Archive for January, 2012

Premiums to match your DNA?

Posted by Steve

An insurance joker once professed, “Insurance employees don’t need titles on their business cards; white shirts actuarial, blue shirts marketing, black shirts underwriting”. Underwriters are viewed as the morgue of an insurance company, “the policy prevention department” as my business partner once put it. Assessing individual mortality is part science and part luck. But the advances made in genome sequence are going tip the scales greatly towards the world of science.

The X Prize Foundation is offering US$10M to the first team to sequence the genomes of 100 centenarians.  In layman’s terms “find the genetic code for those that live beyond 100 years”.  The competition starts Jan 2013, and the sequencing has to take place in 30 days.  The competition aim is two-fold. First, find a way in which genomes can be sequenced accurately in a relative short period of time, second, determine what genetic pool is consistent with longevity. No easy task apparently (read the article in the economist for more info).

Back to the black shirt underwriters. The ability to sequence genomes quickly will make the cost of getting a report on an individual’s DNA make-up much more affordable. A hair sample will give an underwriter an accurate description of the likelihood of all or any serious alignments that may linger, and a much better view of longevity. No more blood or urine tests; simply send a hair sample and with-in minutes the underwriter will have a health assessment waiting on their PC with the aid of some ingenious piece of software. The push to economise genome sequencing is going to revolutionise the underwriting world, and my pick is it is going to happen a lot quicker than underwriters are prepared for.  Resistance to change will fall by the wayside when their masters learn of the cost savings to be made, and the improved outcomes these new techniques will deliver, particularly when underwriting for critical Illness and disability products.

The tag-line of the future?……  Life insurance premiums as unique as your DNA

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