(Image credit: seawie.)
In Nov. 2019 Insurance Innovation Reporter had the opportunity to meet Blair Baldwin, on the occasion of the launch of Haven Life’s (New York) AgeUp, a new product designed to provide financial protection for the adult children of the boomer generation who are concerned about their parents outliving their financial resources. The new product was the fruit of parent company Haven Life’s acquisition of Quilt, which Baldwin co-founded in 2015 with Hal Schwartz and Lee Hower. We recently spoke with Baldwin about his journey into the insurance technology realm, and the circumstances of joining Haven Life and its parent company MassMutual (Springfield, Mass.).
Insurance Innovation Reporter: Tell us about how your journey to becoming part of Haven Life and MassMutual.
Blair Baldwin General Manager, AgeUp, Haven Life: I first got into the world of insurance back in about 2012 working for a hybrid online/offline car insurance focused startup. That venture was more call-center focused, and what I wanted to do was to combine innovative customer experience and product.
With Quilt the initial plan was to provide end-to-end insurance focused on millennials, with renters as the lead product. We then bridged into term life. What we couldn’t do was innovate on product side, create the types of experience we all desired, not just on the front-end user experience but also the underlying product design. So, when the opportunity came up to join MassMutual, it seemed a natural fit. That gave us the opportunity to truly design product from the ground up, rather than support a legacy product with an innovative front end. I’m still giddy!
IIR: And that was the mandate you received from Haven Life after being acquired in 2018?
BB: Essentially the directive that we had joining Haven Life and MassMutual was to take a fresh look at annuities and come up with an all-digital product concept focused on the underserved middle market that solved a need. Other than that, the mandate was to “Be as innovate as you can.”
IIR: Did Haven Life’s technology focus facilitate your work?
BB: Yes, absolutely. Their technology accelerates product creation cycle. Instead of 18 to 24 months it typically takes with legacy policy admin, we were able to move from concept to approved product in about 9 months. Credit goes to Haven Life—they have built very robust suite of back office and policy admin functions proprietary to them that has let us get to product much faster.
IIR: What were some of the challenges in developing AgeUp?
BB: In addition to the technology work, we needed to do customer research. We spent about three or four months surveying and reaching out to individuals. We did mock sales calls to understand the questions people would ask. We used the feedback to understand which concept would have more traction, and how we should refine it.
We followed a true innovation process, seeking to create a fully new product rather than tweaking existing offerings. The background of the team is very much in the world of consumer web startups, so the concepts of product ideation and development were very familiar to us. Prior to our annuity specific project, we started with personas and then identified key pain points—things consumers wanted to protect that weren’t being addressed.
IIR: What is AgeUp? How would you describe it?
BB: I’ll start with noting that one of the “Eureka!” moments we came upon in his project was that there are many people dying later. There isn’t a long tail product covering a long life, and so the family bears a burden. That’s why people buy long-term care. There hasn’t been a product for covering the long tail of living longer than expected, which creates financial risk for the family.
That was the kernel of the idea. We think the intergenerational take is cool, and not what people tend to think about in a product. It’s also designed to be accessible to broad swath of the population. To be a true long tail, has to cover a longer period. Most annuities go up to 85, this goes up to 100. We designed for that long tail piece.
IIR: What were the major stages of development?
BB: The first stream was conception and design. Then we had to get the product on to the back-office systems, e.g., policy administration and billing, needed to sell and service the product. The third stream was building the front-end customer experience, including the brand design and the full end-to-end customer experience.
IIR: How do you reach the appropriate target customer for AgeUp?
BB: We had a three-pillar marketing plan. We had to develop a publicity plan for what was, at least in the minds of customers, a new product category and a new value proposition. We developed a heavy narrative component about what it was and why it matters. Second, we worked with financial bloggers focused on the younger side of Gen-Xers to figure out ways to get product narrative in the discourse. The third pillar was a focus on social media, largely Facebook and Instagram, distributing compelling advertising about AgeUp. We’re looking to attract people in their 30s and 40s, the kind of customer segment who is not typically working with a financial adviser or insurance agent.
IIR: What are Haven Life’s expectations for the product?
BB: Luckily, for the product launch, there aren’t any. It’s just too early. Everybody realized at the start that if we’re creating a totally new value proposition, you can’t measure and forecast as you would for an existing product line. So, the marketing strategy for the first six months is all about introducing the narrative to the world.