Agile Innovation: How MIB Delivers Value for the Life Insurance Industry


October 28, 2021

The digital era has introduced unprecedented change to the life insurance industry, and many carriers find themselves scrambling to keep up. As a trusted partner for more than 100 years, MIB is in a unique position to help by leveraging our deep connections and engaging our members to accelerate product innovation and drive value in the life insurance industry.

MIB Takes an Agile Approach
Have you ever tried a new product or service and wondered, "What were they thinking?" Most of us can relate to trying out new products and services that seem as if they were developed in a lab or conference room with little input from those for whom the solution was intended.

MIB embraces the philosophy that creating solutions the market needs and wants requires directly involving the market. MIB's product development philosophies were born from a methodology known as Agile development. Agile helps organizations deliver value by breaking down complex projects into phases, reducing waste and unnecessary steps, and managing projects by working in iterations.

A key aspect of Agile project management is the continuous feedback loop involving both team members and customers. The day-to-day challenges involved in selling and underwriting life insurance are varied and nuanced. Gaining a broader perspective from those experiencing these challenges first-hand is critical to the product development process. With most life insurance companies maintaining MIB membership, we are uniquely able to engage with the industry and ensure our product innovations add real value.

5 Principles to Market-Driven Product Innovation
Here's a high-level look at the principles MIB follows to bring that outside-in approach to product innovation.

#1 Identify unmet needs. All innovation starts with MIB members. Because we maintain day-to-day contact with the industry, we can identify common challenges. We work with our members to better understand the nuances of these challenges and the impact they have on their organizations. Our members also help us prioritize our focus so we're always working on the challenges that matter most.

Jumbo treaty violations are an excellent example of an unmet challenge we addressed using MIB's Agile innovation methodology. We’ll use that initiative to illustrate how MIB used the Agile methodology and collaborated with members and partners to bring the MIB Jumbo Service to market.

In 2017, we conducted a study and found that around 40% of jumbo policies were at risk of being in violation, and 80% of those were outside the contestable period. When we raised these findings with our members, we learned two things. First, most of them were aware of the risk treaty violations represent, but they did not realize how much was at stake. Second, very few had budgeted adequately for jumbo treaty violations.

#2 Recruit industry partners. Once a need is identified and validated, we search for industry partners that bring data and/or expertise that can add value to the innovation process. For the MIB Jumbo Service, TAI was a natural choice. TAI offers the industry's only comprehensive inforce policy management software. The company's customers are responsible for an estimated 74% of all inforce policies in the US and 90% of all at-risk jumbo policies.

But there's more to a successful partnership than the skills and connections a partner brings to the table. They also have to share our philosophies and commitment to the process. This includes committing to the Agile product development process, including daily standups, short-term sprints, and market validation. Philosophically, TAI and MIB are a great match.

#3 Establish a dedicated collaborative team. One of the biggest advantages of Agile is the dedicated team who are working together to build and enhance solutions and are empowered to make decisions. At MIB, that team includes development, QA, product owners, project management, and business owners. Everyone has a voice – no matter their position in the company. This brings diverse thinking and a clear understanding of the objectives to the project. Because the team is empowered to make decisions, they do not need to wait for approvals, streamlining the overall process.

#4 Start with a minimum viable product (MVP). Breaking a larger project down into shorter work cycles is core to Agile product development. Instead of thinking about innovation as something that takes years to develop and gets released with much fanfare, we break solutions down into minimum viable products, or MVPs. Together with our member advisors, we design and pilot the MVP and then conduct an analysis to confirm the solution delivers the desired stakeholder value.

To validate the MIB Jumbo Service, we launched an MVP program with six participating carriers and reinsurers to validate the solution and provide real-world feedback. When we ran a report against 4.5 million in-force data records from TAI and over 3 million application records from the MIB Insurance Activity Index, we identified hundreds of potential violations for each of the participating insurers.

#5 Establish a continuous feedback loop. As well-acquainted as MIB is with our industry's challenges, it's our members who have to deal with them every day. It's critical to build a continuous loop of member feedback into every phase of the innovation process.

During the development process, we met with our MVP members every two weeks to update them on our progress and gather their input. This allowed us to course correct, if needed, and provided ideas for innovations that our internal team hadn't considered. The MVP group also served as our beta testers and early adopters, giving feedback on the useability of the solution, the value offered, and ultimately, pricing validation.

Learn more about the MIB Jumbo Service by reading our other blog: An Answer to One of the Life Insurance Industry's Most Costly Concerns.

MIB Provides Neutral Ground for Collaboration
The members who provide initial input, the MVP program participants, and even the partners we work with to develop solutions are often fierce competitors in the insurance marketplace. Tackling issues like jumbo treaty violation often requires competitors to collaborate, but that can be problematic due to conflicts of interest and sensitivity to proprietary information.

For over 100 years, MIB has had a trusted relationship with the majority of life insurance carriers. This puts us in a unique position to help foster collaboration between competitors while preserving the privacy of sensitive data and information. Serving as a neutral partner, we are able to bring key industry members together to help solve some of the industry's toughest challenges.

Have a challenge you'd like help solving? Reach out to us at

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