policies onto the Haven Technologies platform.

Secondly, we’ve launched new products with speed. For example, in the early days of the pandemic, MassMutual was eager to do their part to support COVID-relief efforts. While many large organizations were giving sizable charitable donations, MassMutual thought they could do more. Backed by the Haven Technologies platform, we helped them condense the new product development timeline to just three weeks, in turn launching HealthBridge, a free online term life insurance product for COVID-19 frontline healthcare workers and volunteers.

IIR: Why did it make sense to launch Haven Technologies? What are the market imperatives that validate the creation of Haven Technologies?

YBZ: The life insurance industry is long past due for modernization and digital transformation. Look at what just happened during COVID. More people were interested in life insurance but couldn’t schedule lab visits for fluids or have a paramedic in their homes for health assessments.

While the pandemic is just the most recent and visible cue for consumers, industry leaders have known this for a while. In many cases, home grown platforms are outdated and stodgy—and not to mention too expensive to fix—sand existing vendor technology solutions are siloed. While carriers have tinkered around the edges, changes have been minimal. This is no longer sustainable.

Further, and putting the pandemic aside, there are a number of other forces that we felt put the wind at our back. For legacy carriers, each day brings a new InsurTech competitor, the low interest rate environment remains a challenge, and advisors and customers are simply expecting more from their experience. Taken together, we felt this was the right moment to scale our technology.

IIR: Who will be Haven Technologies’ customers?

YBZ: Our priority is to partner with clients who share our vision about making insurance more accessible. We’re not chasing volume, but rather hand-crafted relationships with quality, long-term clients.

In terms of who those early adopters could be, while we have the ability to support carriers across life, fixed annuities and disability industries, potential early client partners include property and casualty insurers with life books, mid-size life carriers, and private equity and others who have acquired large blocks of closed business.

Haven Technologies’ first client is MassMutual. We’ve spent the past few years migrating over thousands of their policies to our system, powering their end-to-end digital offering and launching new products. Of course, we also continue to be the platform behind Haven Life’s direct-to-consumer offering.

IIR: How would you articulate Haven Technologies’ value proposition? What products and services does and will it offer?

YBZ: Everything we do is designed to make life better. How we generate that value for our clients is four-fold and depends on where our clients are asking us to focus our efforts. Broadly speaking, however, we focus on helping clients generate cost savings, improve speed-to-market, facilitate advisor and customer delight, and support revenue growth.

We are able to help clients achieve this through our modern, cloud-native platform, which is built around four main parts: new business, underwriting, policy administration and actuarial. Taken together, the platform offers an advanced solution and enables faster set-ups, easier integrations, enhanced visibility and customization for insurance carriers. We also provide a number of services to help clients identify specific needs and capitalize on their new technology, including compliance consulting, client success—onboarding, adoption and engagement—and product consulting and analytics consulting.

Critically, as our technology is born out of real-world use cases and actually having done this before—both for Haven Life and MassMutual—we offer a proven solution to the marketplace.

IIR: What companies do you see Haven Technologies competing with?

YBZ: Because Haven Technologies is an end-to-end InsurTech platform, we will compete against a variety of players across the value chain. Our competitor set as it relates to policy admin versus new business, for example, looks very different.

IIR: What is Haven Technologies’ strategic plan, and what are its growth expectations over the next year or three, or whatever time horizon is planned?

We aren’t sharing any revenue targets or financial outlooks. I can share, however, that right now we are focused on finding two to three early adopters who share our vision of what life insurance could be and partner together to kick the industry forward. Ultimately, our future will be driven by some of these early clients and how we collaborate together. We’re excited to see what unfolds.

IIR: How do you anticipate Haven Technologies influencing the life insurance industry?

YBZ: Our driving mission is, in partnership with our clients, to make life better. We fundamentally believe that the solution to doing so is through the better use and implementation of technology.

Our hope is that by making our proven technology available to all, carriers will be able to make their financial products—existing and new—more accessible and available to the millions of people who currently lack the financial protections they need for themselves and their families. If we can help carriers do that, we will feel confident that we have done our part to make life better.

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonnell@IIReporter.com or (503) 936-2803.

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