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How Digital Transformation Breaks Down Barriers to Life Insurance Sales at CUNA Mutual

Traditionally, consumers have faced significant barriers to buying life insurance, especially in the large middle market.

Life insurance products are complicated compared to most things we purchase. Contracts, riders, and tricky terminology are only part of the thicket of industry-specific obstacles that have grown up around what should be the simple act of buying a product.

What other buying process is as cumbersome and lengthy? In what other field are consumers asked for their most sensitive medical data or even their bodily fluids?

And even if the industry didn’t create these speedbumps in the sales process, many consumers don’t even seriously consider life insurance because it’s not always clear why insurance is so critical, what their needs are or what its true cost would be.

These are fundamental issues the industry continually grapples with. They underlie today’s carrier obsession with CX. Until they are solved, all the digital transformation in the world isn’t going to move the sales needle.

In a recent Life Accelerated podcast, CUNA Mutual’s Kevin Cummer, Director of Life Products, and Nick Rohan, Director of Partner Management, revealed how they have unlocked the key to revolutionary triple-digit growth in new channels by addressing those roadblocks.

Targeting the underserved life insurance consumer

CUNA Mutual has been built on its ability to focus on meeting the life insurance needs of Credit Union customers. But starting in 2016, CUNA launched its consumer brand, TruStage to support its goal of providing protection and a brighter financial future for everyone.

Under the umbrella of the TruStage brand, CUNA, has ‘leaned into digital transformation' as part of their strategy for demystifying life insurance and revolutionizing the purchasing process for consumers in the underserved 25-64-year-old, $35,000-125,000, income bracket who may find the products and process overly complicated.

How to leverage life insurance digital transformation to open new markets

Under the new brand and strategy, CUNA was essentially starting from scratch with a new business concept. This turned out to be a benefit because they were able to experiment with new ways of delivering more simplified products to market through a new partner channel. And to do that they needed to create products that didn’t require traditional underwriting and, around those products, build streamlined processes and educational tools to make purchasing easier for the middle market.

Some digital technologies are needed to create simpler experiences for life insurance consumers

CUNA used an integrated strategy for breaking down the barriers that can stop consumers from deciding to buy.

What the company understood was that middle market consumers have a lot of questions about how life insurance works, why and when it is needed and what it costs. And so, one of the first steps in making life insurance purchasing easier was to develop effective educational articles that address the biggest questions consumers have about life insurance. Things like:

  • What should I know when I apply for life insurance?
  • How could marriage affect my life insurance needs?
  • Why should I consider life insurance?
  • Is it less expensive to buy life insurance while I'm younger?

An integrated quoting tool is what makes this possible

Once a consumer decides to enter the buying process, they will likely have more specific questions. CUNA addressed these price and feature queries by integrating a quoting tool into the sales portal so the user can investigate their options. This seamless integration gives customers easy-to-understand information exactly when they need it, making them more independent and more confident. They have more control over the process and feel more comfortable with what is happening.


At the end of the sales process, CUNA also sought to replace traditional home office-based underwriting with automated decision-making that utilizes answers to application questions and data from external vendors.

“And that allows us to provide a coverage decision while the consumer is still online or on the phone with a sales representative. That whole process from start to finish can take as little as five to 10 minutes, as opposed to the one-to-two-month process that you would see with the traditional underwriting.”

Kevin Cummer, Director of Life Products, CUNA Mutual

Other life insurers are not your biggest competition

This application of new digital technologies has enabled CUNA to solve another perennial problem with life insurance sales. The process has so many steps executed over a long period of time that provide too many opportunities for consumers to opt-out.

“During the process of building out these simple products one of the themes that we heard was, our biggest competitor isn't another carrier‒ it's procrastination.”

Nick Rohan, Director of Partner Management, CUNA Mutual

Turning underwriting into an instant decision means that a consumer will have coverage when they get off the phone or finish their online interaction. That means they get protection from the moment they are ready for it and aren’t prone to second thoughts that can creep in during a long and complex process.

Simplification leads to sustainable growth in life insurance

By integrating digital technologies like illustration tools and portals with pared-down processes and simple educational content, CUNA Mutual has begun to break down barriers to purchasing life insurance that was holding back many consumers in their target middle market.

The big win came from CUNA’s ability to package this approach to mid-market sales and offer it to partners, opening up entirely new sales channels. The focus on simplicity and removing obstacles to life insurance ownership has enabled CUNA Mutual to realize triple-digit growth in this new channel.

To find out how CUNA Mutual chooses partners for their simplified sales approach and how they make it very easy for those companies to implement the process, check out the podcast.

And for more digital transformation insights from top life insurance execs check out the 5 Core Principles of Digital Transformation From 6 Top Life Insurers eBook

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