InsurTech Ohio Spotlight Interview with James O'Hara
James O’Hara is the CEO and Co-founder of ConsumerOptix, the only multi-carrier term life platform leveraging AI to match consumers with the most compatible carrier, products & benefits, premium and family value. ConsumerOptix platform is “consumer-facing” but only available via brokers, agents and advisors. James was interviewed by Andrew Daniels, Founder and Managing Director at InsurTech Ohio.
James, why has the life insurance space been getting so much attention recently?
“In the past two years, we’ve seen the largest growth in life insurance applications. We've also seen an increase in mortality rates attributed to the global pandemic, which drew awareness to life insurance, a topic that people can be afraid of or are uncomfortable talking about. Consumers and employees are becoming more aware and cognizant of their mortality and loved ones' mortality, so they're looking into life insurance.
Another reason is the innovation in the life insurance space. ConsumerOptix is one of the leaders in that space, and the fact that we can make a life insurance policy available to an employee or a consumer from their phone (from multiple carriers) in less than eight minutes makes it more accessible and compatible with our target market. Also, the fact that medical exams and blood draws are not required and applicants don't have to engage with a broker or agent (unless they so choose) makes it a much easier product to consume.”
Has there been a shift in who is buying life insurance, and what does that mean for the space?
“It’s been an empirical shift. Not only has there been dramatic growth in life insurance applications in the past two years, but it’s the greatest growth since the early eighties. Empirically, that growth has come from Millennials and Gen Z, a group of people that have become more aware and educated about life insurance. When younger people are buying life insurance, it means longer term contracts. You've got a customer for much longer than someone who's buying life insurance in their fifties.
Life insurance is different from home and auto as it’s complex, and you don't have to have it. Millennials and Gen Zs are not being educated on the intricacies of life insurance, but they are thirsty for knowledge and want to make educated decisions. That’s where the shift has come from, which is a tremendous opportunity for the industry.”
How do you view brokers in this process? Are they needed, especially when you focus on Gen Z and Millennials? How do you empower existing channels?
“This is part of our secret sauce, and we think this is a really important concept to understand. We do have competitors. I would say that we are differentiated from our competitors in that we offer multiple, term-life insurance carriers. We leverage AI and consumer psychographics. Our competitors start with a direct-to-consumer approach while ConsumerOptix is based exclusively on a broker, agent and financial advisor distribution. When you go to purchase life insurance on our platform, the only place you see the name ConsumerOptix is in the Terms of Services. Our competitors begin with getting consumers and employees to understand their brand and value; ConsumerOptix starts and ends with the existing insurance distribution channel.
ConsumerOptix empowers the agent/advisor to offer our platform through their channel, so it's their logo, headshot, contact information, color scheme, one-click posts to social media, etc. The good news is that a property and casualty agent, as an example, has a book of business. Right now, that book of business is heavily leaned almost exclusively toward the home and auto space; life insurance is a fraction of their business.
Why is that? Because they're reluctant to disrupt their core book of business on sensitive topics such as marijuana usage, cancer diagnoses, DUIs or bankruptcies. With ConsumerOptix’ platform, agents and advisors can make our platform their own and market themselves with personalized, branded videos and social media integration. This helps their book of business attain a bound policy in less than 10 minutes.
Millennials and Gen Z’s are doing everything instantly, online; it’s the expectation. The days of sitting down with your broker, doing paperwork, bloodwork and waiting 30 to 45 days are over. The key thing is that it doesn't mean it's mutually exclusive. The agent can still support the life insurance acquisition process. We want them to promote themselves and empower them to capture the business that they're traditionally leaving on the table. Our platform accomplishes these objectives.”
Why is the education of consumers so important in this space?
“We've worked with major carriers, and education has been one of the primary components. In our work with The Hartford, it was more on the employee side. We're now more focused on the consumer side but still focused on both employee and consumer education. The reality is that most Americans don't understand life insurance. Ask your neighbors, ‘What's the difference between a term policy and a permanent policy? What’s level-term vs. declining term?’ They don't know. Frankly, it's not just the consumers and employees who don't understand the intricacies of these very valuable products. The distribution channel doesn't really understand it either. Underwriting changes constantly and it’s tough to keep up.
We use marijuana as a classic example. Underwriting on marijuana has changed dramatically and constantly for the past four years, down to changes in the last month. This type of issue makes education critical for both consumers and employees. We believe that our technology and consumer psychographics with personalized, interactive video is the singular best way to educate Americans who are undercovered or have no life coverage at all.
Certainly, not one size fits all. The way that one thinks about life insurance is different from the friend, neighbor or co-worker, so you have to be able to leverage psychographics to understand how to best communicate the value proposition of life insurance. We communicate on a one-to-one basis with a consumer at the point of sale to make sure they're making the most educated decision. I used to say that we want to become the Amazon of life insurance. Now, I say we want to become the Credit Karma of life insurance. We want to be able to match carriers and products with consumers and employees that make the most sense based on actual data and preferences and make sure that match is going to be productive for the carrier, distribution channel of brokers, agents, advisors and, most importantly, the consumer.”
What does life insurance look like in five years?
“ConsumerOptix is a leading life insurtech. The fact that we built native application data integration with four leading carriers makes us stand apart from our competitors. The carriers that we've partnered with have the technology on their backend to allow an advanced insurtech like ConsumerOptix to partner.
Are there others? Yes, there are three that we have in the queue right now, but the reality is there are dozens upon dozens of carriers that simply don't have the technical capability to partner with us. So, where do I see the space going? I see the carriers finally realizing they need to up their game so that they can enable a consumer or an employee to acquire life insurance from their phone in minutes. If you're not doing that, you're missing the boat. The space will change because the carriers will become more technologically advanced, and ConsumerOptix will push them in that direction.”