Haven Technologies Looks to Digital Platforms, Not Policies, as Product in Latest MassMutual Spinoff
The new company, which looks to market the digital platform created to run Haven Life, is betting the wave of innovation in life insurance has not yet peaked and that more players will look to buy instead of build as they upgrade.
- Terrence Dopp
- January 2022
- Product: Haven Technologies will offer companies both the “end-to-end” technology developed when MassMutual created Haven Life to market direct-to-consumer term products as well as migration services for older systems.
- Company: The new entity, which began operating late last fall, will function independently from its peer organizations, with insurance carriers and financial professionals as its customers. It is headquartered in New York.
- Movement: The COVID-19 pandemic shifted normal patterns of business and highlighted the need for life insurers to be centered on customer behaviors and adopt new technology in their operations.
The concept seems simple enough: The easiest way for a life insurance carrier to become more profitable is by selling more policies. Tried, true and tested.
But what if there's another way to find value in what you're doing?
That's the prospect behind Haven Technologies, a spinoff of Haven Life, which is nestled under the wing of insurance titan Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. The idea behind the venture is that the biggest issue facing life insurers is a technology gap in the computer systems that take a customer from the initial quote through claims management.
So, if Haven Life proved able to get up and running with a system built from the ground up, why not carve out a niche for a new subsidiary to sell that technology to carriers while its sister organizations focus on getting policies issued?
“What we know is that the industry is lagging in technology transformation,” said Yaron Ben-Zvi, chief executive officer of Haven Technologies. “It's not all that surprising really. Financial services more broadly tend to lag more consumer-facing markets. Insurance tends to lag more transactional parts of financial services, and life insurance tends to lag P&C when it comes to technology and moving things forward.”
Ben-Zvi was the founding chief executive of Haven Life, which initially set a goal of selling term policies up to $1 million in about 20 minutes and was billed as the “adult startup.” The new entity has more than 300 employees and is based in New York.
He declined to estimate the potential market for Haven Technologies products or give revenue projections, but he did address the important role carriers like Haven will have in the industry's future.
“It's taken a while but what we believe is that, if we look over the next five to 10 years, we know that this is no longer a 'nice-to-have;' it's a 'must-have,'” Ben-Zvi said. “In order to compete in the future world, carriers are going to have to modernize, they're going to have to transform. It's been put off.”
“In order to compete in the future world, carriers are going to have to modernize, they’re going to have to transform. It’s been put off.”
Haven Technologies is really a second-generation subsidiary of MassMutual.
It first founded Haven Life in May 2015 in an attempt to connect with a younger, digital-native population. The result was a brand-new, consumer-focused product that was chartered from the start to operate without the constraints of a more traditional model of life insurance and the older systems that plagued most carriers. The unique approach—startup in spirit—allowed Haven Life to operate as an independent subsidiary yet enjoy the backing and stability of MassMutual.
As Ben-Zvi tells it, there are three main advantages to upgrading systems: Newer platforms are more cost-effective (up to 50% less to run) and more convenient for both customers and advisers, and they allow companies to bring new products to market more quickly.
The last point was proven in March 2020 when MassMutual began planning for its HealthBridge program, which offered free online life insurance policies to front-line health care workers and volunteers fighting COVID-19. By mid-April of that year, the company had rolled it out by offering up to $3 billion in coverage to people in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The following month, it was expanded to five other states and quickly went nationwide. “We worked with them and in under a month got a new product up and running and to market, which was a time scale that was unheard of,” Ben-Zvi said. “We've seen that as just one example.”
Building a new system from the ground up can be a costly and time-consuming undertaking, while purchasing their platform off the shelf offers new and established players a way to compress both the time frame and outlay involved.
The company launched late last fall, making precise quantification difficult but Ben-Zvi said interest so far has been robust both through industry conferences and inquiries at the Haven Technologies website. Those showing interest run the gamut from established carriers looking for an upgrade and private equity firms who have acquired large, closed blocks of business, to P/C companies with life operations who are looking for new opportunities to cross-sell their products.
MassMutual, which has been a mutual insurer since its founding in 1851, offers products ranging from protection to accumulation. In the Top 25 U.S. Life/Health Groups contained in Best's Rankings U.S. Life/Health 6-Month 2021 Financial Results, ranked by six-month 2021 admitted assets as of June 30, it held the fourth-place spot in growth of its admitted assets, with its $357.01 billion rising 1.4% in the first half of 2021. Its operating entities have a Best's Financial Strength Rating of A++ (Superior).
Gareth Ross, head of enterprise technology and experience at MassMutual, said they gradually recognized an opportunity in marketing the technology platform that underlies Haven Life's direct-to-consumer offering and his company's core life offerings beyond customers to an audience that includes financial professionals and underwriters. Haven Technologies will operate independently from MassMutual, including having its own board of directors, business goals and objectives, technology footprint and employees.
“We know other providers are also seeking these benefits, including a better digital experience for customers and financial professionals, as well as operational efficiencies, and Haven Technologies can provide those capabilities,” he said.
Reaching the estimated 102 million Americans with a protection gap identified by industry tracker LIMRA has been key for the industry. LIMRA has found direct-to-consumer and digital sales are seeing prime growth, which older technology can inhibit.
Ross said digital transformation is a critical piece of MassMutual's strategy, allowing the company to reach customers “on their terms.”
In addition to the Haven Technologies move, in 2021 it launched the Advisor360 platform involving over 7,000 financial professionals, as well as online insurance agency Flourish and Blueprint Income, which he describes as a comparison engine for annuity providers. In all cases, the aim is a more digitally centered product, he said.
“We remain strategically focused on transforming to grow in a digital world, with plans to make all of our customers' journeys digitally enabled,” Ross said. “Additionally, we are always looking for opportunities that help us provide the best technology to deliver a seamless digital experience.“
There’s a feeling within the industry that the most pressing need from a technology standpoint is to improve customer-focused systems.
Ed Kohlberg, an AM Best director, said the COVID-19 pandemic was an accelerator to the movement that was already underway in the industry toward a heavier digital presence as traditional face-to-face sales and medical exams became impossible at first and then just cumbersome for some consumers.
He likens the Haven Technologies spinoff to the acquisition by Prudential of Assurance IQ in 2019. In that instance, Assurance IQ was growing a direct-to-consumer platform that Prudential bought for $2.35 billion in a move that allowed it to capture a greater piece of online sales without the lengthy development of a totally new system.
A May 2021 Best's Special Report, “Reinsurance, Autos and Health the Most Innovative Lines of Business,” found that, overall, more than two-thirds of life and annuity rating units are assessed as moderate (46%) or minimal (24%) in terms of technological innovation. Because the industry has such a long tail to its operations, it has lagged other corners of the insurance world such as auto coverage and health insurance in modernization.
There's a feeling within the industry that the most pressing need from a technology standpoint is to improve customer-focused systems, Kohlberg said. Solutions have been a mix of large players building or acquiring new systems in an effort to correct the situation, he said.
“We're seeing the large players in the industry certainly make a move at getting these platforms and having these platforms available and the smaller to midsized players can join in on the platforms,” he said. “For the smaller and midsized players, they don't have the deep pockets. They don't have the ability to get it wrong because it eats into their capital and it's an expensive game to play.”
Startups tend to fall on a continuum.
They can range from older, established players striking out on their own all the way down to the upstart disrupters looking to redefine an industry. Ben-Zvi said the reality of Haven Life was that it fell somewhere between those two ends but not purely in either camp.
“We're the magical combination of the best of both,” he joked.
“I think we're unique in that we bring not only technology but the experience of having technology born out of real-life needs,” he said. “Also, there are just a lot of people doing really interesting things out there right now.”