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How good is Zurich’s Pre-Application Tool?

How good is Zurich’s Pre-Application Tool?

In reading this article you will understand:

  • What Zurich’s pre-application tool does.
  • How to use the tool.
  • What results it can provide and how to get the information you need if it cannot.

Where a client has a pre-existing medical condition or other disclosure on an application, understanding how each insurer would underwrite them and the likely decisions can be time consuming and laborious. Calls to pre-app underwriting lines can mean long periods spent on hold and doing this across multiple insurers can be frustrating. Zurich have today launched a new tool designed to provide indicative decisions in much the same way as a pre-app underwriting phone line but in a fraction of the time. With the promise of 90% of applications receiving indicative terms (based on previous experience) it sounds great and in this article we delve into the detail to find out what the new pre-application tool can really do.

The pre-application tool powered by iPipeline’s SSG Digital technology can be found on Zurich’s secure adviser portal and is able to provide indicative terms for life cover, critical illness, income protection, waiver of premium and total & permanent disability. Importantly it uses the same engine and underwriting rules as applications and as such will provide exactly the same decisions (albeit indicative at this stage) as a submitting application.

How it works

The tool itself loosely follows an online application journey, however there are some notable differences in order to help advisers get to an indicative decision quicker.

It starts by collecting the basic client and policy details that might have an impact on the decision given such as age, gender, smoker status, height and weight and the sum assured for each benefit type.

Throughout the input of data, the adviser can skip questions if they do not know the answer or are unsure. Where this is done on questions like height and weight or occupation, Zurich will make an assumption that the clients’ BMI or occupation pose no added risk and therefore will not impact the end decision given.

Once the basic client and policy details are input, the adviser is then asked if there are any disclosures to be made in six specific areas:

  • Family history
  • Habits & lifestyle
  • Medical
  • Occupation risks
  • Pursuits
  • Travel

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At this stage the adviser only needs to select the areas where a disclosure will be made. As such there will be no further questions asked on the areas where there are no disclosures. If an adviser is just checking Zurich’s stance on a high BMI or wants to know whether medical evidence would automatically be requested on a high sum assured they need not select any of these areas and can continue straight to the results.

Where one of these areas are selected the adviser is then taken to a screen which will ask more questions about the specific disclosure. These questions will mirror the questions that Zurich ask within their full application for each disclosure type and are rendered dynamically so that you only see questions that relevant to the previous disclosure that has been made.

Where a pre-existing condition is being input, Zurich first provide a list of disorders that are categorised into the area of the body they affect along with the most common types of disclosures such as cancer, diabetes and mental health. Advisers can then select the relevant disorder or condition and view a drop down list of the specific conditions to select from.

Some advisers however, may have clients with a pre-existing condition that they are not familiar with and as such they might not know which category to search in. In such cases, Zurich have added a handy search feature that enables advisers to type the specific condition in and as they type will be presented with a list of matching conditions. What is particularly impressive about this feature is that Zurich have built up a data base of the different names and aliases of each condition so if a client calls their condition by a different name, this will still appear making life a little easier for advisers.

Once the specific condition(s) is found and selected the adviser can then move on to providing more details. Again the questions asked and response options on each condition will mirror a full application and an adviser can input as much information as they have available.

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Where they do not have the information they are able to skip the question. In such scenario’s Zurich will use their experience of that particular condition and use the most likely answer, based on all other disclosures, within their end decision. For instance, if an adviser was entering details of a client with adult onset diabetes and didn’t know whether the client had been hospitalised with a diabetic coma in the last 5 years, this question could be skipped and Zurich would assume the answer is “no” as very few people with this condition suffer from a diabetic coma.

What results can the tool provide

Once all details have been input, the tool will then take the adviser to a results screen that will either give an indicative decision that would likely be given at point of sale. Based on previous experience, Zurich believe that circa 90% of cases run through the tool will be given an indicative decision and the tool is able to provide any decision that might be given to a completed application ranging from standard rates, accepted with a loading (as a +x% or £x per mille), an exclusion, postponement or decline.

Where an indicative rating is provided, Zurich will also provide a minimum and maximum rating (this could be a decline) they might apply once full details are received. This again is based on experience of the ratings they have previously given and how these have changed after receiving more details. This is particularly useful for advisers to understand in order to manage expectations if Zurich is the insurer they make the full application to.

As well as displaying the indicative decision for the benefit(s) the adviser has selected, the tool will also provide an indicative decision for any other benefits they have not selected. This can provide a useful opportunity to upsell to clients where favorable terms are offered.

If the sum assured and age means that the client will breach non-medical underwriting limits or a disclosure means evidence will definitely be required, the system will set out what medical evidence will be requested. Unfortunately, where an underwriter needs to assess a case manually an indication of the medical evidence that would likely be requested is not displayed.

For completeness, advisers are able to view and edit the inputs they have made and Zurich will provide a list of the assumptions they have made where questions have been skipped. This could be used by advisers in order to go back to their client to obtain these answers and re-run the results to see if this makes any difference to the rating.

In the 10% of cases where the tool is unable to provide a decision (or if an adviser wants to discuss the decision with an underwriter), advisers are able to either email or call a Zurich underwriter with the reference number the tool provides and they will be able to access the information provided and give further guidance.

Overall the Pre-Application Tool from Zurich is very impressive and should save advisers a lot of time. It will enable advisers to better understand how Zurich will underwrite clients at any time of day, 365 days a year whilst providing the range of likely outcomes across all benefits. I would like to see more information provided on how decisions have been reached and what is likely to lead to an increase/decrease in ratings, however these are minor things given this is a pre-application tool and could be addressed in future releases. Even in the absence of these functions it is by far the best pre-application underwriting tool we have seen from an insurer.

Things to reflect on for CPD:

  • How will this help you with your pre-application decisions?
  • What demographics of your clients will it be most helpful for?
  • What other application features could be developed to help you further? Why would these be valuable?

About The Author

Adam Higgs

Adam leads Protection Guru's detailed protection research and benchmarking of both product and operation features provided by insurers and has a vast knowledge of the protection market. He has been instrumental in building the protection comparison service Quality Analyser and maintaining the data to enable adviser to quickly and easily compare protection products based on qualitative measures. He also works with adviser firms to help in panel reviews and with insurers to help them understand the shape of the market, their strengths and the areas that could be improved in their products. In his spare time and when not spending time with his wife and two children, Adam is a keen Arsenal fan and enjoys hacking his way around a golf course.

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