Beyond the Phone Interview

Telephone Interviews Using Experienced
Underwriters: 10 Years Later

A new article by Lincoln Tedeschi in On The Risk examines the value and evolution of using experienced underwriters to conduct telephone interviews.

The downturn in the economy has taken a toll on all market sectors, and life insurance underwriting is no exception. Over the last decade, the industry has gone from frenzied demand and escalating salaries to the current environment where good underwriters are unemployed. Smart insurance companies, however, such as United Home Life, Jackson National, Physicians Mutual, Genworth and Unity Life have recognized the value of available underwriting talent.

IBU introduced the model to use experienced underwriters to conduct telephone interviews ten years ago [Delivering on the Promise of Tele-Underwriting by Using Experienced Underwriters to Conduct Interviews]. Instead of using customer service representatives with rigid scripts and drill down questions, the new approach applied the skills and insight of experienced underwriters to instinctively ask reflexive questions together with Internet technologies to deliver better interviews and faster turn-around time.

While the model was first viewed by the industry with healthy skepticism, it has more than proven its value. Since 2000, experienced IBU underwriters have conducted tens of thousands of telephone interviews for underwriting departments. In numerous individual studies, companies have determined that interviews by underwriters provide more reliable information, reduce the need for attending physician statements (APS), improve time service and support agent retention.

What’s more, the IBU model has evolved in response to market demand to better serve home office underwriting departments. What began as a novel approach to tap into the talent of experienced underwriters is changing the way that many underwriting departments do business. Interviews by underwriters have been used as an APS alternative for specific impairments and applications. Improved web-based tools have allowed voice signatures and real-time authorization to access MIB prescription histories, which in turn has opened the door to point-of-sale underwriting. Most recently, the model is being applied to provide physician questionnaires to clarify and even replace APS’s.

Read or download the full article on the OTR website.