Serum cholesterol: mounting evidence against?

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The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has just published a study the findings of which suggest that replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid does not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)1. Using data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE) which was a double-blind randomised trial conducted in the late 1960s/early 1970s, researchers found that linoleic-rich vegetable oil effectively reduced cholesterol levels but without any corresponding reduction in CHD or all-cause mortality. In fact, participants who had a greater reduction in blood cholesterol had a higher, rather than lower, risk of death: there was a 22%…

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On the cusp of a revolution?

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The process of life and disability underwriting varies from market to market. Those variations as they exist today have been driven by the prevalence of risk factors and the availability of reliable risk information, and not a little by history and culture (of consumers and of the industry itself) too. That differences in practice and process will persist is certain, as is that markets will develop at varying pace. But one cannot help but wonder whether underwriting is on the cusp of a real revolution. That revolution will be driven by ‘predictive modelling’, by which we mean the use of…

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Is the tail now wagging the dog?

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Maybe this is a sign of how far rules engines have come. Historically an insurer’s underwriting philosophy was documented in an underwriting manual, provided by a reinsurer or produced by the company itself. Sometimes the reinsurer’s philosophy would be supplemented by variations drawn up by the insurer and stored on the underwriting intranet or on paper memos. Then underwriting engines came along and the job began of producing a rule set in the engine that reflected the underwriting philosophy. Obviously it’s not quite as simple as that because the roles of an engine and of a manual can be quite…

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Data and technology – there’s no escaping it

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Yes, another article on data and technology. We make no apology for this: it seems to be the subject of the moment within our industry (no bad thing) and we ourselves believe it is something for which insurers, reinsurers and distributors – indeed all stakeholders – need to have a strategy. Technology and its implications – and they are far-reaching – should be firmly on your radar. First, consider some of the things happening now or gathering pace in the background: ‘23andme’ (www.23andme.com): genetic profiling for US$99. Following a ruling by the US Food and Drugs Administration 23andme no longer…

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Wearable technology – a user’s perspective (2)

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Gary has now had his Fitbit HR for about three months and, as promised, here is an update. As I reported before, the device really does show how much variation there is in my activity levels. It captures steps taken, miles walked, calories burned, heart rate, minutes of activity and sleep pattern. The software that comes with it gives the ability to download data on a monthly basis, so here are some statistics from my first three months in a few key areas: Steps taken – ranged from a daily low of 5,500 to a highest of 31,000 in a…

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Wearable technology – a user’s perspective

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Gary is now the proud owner of a Fitbit. Read on to find out what he thinks of it and wearable technology in general. It has been difficult to attend an underwriting conference over the last two or three years without hearing about ‘wearable technology’, ‘personalised health’, ‘wellness programmes’ or similar. Alongside these have been discussions about ‘big data’, ‘predictive modelling’ and ‘predictive analytics’, and the potential uses of alternative data sources in the underwriting process for greater accuracy or efficiency. A subject that gets a lot of airtime is wearable technology and how this might be used. Keen to…

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Vitality

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Elsewhere we write about gamification (using game design techniques to obtain and maintain customer engagement). The proposition offered by Vitality Life and Vitality Health in the UK is owned by South Africa’s Discovery Life. Recently rebranded from PruProtect and PruHealth, these firms replicate their parent company’s innovative approach to product design and customer engagement whilst also collecting a lot of useful data about customers. Vitality market individual life, critical illness, disability income and health insurance products. Critical illness has been a feature of many markets worldwide, and the well established principle is the payment of a lump sum on diagnosis…

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A real game-changer?

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Game-changer? The term is often bandied about but almost as often reality fails to match expectation. But this time the game could be about to change – read on. Modern consumers looking to buy insurance are sure to check out the Internet. A good place to start might be a comparison site where one can get quotes from multiple insurers and then buy on line. The process for, say, motor insurance can take less than 15 minutes – although one might want to spend a bit longer reviewing the options and confirming one’s choice. However, if the modern consumer then…

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Gamification

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Consumers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable and engaged with technology. They are becoming more and more comfortable with researching and purchasing on-line. Just as retailers are working hard to make their technological interaction with customers more productive, insurers should do the same. Gamification is the use of game elements and design techniques for non-game-type problems. The theory goes that by using elements used in designing games, activities that might normally be dull and unexciting can be brought to life and become more engaging. It has become increasingly common in consumer culture and is used in many industries to increase customer engagement…

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The perils of foreign travel

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Earlier this year a major UK tour operator was ‘forcibly’ repatriating customers who had been enjoying a vacation in Kenya and cancelling all scheduled vacations to the area until 31 October. This was in response to a ‘travel advisory’ from the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office relating to a high threat of terrorist action by the Muslim extremist group Al-Shabaab. There is maybe a question mark over whether the company should have given is customers the option of staying until their original date of return, but one can understand that such terrorism alerts do land a tour operator in…

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