Obsolete password policies frustrate users. User friendly password policies actually increase security.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published new Digital Identity Guidelines this past June. The new guidelines address my pet peeves about the password policies you’ll find in most enterprises, on websites, and commercial software products.

Number one on my list is infuriating password complexity rules. You know the ones I’m talking about; “passwords must be at least 8 characters long and contain at least one special character (but not ^, #, -, or space), an upper case character and one number evenly divisible by 3”. And I have special love for password entry forms that let me enter a password and only then tell me their restrictions.

The new guidelines1 endorse pass phrases2. Here’s an example, “I’ve been juggling budgets since 1981!” That’s a thirty-eight character password that a user can actually remember and is more secure than a shorter password like Pa$$w0rd1. It also meets most complexity requirements, if you allow spaces!

The next irritant addressed is password expiration. That probably surprises you, right? Password expiration polices are so ingrained that their use is accepted without question. Technology and threats change. Password expiration policies are based on an obsolete threat model, incur support and productivity costs, and do little to mitigate risk. Here’s a short, authoritative article that gives more details; Time for Password Expiration to Die.

Finally, password entry fields should allow users to paste passwords in the field instead of forcing them to type the password in manually. NIST is implicitly endorsing the use of password managers. A trustworthy password manager is the only sensible way for users to use secure, separate passwords for all the services that are a part of their lives.

PCMag.com has a good review of the top password managers. I use 1Password, mainly because it has excellent support for the Apple ecosystem. I recommend LastPass to Windows users. By using a password manager, I only need to remember three pass phrases. The primary one is my domain password, the second is the master password for my password manager, the other is for the cloud service that contains my password vault in case I need to setup a new environment from scratch.

Each of my three pass phrases is over 50 characters long, but they are memorable phrases that I have no trouble recalling. And, since they don’t expire, my muscle memory allows me to type them in rapidly. The password manager will generate and remember long complex passwords for all the other sites and services and I can devote my shrinking hippocampus to better things.

It’s not often you can make life easier for your users and your systems more secure at the same time.

  1. The password section starts on page 13 of this document; https://doi.org/10.6028/NIST.SP.800-63b
  2. A passphrase is a memorized secret consisting of a sequence of words or other text that a claimant uses to authenticate their identity. A passphrase is similar to a password in usage, but is generally longer for added security.

Posted October 18, 2017 filed under Articles.

The life insurance industry is usually lagging and playing catch-up with technology. There are many reasons for the lag such as costs, compliance and adoption. The Life Brokerage Technology Committee (LBTC) has made it a priority to research and educate BGAs on emerging technologies. In the last two years, there have been some growing tech trends like accelerated underwriting, ePolicy Delivery, mobile apps for life insurance sales and marketing just to name a few. Today we will introduce you to two significant new technologies that are game changers!

You will first learn about Chatbots, which offer agents the ability to quote, field underwrite, get marketing information, and apply for insurance using plain conversation on a messaging app or voice assistant. We will then update you on Blockchain. In the last few years, you probably have come across a news story about Blockchain as it relates to Bitcoin, however Blockchain will affect the life insurance industry resulting in a monumental shift in the way sales, licensing, new business, underwriting, agent commissions and claims are processed. Blockchain is an industry disrupter; however, it will positively impact BGAs and agents.

 

What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is an automated, artificial intelligence system/program that responds to speech or text input. It can be used to help you find answers, help you with tasks or organization, and it can even be used for entertainment. A simple example of this interaction is when you ask your phone’s AI about the weather. Rather than looking for the information online or through an app yourself, it will find the details and provide them to you immediately through speech and text. Chatbots are used on messaging apps and voice assistants. Text messaging, Facebook messenger, and Skype are some of the more popular messaging apps. Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana are examples of voice assistants. Other popular ways people use chatbots are for news, creating a grocery list, personal finances, scheduling, and even friendship. Chatbots are used widely for customer support. Amazon Echo (Alexa) for example, is a voice assistant with a chatbot that does tasks you request and answers questions. The artificial intelligence in the chatbot learns how you ask for information and gets smarter the more you use it. Chatbots have personalities, designed so that the conversation experience drives more engagement. The learning curve is easy because there are over 1 billion users of Facebook messenger alone for example covering all age groups. Millennials are only interested in using chat to communicate and for getting their information. This means that more than likely agents are already engaging in chat with a messenger app for personal and business purposes.

 

How Will Agents Use a Chatbot to Sell Life Insurance?

When an agent runs a term insurance quote for example, they may use a mobile app or run it from a BGA’s website. If the agent needed to look up underwriting guidelines like height and weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and tobacco use, or a malady like diabetes, then the agent would look for the information in the carrier’s underwriting guidelines in a PDF or use a field underwriting software program. The same thing applies for looking up information on a life product such as issue ages or conversion options. A chatbot is an agent’s one stop resource to have all the information he/she needs right at their fingertips.

Scenario: Agent opens-up a chatbot using a voice assistant on his/her smartphone. The agent says, “I need a quote for a 45 year old male nonsmoker for $500,000 preferred.” Instantly the annual and monthly premiums for 10, 15 and 20 year term pops up on the screen. The client tells the agent he has high blood pressure. The agent then says to the chatbot, “blood pressure is 120/90.” The voice assistant shows on the screen and verbally says, “For blood pressure 120/90 the risk class is standard plus.” The agent then says to the chatbot, “Change the risk class to standard plus.” A revised quote appears instantly on the screen.  The agent can then apply for the insurance submitting the business through a term ticket like ApplicInt’s ExpressComplete right from the same chatbot.

Impact Technologies Group, Inc., has a series of chatbots for insurance called InsureBotsTM . They are used for life insurance quoting, field underwriting, annuities, long term care, marketing and agent recruiting. There are reinsurers creating underwriting chatbots. Carriers are starting to develop internally their own chatbots for marketing. The P&C insurance world is exploding with chatbots using them as a claims advisor for example. Agents who sell insurance utilizing their website will see affordable solutions for a Web-bot that will quickly and easily educate the client answering common questions, providing media like YouTube videos, and then moving the client to a quote and a pathway to apply for insurance. The consumer experience will be much smoother and engaging using a chatbot, helping the agent generate more business.

 

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is an algorithm and distributed data structure for managing electronic cash without a central administrator among people who know nothing about one another. Originally designed for the crypto-currency Bitcoin, the blockchain architecture was driven by a radical idea of a currency exchange system without any middleman, bank, country, or any other macro environmental factors.

In order to understand blockchain technology, it makes sense to first consider the “Internet.” It enabled a free, fast, and global exchange of information and ideas. The blockchain adds another dimension by making it possible to transfer and exchange value (and assets) without the involvement of intermediaries. Blockchain technology can also be used to store personal and other information in an accessible, but secure, environment.

 

How Does Blockchain Work?

Blockchain, also known as a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), was invented to support the Bitcoin cryptocurrency (Internet money). Bitcoin was motivated by an extreme rejection of government-guaranteed money and bank-controlled payments. The developer of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, envisioned people spending money without friction, intermediaries, regulation or the need to know or trust other parties.

 

How Can Blockchain Impact the Life Insurance Industry?

Imagine a world in the insurance industry where life insurance agents don’t have segregated sales and marketing, product, underwriting, new business submissions, policy servicing, claims management, and commissions systems and departments to deal with on a consistent basis. They can access, track, and transact every facet of a life of a policy (case) from inception to service within block(s) of a chain securely.

The basic principle that blockchain provides is decentralized storage of the data. Currently, at an insurer, this data is stored on a centralized network. In many cases, there are multiple databases/departments that are managing these transactions between the agent/brokers, BGAs, and the carriers. At times, the information is either disjointed or incomplete regarding customers and their transactions. Blockchain solves this problem for the life insurance industry by aggregating all the transactional, static and changed information, as well as all the data. It is processed and stored decentralized, un-editable, unidentifiable and securely.

One of the more disruptive applications of blockchain is the development of “Smart Contracts” models. Smart contracts contain self-executing protocols that work with a blockchain to enforce the performance of a contract across all counterparties. This can help with automating the verification of coverage and streamline claim settlements to improve operational efficiency and hence minimize cost.

Here are some other great benefits of blockchain that will impact agents directly:

  • Fraud Reduction: With blockchain technology, tampered documents or false billings are almost impossible to process since the data is immutable and decentralized. This will also reduce the amount of erroneous claim payments.
  • Policy Purchase and Underwriting Process: Policy issue process can be designed via a blockchain to create a combination of data providers, health exchanges, and insurers. Underwriting process can be expedited by obtaining the required information from health exchanges and data providers to expedite the underwriting and new business process with minimal customer effort.
  • Management of Agent Contracts: Blockchain can be used to instantly verify agent licensing, contracts and setup a notification system to alert agents and issue commission checks when the policy is signed.

The impending future of the life insurance industry could strengthen through an intelligent adoption of blockchain. Large insurers have the predicted possibility to greatly benefit from the many applications in digital currencies, fraud solutions and smart contracts. But the process of implementing blockchain will come with necessary tweaks to the underwriting processes and structures of policies, as well as risk underwriting.  Essentially, Blockchain reduces premiums collected by large insurance companies by allowing for cheaper and more consumer oriented products to be developed. Ideally, cooperation between blockchain startups, carriers, brokers, reinsurers and other segments of the insurance industry would lead to optimal efficiency, but those segments will be subject to disruption and may not follow suit. LIMRA’s recent announcement that is has established an advisory council to explore opportunities in the life insurance and retirement sectors to use blockchain distributed ledger technology is a good sign. It is indicative of our industry seeking the practical and collaborative solutions to use the blockchain technology in the right manner.

 

References for Blockchain:

  1. Financial Times article; Technology: Banks seek the key to blockchain: https://www.ft.com/content/eb1f8256-7b4b-11e5-a1fe-567b37f80b64 – retrieved on August 24th, 2017.
  2. Cognizant; White Paper;  Blockchain: A Potential Game-Changer for Life Insurance: https://www.cognizant.com/whitepapers/blockchain-a-potential-game-changer-for-life-insurance-codex2484.pdf – retrieved on August 26th, 2017.
  3. Team Brella; White Paper: https://teambrella.com/WhitePaper.pdf – retrieved on Aug 20th, 2017.
  4. Online article: https://medium.com/startup-grind/3-reasons-why-the-blockchain-revolution-is-finally-becoming-a-reality-63bdd90c89e2 – retrieved on August 27th, 2017.

Author’s Bio

Ken Leibow
Senior vice president, Impact Technologies Group, Inc., has enjoyed a career spanning more than 29 years, with an extensive background in distribution technology and back office systems. He previously worked for Genworth Financial, Mutual of Omaha and as vice president of operations at Diversified Underwriters Services, Inc. As COO of Integrated Insurance Technologies, Leibow built the largest life insurance data exchange hub in the industry processing over 1,000,000 policies per year and 30 billion dollars of annuities. Innovation in quoting and illustration tools, CRMs, agency management systems, eApp platforms, and ePolicy delivery are some key initiatives implemented by Ken during his career. Leibow can be reached at Impact Technologies Group, Inc., 619 S. Cedar Street, Suite J, Charlotte, NC 28202. Telephone: 704-927-3234. Email: Ken.Leibow@impact-tech.com.

Adnan Raja
is director, Underwriting R&D at John Hancock Life Insurance Company. He has more than 18 years of experience in technology and project management combined with a Masters Degree and project management title designations PMP and SDRM. As vice president of Field Technology Solutions at National Financial Partners (NFP), Raja lead the creation and administration of key business technology systems for a national network of financial advisors. In late 2015, he joined John Hancock as a director of Underwriting Research and Innovation. Raja can be reached via telephone at: 617-572-5183. Email: araja@johnhancock.com. 

Posted October 17, 2017 filed under Articles, In The News.

USA Today recently featured an article, “How will you spend your time in retirement?” that discussed using retirement coaches to help maximize the enjoyment of the free time retirement brings. Ready-2-Retire is one of the great tools available to assist that process.

Many retirees and pre-retirees don’t know how they’ll spend their free time after retirement. Ready-2-Retire kick starts the retirement planning process by helping retirees and pre-retirees envision retirement life and create plans to mitigate the risks retirees face.

Posted March 18, 2017 filed under Uncategorized.

Winflexbanner-01

WinFlex and PlanFacts together, in real time, shows how the proposed life insurance quote solves the survivor shortfalls and provides protection for the client’s family or business. Creating a personal financial story for the client along with the sales illustration helps the agent close more life sales! The PlanFacts presentation provides easy to understand content with colorful graphs designed for the client to understand why they need life insurance and feel comfortable about the purchase of the product being presented by the agent or advisor.

If you are a BGA, IMO, broker dealer or carrier back office, Impact has available consumer fact finders that the agent can send to their client to complete so that the back office sales specialist can run the illustration and import it into a powerful presentation in PlanFacts, which the agent can then present to their client. For those agents and advisors who use WinFlex and PlanFacts at point of sale, you can quickly and easily import the illustrations. PlanFacts tools are optimized for mobile devices, such as an iPad, with a slick interface designed to engage the client at the point of sale.

Cash Flow Decision

In WinFlex 6.5, you can export an illustration and import it into any of Impact’s PlanFacts tools when you are proposing life insurance. If you are proposing a permanent product like Index Universal Life for example, the premium, death benefit, loans, withdrawals and cash value of the illustration can be quickly imported into any of the PlanFacts tools where you are proposing life insurance. The PlanFacts tools that can import WinFlex illustrations are: Retirement Road Map, Cash Flow Decisions, Qualified Plan Concepts, and Business Succession Planning.

WinFlex 6.5 Illustration Export and Import into PlanFacts—Easy to Setup and Use

Winflex Impact sample

Have your WinFlex administrator or Ebix support turn on the Impact export feature in WinFlex 6.5. You can also contact Impact Product Support at 704-688-4000 or email to support@impact-tech.com.

  1. After you calculate the life illustration in WinFlex 6.5, you will see an Impact button next to the illustration PDF on the results Summary screen. See theWinFlex screen above.
  2. Click the Impact button and save the link file on your computer or network.
  3. When you are in PlanFacts tools proposing life insurance, such as Cash Flow Decisions, there will be an option to import the link file. Select Load Illustration from Link File in PlanFacts and then the Import file button to browse to the WinFlex file you saved and select the illustration file. See below.
CFD Import illustration 2

Posted February 9, 2017 filed under Uncategorized.

George C. Van Dusen presenting Ken with the 2016 NAILBA Chairman’s Award.

George C. Van Dusen IV, 2016 Chairman of the National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies (NAILBA), has selected Ken Leibow, Senior Vice President of Impact Technologies Group, Inc. as the recipient of the 2016 NAILBA Chairman’s Award. The honor was presented this morning at the association’s annual meeting, NAILBA 35, in Dallas, Texas.
The award, created in 2009, was developed to recognize the efforts of a NAILBA volunteer who has performed “over and above” normal expectations during the Chairman’s term.
In presenting the award to Leibow, Van Dusen shared, “[Ken’s] broad and deep understanding of the technology initiatives and solutions necessary to move the brokerage community forward has been demonstrated and well known for many years. Most notable, of course, is his commitment to and passion for the Life Brokerage Technology Committee, an independent working group whose purpose is to exchange information about technology related systems and services related to the marketing, sale, and servicing of insurance in independent distribution channels.”
He continued, explaining, “In addition to his work with the LBTC, he has served as contributor to Perspectives, a liaison and advocate with NAILBA for the LBTC, and in the past year, as a technology consultant to NAILBA’s members-only online community, NAILBA Network,” concluding, “We are delighted to continue working with you and the LBTC on your efforts to improve technology advances in the brokerage community.”

Posted November 17, 2016 filed under Uncategorized.

Posted November 10, 2016 filed under In The News, News, Uncategorized.

KLbiopicLeibow’s career spans more than 29 years with an extensive background in distribution technology and back office systems. He previously worked for Genworth Financial, Mutual of Omaha and VP of Operations at Diversified Underwriters Services, Inc. As COO of Integrated Insurance Technologies, Ken built the largest life insurance data exchange hub in the industry, processing over 1 million policies a year and 30 billion dollars of annuities. Innovation in Quoting & Illustration tools, CRMs, Agency Management Systems, eApp platforms, and ePolicy Delivery are some key initiatives implemented by Ken during his career.

Impact has always maintained a start-up mindset with its staff and Leibow knows what it takes to thrive in our environment.

“Impact’s success and longevity is due entirely to the talent and enthusiasm of our staff. Ken’s skills, experience, and energy perfectly complement our team. His deep industry knowledge will help us tap new market opportunities and broaden the market for our existing products and services. I’m excited to have him on board as a member of our senior leadership team,” — Heather Vaartjes, President and COO, Impact Technologies Group, Inc.

Posted April 11, 2016 filed under Uncategorized.