Episode 16

How John Hancock Has Incentivized Their Customers to Live Longer, Healthier, Better Lives

Over the last 100 years, life insurance has shifted to be more about death than actual living. John Hancock has changed that. With their focus on vitality and wellbeing, John Hancock and VP, Head of Behavioral Insurance Lindsay Hanson, reveal how they’ve partnered and innovated faster than ever before.

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Time Stamps

  • 01:18 How behavioral insurance differs from life insurance
  • 04:26 Lindsay’s role at John Hancock
  • 09:10 Key to building successful partnerships
  • 10:12 Engaging customers in partnership with Apple
  • 18:06 Cancer prevention in partnership with GRAIL
  • 20:02 Customer data privacy
  • 23:07 Evolution of customer engagement
  • 27:09 Summary of the episode


Where did the life insurance industry go wrong? To the average consumer, it’s perceived as more about death – than life.

John Hancock is on a mission to put the “life” back in life insurance. Sporting key partnerships with Apple and other tech companies, they’re helping customers live longer, healthier, better lives.

VP, Head of Behavioral Insurance, Lindsay Hanson, joins Life Accelerated to reveal how they’ve innovated with both amazing organizations and their own customers to bring about big change.

You’ll also learn how customer engagement will change in the future and how to secure personal health data.

Key Takeaways:

    • Mutual benefits aren’t enough to create great partnerships. John Hancock has found that having similar values and missions to move forward in lock-step is a key part of building successful partnerships.

    • To innovate, you must engage your customers, listen to them, and create great products to meet their needs. You cannot serve them in a silo.

    • With digital transformation, your organization collects more data on your customers. It’s your duty to be upfront and secure with their personal health data.

We’ve been able to be an innovator in this space by wanting to work with partners and having partners wanting to work with us…And that's really a key part to building partnerships—making sure that it's not only mutually beneficial, but you're trying to do the same things for the end customer. And that's really where the magic happens.

Lindsay Hanson

VP, Head of Behavioral Insurance, Global Strategy & Delivery, John Hancock

Our Guest

Lindsay Hanson

LinkedIn Website

As the Head of Behavioral Insurance, Global Strategy and Delivery, Lindsay is responsible for driving the successful execution of Manulife’s global Behavioral Insurance strategy, including growing sales, optimizing program economics to strengthen profitability, and improving customer experience and engagement. She works to build strategic business partnerships that transform the buying experience and expand on their new approach to life insurance, which helps customers protect their financial future while rewarding them for taking steps to live a longer, healthier life. Her team executes partnerships, collaborations and the development of new initiatives to achieve growth targets and continue building out a world-class customer experience for Manulife and John Hancock Insurance customers in North America.


Anthony O'Donnell: I'm Anthony O'Donnell and this is Life Accelerated, A podcast for life insurers striving to achieve digital transformation. Lindsay Hanson is Vice President and head of Behavioral Insurance at John Hancock. Probably many of our listeners will tie the term behavioral insurance to John Hancock's, now very well known vitality program.

We'll talk about how John Hancock and Manulife understand the term within a broader discussion about the company's pioneering work in the movement to make life insurance about not the mortality of the policy holder, but about living a more vibrant and longer. In this conversation, Lindsay discusses how data informs the experiences they're creating for their policyholders and how it becomes a kind of currency within a relationship based on consent and respect for privacy.

We talk about how the vitality program has evolved since it's debut in 2018, along with some stunning observations about the success of the new approach to life insurance. We also talk about John Hancock and Manulife's unique collaboration with Apple within the Vitality program, which incentivizes policy holders to track their fitness and health via a deeply discounted Apple watch.

John Hancock has been in the vanguard of one of the most interesting and inspiring developments in life insurance. Specifically, the shift in customer engagement from a discussion about the policy holder's mortality to one about the wellbeing of the policy holder. Lindsay, it must be very exciting to be an important player in that movement.

Lindsay Hanson: It's so exciting, Anthony, and thank you so much for having me at Manulife, John Hancock. We just, we fundamentally believe that this is the space that we wanna be in for life insurance, of bringing behavioral insurance to life insurance and creating a great experience for our customers.

Anthony O'Donnell: Why don't you tell us a little bit about what behavioral insurance means?

It's in your title, and it seems to be a very important term in the life insurance industry currently. Let's flesh that out a little bit so our listeners know what we mean.

Lindsay Hanson: Absolutely, and you're right, it's in my title. I'm the head of behavioral insurance for our global strategy and delivery of behavioral insurance.

And so what is that? How can we break that down? Essentially, if we think of traditional life insurance, Anthony, traditional life insurance, we all know it very well. You purchase it, you tuck it away, and you hope that it's not something that you need to think about or use, right? Because you won't be there when it needs to be used.

What behavioral insurances and what Manulife in John Hancock has. As we've created a unique type of life insurance, we've created a life insurance that interacts with its customers roughly 20 to 30 times a month, versus traditional life insurance, which is one to two times a year. So if you just think about that difference right there, it's phenomenal.

And what that means for us is that we're interacting with our customers by ways of helping them with physical activity, helping them with nutrition. But the behavioral aspect is that we're arming our customers with resources, tools, education, and rewards to help them live a longer, healthier, and better life so that they're in in control of this and they're able to enjoy the life insurance and make it about them while they're living.

Anthony O'Donnell: Yeah, that's a tremendous departure from the old-fashioned way. I mean, who wants to think about their own demise? Mu much better. Both for the individual psychology, but also just for the relationship between the policy holder and the carrier.

Lindsay Hanson: Absolutely. We've really changed how we interact with our customers and the relationship that we have. And what's amazing about it, Anthony, is we have customers that are maybe with. 10, 20, 30 years, but some for a lifetime. And so to create that base of helping them live longer, healthier, and better lives.

And we added that word better recently because that's really what we're doing through this is we've seen tremendous results from our customers of how they're engaging with us through this type of life insurance. And we've actually seen those improvements and we know that they're living better lives.

Anthony O'Donnell: Yeah, it seems really important to stress that it's not just a shift in emphasis in, in how one feels about the policy. It's actually an effort to make people live better and to live longer.

Lindsay Hanson: That's exactly right.

Anthony O'Donnell: All right, Lindsay, why don't you tell us a little bit about the specifics of your role at John Hancock and also its parent company, Manulife.

Lindsay Hanson: Yeah, so as I said earlier, I'm the Vice President and head of behavioral insurance, the Global Strategy and Delivery at Manulife in John Hancock, and that means I'm responsible for driving the successful execution of our strategy for this type of life insurance. So I work with colleagues across the globe.

We have Manulife, individual insurance, and group benefits in Canada. We have the individual insurance business in the US and then we have our Manulife move program in Asia. And so what I do with all of those markets and my colleagues in those markets is work with them to enable partnerships, help them enable sales growth opportunities and profitability of their businesses.

And also then making sure that we're always putting our customer at the forefront of these decisions that we're making, the products that we're bringing forward, and just making sure that that's at the center of all that we do. And a key piece to that, Anthony, is the experience that we're bringing forward, the journeys for our customers, and then also the engagement.

What is the data telling us and how do we use that to inform where do we go next? I'm personally super passionate about all things wellness and all of these different things that we're doing. So to have the job that I do every day match things that I'm passionate about personally has just been tremendous for me.

Anthony O'Donnell: Yeah. I understand you're a bit of an outdoors person.

Lindsay Hanson: Yes, absolutely I am.

Anthony O'Donnell: Yeah. Hiking in the white mountains, et cetera.

Lindsay Hanson: Yeah. Hiking in the white mountains, skiing in the white mountains, running. Anything that we can do to get outside and keep moving well.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, how do you relate that then to your work?

You're working day in and day out. You're dealing with colleagues at these two entities, and I would imagine that animates what you discuss with your colleagues, the way you're living yourself, and the insights that you have and the passion you have for, as they say, these days, living your best life.

Lindsay Hanson: That's exactly right.

I mean, living my best life is something that this organization, Manulife has really enabled us to do as a company. Whether it's just a change that we've seen in the past couple of years of different ways of working, but also how I've been able to work with colleagues across the globe, really how we never have before.

And so we're all aligned across on a mission and purpose to make decisions easier and lives made better. It's that simple for us as a company. And so working with colleagues across the globe with the same mission, with the same purpose, and with the same feel of wanting to help our customers live that longer, healthier, better life really makes my job so much easier.

I hear from my team and my colleagues often that some of my best conversations are when I'm outside walking or when I'm, you know, just doing something, you know, outside of the house or away from the computer because they really just get that general feel and passion.

Anthony O'Donnell: You know, one of the things I didn't anticipate when I discovered that I'd be able to talk to you was just how integrated your job was with both of the entities.

So I knew quite a bit about John Hancock. I'd done interviews in the past with John Hancock about the vitality relationship and the program. It was very interesting to see that your role actually straddles both companies, so to speak, so that you're working directly with colleagues in both. And, it was more than just that you had a big job that does that, that's kind of interesting between, you know, this very important American insurance company and it's Canadian parent, but also it seemed to say something about the openness of Manulife and the opportunism of Manulife in recognizing this shift in the way the policyholder insure relationship is understood and how then John Hancock is working with this openness to John Hancock, bringing in some of its experience and insights into Manulife itself.

Lindsay Hanson: Yeah so for us, Anthony, that's a great point. And just seeing how Manulife and John Hancock have continued to come together, whether it's across brands or whether it's across opportunities like this, behavioral insurance is a must win battle for us as a company.

And I say that and it, it may sound strong, but that's exactly what it is. We have some top initiatives that we're focused on, and this is one of them. It's meeting our customers and empowering our customers with the right tools that they need to live a longer, healthier life. And that's not just for a particular market.

That's not just for a particular cohort of customers, that's for all of our customers. And so when I say must win battle, it's one that we wanna continue to own. We wanna continue to be the top innovator in. And we're so proud to be the only life insurer across North America that has this type of life insurance.

And to be a leader in the markets that we play in in Asia with this type of life insurance.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well one, one word that came up in your comments earlier on was partnership, and I thought that was very interesting because we've seen across the insurance industry, including property casualty insurance, the InsureTech movement has manifested this change in how insurers source their capabilities and I gather that partnerships have become a very important part of developing the kinds of capabilities to create the kind of new customer experience that John Hancock and Manulife are dedicated to.

Lindsay Hanson: That's so true Anthony. This is not something we could have done on our own. We are very good as an organization at the financial tools that we need to build the products.

We need to build the life insurance we need to build and bring forward, but for us, it was about finding and seeking partners that do the things that we wanted to bring to our customers extremely well. So whether that's partners like Vitality to help bring this type of a program to life. Whether that's partners that we've brought to life through Amazon Grail that we just recently announced, Socky in Canada. So many different brands that we've partnered with, and we've been able to do that by being an innovator in this space by wanting to work with partners and having partners wanting to work with us that have like-minded values. And that's really a key part to building partnerships is making sure that it's not only mutually beneficial, but you're trying to do the same things for the end customer. And that's really where the magic happens.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, let's drill down a little bit further into the initiatives and the partnerships, a couple of which you've referred to Vitality. Maybe we could talk about Grail. This is the news that came up at the ITC show, and also your collaboration with Apple.

Lindsay Hanson: Vitality has been a partner of John Hancock since 2015 and has been a partner of Manulife for the Canadian market since 2016 for both individual insurance and our group benefit. Vitality has been a partner for us. Their parent company is Discovery out of South Africa. And we started working with them because when we looked at our offerings back, you know, starting in 2014 when we started to really analyze this, it was. We want to help our customers, but by the products that we have right now, we're not doing that. We talked about that a little bit earlier, Anthony, right? That one to two times a month tuck it away. And we sure hope that our customers live a longer, healthier life, but we're not doing anything to help them.

And what we saw in Vitality as a partner was a program, was the science, was all of the different tools. and some of the partners that we have today and that we started with to be able to bring that forward. So that's really been a great partnership for us. It's been a good foundation. It's been a great jump off point for us to start to engage with our customers in a way that we really wanted to change the dynamic of.

We wanted to hear from our customers. We weren't hearing from them before. We wanted to engage with them in a different way and offer them different opportunities, and that really opened the door for us to be able to do that and to partner with some of these other companies.

Anthony O'Donnell: I can imagine a light going off, you know, a kind of epiphany, like what if we were to attempt some kind of deeper engagement with our life insurance customers?

And I can also imagine that being greeted with a great deal of skepticism in, in the leadership of a company. I think it's very interesting that this relationship with vitality has worked out so well and has lasted so long and spreading to the parent company. What could you say about how the relationship has evolved?

I mean, in a. Just the fact that the relationship exists and it's been successful is kind of enough, right? It would be interesting, I think, to hear how some of the changes that have happened in, in the relationships, some of the features that have, become part of the program as it's evolved.

Lindsay Hanson: It's interesting, Anthony, when we started back in 2015, the program was, and I'll speak just to the US program for a moment. The program was based off of you buy our life insurance products and you're gonna get this vitality program if you choose to, if you choose to elect it, If you choose to put this rider on your policy, you're gonna get these benefits.

You're gonna get points to be able to equate to a status to save on your life insurance premium. We're gonna give you activity points, physical activity in those things. And it worked really well. We had probably about 30% of our customers wanting to come in and engage. But whenever we would go talk to consumers, we heard from consumers that nine out of 10 consumers wanted the life insurance that we were selling versus traditional life insurance, and this was all through third party. This wasn't me calling them and asking the question.

Anthony O'Donnell: You said nine out of 10. Nine out of 10. That's really surprising.

Lindsay Hanson: What's even more surprising, Anthony, is that seven out of 10 consumers were motivated to buy life insurance. It's not a product. We wake up and say, Gosh, I have nothing to do today. I'm gonna go ahead and buy life insurance because it's a wonderful experience to do. Right? But when you hear about this type of a product that gives you something back for everything that you're doing that gives you the control of what you pay for life insurance, that's pretty remarkable. And so to have nine out of 10 consumers want it to have and seven out of 10 consumers motivated to buy it. That's really when the light bulb went off. It was back in 2018 where our relationship and our relationship with our customers. When another level, and we really went all in. And so what I mean by that, in, in the US we decided we were no longer gonna sell life insurance without vitality.

It was no longer an election. At the time of purchase, we created a program called Vitality Go. Comes with every life insurance policy that we offer. We do have a premium version called Vitality Plus, which has those premium integrations, a few more bells and whistles, an Apple Watch program, those types of things that you can pay for.

And 68, 69% of our customers do for that, which is great. But that's really where we changed the game was in 2018. We went all in and I'm proud to share that uust two or three weeks ago, we did the exact same thing in Canada. We announced that we're going all in there. We're no longer gonna sell life insurance without vitality on it because that's how strongly we believe to be able to offer this to our customers.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, congratulations on that and I hope it goes very well. It seems to make sense now to jump ahead to Apple because, because what you said about adoption and how interested policy holders are engaging.

Lindsay Hanson: Yeah. Apple has really been a great collaboration for us. They have such a unique part of our program, and this is across North America. We have something called Earn Your Watch. And what that means is you can order an Apple Watch through our program. You pay anywhere from, you know, $25 down plus sales tax based off of your state or province. And then where you go from there is, it's in your hands. You have the opportunity over 24 months to pay nothing more for your Apple Watch. So what does that mean? That means that we're helping you to give you the tools to go through physical activity to close those active calorie rings. That's that red ring. If you're an Apple Watch user on there closing that and we give you a monthly threshold. And so you start at maybe $15 a month and you can work it down to zero based off of the activity that you do, based off of how you're feeling, what you're doing, the activity that it's tracking for you. And you can work that down to zero every month over two years.

And what's amazing is that our number one engaged customers are our Apple Watch users across North America. And it's brought new customers, not only to Manulife in John Hancock, but also to Apple.

Anthony O'Donnell: Oh, okay. Okay. Now you're just bragging.

Lindsay Hanson: No, I wish, I wish I was. It's something we didn't anticipate and I think it's probably something Apple didn't anticipate either, but we've actually been able to bring new customers.

We've had customers say, you know what? I wasn't an Apple user before I actually bought this watch because of my life insurance.

Anthony O'Donnell: That's crazy. So we've gone from wondering whether we can engage customers more than twice a year to engaging them multiple times in a month. And now you're telling me that the life insurance company is resulting in more people picking up an Apple device. That is, I don't think anybody would've anticipated that outcome when this journey began, but that really is remarkable.

Lindsay Hanson: Again, that's been the great part about this, Anthony, is we've gone from what can we do? What are our customers telling us to being able to work with these amazing brands and amazing companies, and it's that mutually beneficial relationship offering these great experiences for our customers and bringing them new costume. Bringing us new customers, and it's really that brand power that has really helped us move this forward.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, let's talk about the grail relationship now. It's kind of an interesting one because, you know, life insurance has been moving away from blood tests for underwriting, but this, this is a very interesting partnership that you've undertaken with, with Grail and it's a very, very interesting benefit to your holders.

Lindsay Hanson: So I was actually just at Grail all day yesterday meeting with their executive team. So quite timely and really excited about this partnership that we launched or that we actually just announced and launched just a couple weeks ago at ITC, which you mentioned. So Grail is a phenomenal company and they offer the gallery test.

And the gallery test is a, is a blood test that screens for multiple. And what it does and what we've been able to start to offer is that test to a pilot of our customers in the us. And what we're doing with that is we wanna understand customer sentiment. We wanna understand what customers are going to do with this type of offering.

And I have to tell you just. Three weeks in, we have had phenomenal response from our distribution partners and from our customers simply by saying, Thank you for this opportunity. Thank you for this offering. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to take this test so that I can know if right now I'm living with one of over 50 types of cancer, and so if I can talk about Grail a little bit or I can talk about what the test actually does or looks for, but it's.

It's really been just a phenomenal leap forward that we've been able to, that we've been able to bring. What's unique about it, Anthony, and, and what I really like is that it's something that our customers can do as a policy holder. And you said it, it's not part of underwriting. It's not, you're not gonna take those results and, and change how someone's been underwritten.

It's simply helping our customers know more. And that's really what this is about. It's, it's just helping them know what's going on to know.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, RA raising this makes me think about how, as we think about a greater engagement with policyholders, that brings a more intimate sharing of information and thus raises concerns about privacy. How does John Hancock think about the challenges of privacy when it comes to customer engagement or any other aspect of, of customer?

Lindsay Hanson: We take customer privacy and data extremely seriously across Manulife in John Hancock. It's something we always have top of mind, and I really think about this in such a great way because we do have a lot of information on our customers, but it's what they choose to share with us. They choose to let us know what they're doing for physical activity or if they choose to let us know their biometrics.

I say choose because everything about these programs we offer is completely optional. If a customer wants to engage, they can, but they can do it through a variety of ways. And so I'll give you an example for physical activity, there's the option of tying a wearable to the program. You can do that to be able to let us know how many steps you're taking.

We'll award you points. You don't use a wearable, no problem. You can check in at a gym and if you're there for a certain amount of time, we'll award you. not going to a gym, no problem. Maybe you do races, and you can take a picture of your activity bib or you're working on at home and you can take a picture of your Peloton.

Those are all different ways someone can give us information about their physical activity. Which is really unique. What's great about this is that it allows the customer to be in control of what data they're sharing with us, and it means that we're giving the information back to them really as a way of currency.

If you're willing to tell us, we're gonna be willing to give you the discount on your life insurance premium. We don't share the data actually with any of the third parties. If they choose to share it with Apple through Apple Watch, they can do that there, but we don't, we don't share it back With Apple, we have this very unique partnership or sorry, relationship with our customers that what they give us, we just give back to them by way of helping them know their health or whether it's points in the program to save money on their life insurance.

Anthony O'Donnell: And you find that customers are willing and perhaps even enthusiastic about that exchange.

Lindsay Hanson: They really are, and I think the, the piece to it, Anthony, is that they're getting something in return. If you think about that as a consumer, we sometimes don't know what we're getting for sharing our email or what we're getting for sharing some information.

This is very clear. It's very clear that if I'm, you know, willing and able and want to share my information, I'm going to get something very tangible. I'm going to get to know my health a bit better. I'm gonna be given tools and tricks about how to improve it, and I'm gonna be able to save money if, when I reach a status on a payment that I have to make anyway.

So knowing where it's coming from has really been this link for our customers that, you know, we haven't, we haven't had any issues, which has been wonderful because of that mutually, you know, mutual agreement that we have.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, Lindsay, I thought we might finish by talking how your role and how John Hancock, Manulife's vision of customer engagement may continue to evolve.

What technologies are likely to become increasingly important in the near future to the longer term? And this could include both things like the cancer detection, right? Diagnostic technology, but also technologies that we would think of as digital technologies and new ways of interacting through, through the customer interface.

Lindsay Hanson: We're definitely taking this idea of where are we going or what are the different technologies. What I really like about the programs that we've created or the types of life insurance that we've created is, for example, every time we bring something new to the program, Even Grail, for example, that we just launched two weeks ago.

It's not just for new customers. It's not just people who bought starting September 21st and forward. We go back to all of our customers and that's something that's so unique if you think about that. Where do you belong to something that when something new comes out, you automatically get it. That's been a key part to this, and the reason I bring that up. If I reflect back 10 years ago, this type of life insurance didn't exist across North America, didn't exist in Asia, and now it does, and we're just gonna continue to involve and evolve that and understand what we can be doing. There's so many different technologies out there. , Grail wasn't even a company that was around five years ago, but that has just continued to involve with the science that's available to understand.

Early stage detection of cancer through a blood test. Those are the types of movements forward that we want to continue to bring to our customers. There's really two areas that I see us continuing to involve in ways of technology. One is in deep personalization. So I say that because. happening and right for me, Anthony is not the same for you.

It's not the same for another consumer. And so we really need to be thoughtful about the types of opportunities, the types of rewards, the types of engagements that I prefer versus what you prefer. I may have a tough time sleeping, so I need you to give me tips and tools and tricks for that so that I can improve my overall health, or I may need to change some eating habits.

All of those. Need to be for me. And that's really where we need to get deeply personalized so that we get to use information that we know about our customers to bring that forward. And we're gonna see technology continue to involve in that space. I also see a way where we can continue to involve in this way of early detection.

And I think, you know, I know Grail has done that for early screening, early detection of. I think we're gonna see that for more diseases and more ways that we can help our customers know earlier and give them the right tools of treatments or prevention to continue to know and be able to improve their health in that longer term.

Anthony O'Donnell: An early detection is like the interaction in general. It's something that's likely to help people to live longer and better, because if you can detect a particular disease and certainly various cancers earlier on, your prognosis is a lot. Yeah. So it's not just a useful thing. It's a thing that will actually improve somebody's life.

Lindsay Hanson: Yeah. And it'll improve someone's life right now. So some of the pieces to what we've been doing is to help with longevity overall. Obviously, you know, whether that's through regular exercise or better nutrition or regular visits or screenings to your doctor, that's gonna help absolutely. But being able to have these types of early prevention, early detection, types of tests, types of screenings, those are the things that could help improve a life right now.

To help you live that longer, healthier life in the future. And it's really creating that balance and making sure that we're, we're aware of those, we're at the forefront. We're working with these companies, , to be able to bring those to our customers across the globe.

Anthony O'Donnell: Well, thank you Lindsay. It's really exciting to talk about these developments and this seismic shift in the way life insurance is understood and experienced by consumers. Thank you so much for being on Life Accelerated.

Lindsay Hanson: Thank you, Anthony. Great to talk with you.

Anthony O'Donnell: The adoption of the vitality program that Lindsay described is nothing short of extraordinary. The original conversation at John Hancock was about whether life insurance policy holders could be engaged more than just a couple of times a year.

Today, the company engages with customers multiple times a monthly. Probably the most remarkable thing Lindsay shares is that John Hancock's engagement with its customers is actually boosting adoption of the Apple Watch. I think it's fair to say that that's an outcome nobody would've predicted. Thank you for joining us for the Life Accelerated Podcast.

For more relevant content to help you achieve digital transformation, visit equisoft.com/life accelerated.


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