Steve Ruggieri knows that accelerated underwriting platforms are bringing positive changes to the life insurance industry and are important tools for BGAs to recommend to producers. But the principal and co-founder of Commonwealth Capital Brokerage, LLC wanted to get some personal, hands-on experience with the process.
“When you’re recommending [something] to our producers who are then, in turn, recommending it to their clients, you kind of put yourself out on a limb when you don’t have control of the process,” he says. “It can reflect negatively if it doesn’t go well—or positively if it does.”
Steve had previously tried out the accelerated underwriting programs of several different carriers. Most recently—with himself as both insured and agent—he submitted an online EZ-App for a term policy through Protective and experienced the Protective Life Underwriting Solution or PLUS.
PLUS is designed to underwrite Protective® Classic Choice Term or Protective Custom ChoiceSM UL applicants with the least amount of invasive requirements possible, giving them the potential to qualify for accelerated underwriting. For producers, both the EZ-App and PLUS provide a ‘submit it and forget it’ process that requires less time and effort than traditional paper processes.
For Steve, whose greater Philadelphia brokerage has been working with Protective for the past six years, his recent experience with PLUS was incredibly streamlined, start to finish. He submitted the EZ-App on July 24, did the TeleLife® interview that afternoon and was approved on July 27. The policy was in force on August 1: “Seven days, including a weekend, “ he says. “And, it would probably have been even quicker if I’d done electronic policy delivery.”
“I was really, really pleased with the platform,” Steve says of his PLUS experience. “The online submission was easy—probably even easier for me because I had all [my own] information at my fingertips.” After dropping the ticket, Steve recalls getting the call for the underwriting interview within an hour. But, it was the quality of the TeleLife interview—and the interviewer herself—that he says amazed him the most.
“What I was most blown away by was just how interactive the rep was… how good and cordial she was at handling the sensitive questions. It’s only a 20- or 30-minute phone call, but it wasn’t like she was just a robot on the other end of the phone. If we’re having our producers recommend it to their clients and they have anywhere near the experience I had, it would certainly be a positive reflection on everybody.”
Steve agrees that Protective’s decision to employ its own interviewers, as opposed to outsourcing the interview process, was a big factor in the seamless, responsive interview he experienced. And that’s exactly why interviews are performed directly by Protective employees – to maintain that consistent quality standard— which is especially critical for both the clients being interviewed about their health and for the producers who recommend them to Protective.
Steve noted that while many producers have been ramping up their online submissions, others are not so eager to embrace them. He notes that those who’ve been hand-writing familiar, paper applications for years can often write faster than they can type. But, he adds, it’s only a matter of getting producers ‘over the hump’ of trying an online submission just once. He recalls one such producer, who “never in a million years would have submitted an e-app, now loves them.”
There are clear benefits for producers once they become comfortable with online submissions. The biggest challenge used to be that online applications were just electronic versions of traditional applications, which made them clunky and time consuming. But, Steve says, continuing to keep the required information as condensed as possible is the key to a streamlined process. To populate an e-app, “it’s easy for a producer to shoot off a quick email to a client or call them and walk through it,” he says. “It probably takes 10 minutes.”
Leveraging PLUS also means that producers can focus more time on building their business. “You can go out and spend that time with the clients who are a little bit more challenging, or who have larger policies that require more time and effort,” he says. But he’s also quick to point out that producers shouldn’t be overlooking the term business, for which most online applications are submitted.
“A lot of times, I think producers overlook some of this business because they don’t feel like going through the traditional paper app and full underwriting process,” he says. “But if we can get people to pay attention to this demographic and process it efficiently, it’s a significant amount of business.”
That’s why accelerated underwriting—in this case, Protective’s PLUS program—is so important in today’s insurance industry. “In a business where everyone’s looking at the margins and trying to make things move as efficiently as possible, these types of programs are unbelievably valuable,” he says. “It’s the overall efficiency and opportunity [that producers] can capture without investing a whole lot of time and resources.”
Steve stresses how important it is for BGAs to have confidence in the ease and effectiveness of accelerated underwriting process—and the credibility to convince producers to migrate to more online application submissions. For Steve, that added confidence and credibility came from his personal experience with PLUS.
“That’s definitely part of the reason I went through the process myself, he says. “So that when I talk to producers, I’m not just saying it because I think it’s the case. I’ve actually gone through it, I’ve done it—and it works.”