Industry veteran Nichole Myers joined the Ethos team in April as our Chief Underwriter! Nichole comes most recently from Swiss Re, where she served as Senior Vice President and Underwriting Innovation Lead for the Americas.
We sat down with Nichole to find out more about her vision for underwriting at Ethos, and the role it can play in agent success.
What drew you to Ethos?
I feel like I’ve been training for this role my entire career. I started in an insurance call center focused on supporting agents. Agents would say, “I sold his policy 10 years ago, and I’m meeting with my client in 10 minutes — tell me everything I need to know.” So I learned insurance through the lens of supporting and servicing agents. As a mentor once told me, sales isn’t everything but it’s always the first thing!
From the call center, I then moved into a classic case management role, and had planned on moving into sales from there but was diverted into underwriting by our Chief Underwriter. I thought I’d follow the traditional underwriting path of working toward becoming a chief underwriter myself. But Metlife decided to spin up a Direct to Consumer distribution channel supporting telesales agents. Suddenly I had an opportunity to step off the traditional path and build out field support for a brand new division. Working with the underwriting and sales technology ultimately inspired me to join Swiss Re, where I designed automated underwriting rules engines for some of North America's largest life insurance carriers.
Now it’s come full circle, to be able to come to this company and leverage my education and my technical skill set here. So everything drew me to Ethos! I love that we own our own tech stack. There’s great power in responsibility in building your own rules engine and new business workbench.
What are your top 3 goals at Ethos?
Number one, to continue to drive underwriting innovation while protecting mortality.
Number two, I have a masters in Behavioral Economics, so for me it’s all about the customer experience, and how we can use underwriting to create an incredible customer experience.
Number three, building trust between Underwriting and all of the internal org but also with our field. There can be an adversarial relationship between underwriting and the field, and I don’t want that experience here. We want our partners to trust us in our decisions and know they are getting the best first offer. We also want to be as transparent as is prudent, and are looking into providing additional resources for field underwriting.
Regarding your number two goal, how can underwriting create an incredible customer experience?
There are a couple of ways. First, the way you phrase questions. People don’t recall info with the way our apps have been built for years. How does the human brain think about financial decisions and medical history? How do we get to a world where you structure questions that engage with people and sync with how they think?
Second, creating positive, sticky reactions. As we make underwriting faster and more invisible, we create a slippery slope where we may not be making a deep, meaningful connection with the customer.
Before Ethos, people would keep their policy partly because the process took six months. That’s a negative sticky reaction. That’s the role underwriting has played in the past. That’s not what we want. We want a positive, sticky reaction to replace the tension, the hook, that underwriting has traditionally played.
Agents need to be aware of this, because not having that hook can lead to price shopping or policy lapsation. Ultimately we want the underwriting experience to be slick enough that agents can focus on building the relationship, on really connecting with the individual as to why they are shopping for life insurance. One thing we’re doing is we’re making it affordable for agents to offer that small term policy and focus on the relationship.
We do need to hear from agents whose customers are leaving—what can we do as an organization to help support that positive friction and that stickiness?
What else do you want agents to know?
I want agents to know that we respect the fact that their customer relationship is the most important thing. We want to make sure we are hearing their feedback on our process. We will continue to work on behalf of their customers who need coverage. We know this sale is one piece of a bigger relationship with your customer. We know the goal is not just coverage. Each and every transaction should build trust.