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  • Writer's pictureJay Judas

Tier One Interview: Tammy Marlotte

This month, our CEO, Jay Judas, talks to Tammy Marlotte, FLMI, ACS®, CPU, ALU, VP Underwriting Innovation at SCOR. The pair chat about Tammy's fascinating path through the industry, the role of technology, including AI, in underwriting, and what prompted Tammy's newfound interest in cooking. Read on to learn more!


JAY:  Back when the pandemic began, the life insurance industry experienced an acceleration in data-driven underwriting to adapt to a world without human contact.  Since then, the processes and technology to support these advances have essentially re-written the manual on how underwriting is conducted. I am ecstatic to be able to talk about this trend with a friend of over twenty years who is an expert in the field of life insurance underwriting innovation. 


Tammy, before we dig into what the future might hold for underwriting practices, tell me about your company, SCOR, and your role there.

Tammy Marlotte

TAMMY: Thank you for including me in the Tier One Interview Series, Jay. SCOR is one of the world’s largest international reinsurance companies.  They are a company who values partnership and innovation, and understands the art and science of risk.  They have both Property & Casualty (P&C) and Life and Health (L&H) businesses.  Personally, I have watched and admired SCOR for years. 


My role, VP Underwriting Innovation, is in the Life and Health business unit.  I spend much of my time reviewing the underwriting programs of potential and current partners for innovation, speed, and effectiveness.  As I consider my colleagues, it is evident that SCOR has sought out employees with diverse backgrounds in the industry to bring a plethora of expertise in all areas of underwriting and actuarial sciences.  I feel lucky to be a part of the company’s journey.

 

JAY:   You proactively took control of your career to intentionally ensure that you have experience across most life insurance markets.  I remember you and I bouncing around Hong Kong and Singapore together in the early 2000s when we were working with ultra-high-net-worth international clients. You have also worked with final expense products as well as private placement life insurance and just about everything in-between.  I am curious to hear about your upbringing and education and your path to where you are today in our industry.

 

TAMMY: In the late 90’s, I went to work for Todd Green International (TGI) and later became a partner.  TGI was contracted as the International Division for Conseco Life, with operations in Latin America.  However, in the early 2000’s, our arrangement with Conseco Life ended.


Subsequently, my business partner and I decided to focus on bringing operations to Asia.  Our first Asia office was opened in 2002 in Hong Kong and later we grew into Singapore.  We contracted with offshore life insurance companies in Bermuda, such as Sun Life, Manulife and Transamerica to offer life insurance to ultra-high-net-worth individuals in the rapidly growing Asian market.  I quickly learned the importance of underwriting to get the best offers for my clients in situations where large amounts of life insurance were sought. 


After more than a decade in Asia, we sold TGI to a firm in Singapore in 2015 and I was recruited by Lombard International, a Blackstone portfolio company, to help launch their Hong Kong and Singapore operations.  As I had learned in my own company, excellence and efficiency in underwriting was the key to success in this very competitive market.  Once launched, I was offered, and accepted, Lombard’s US Chief Underwriter position where I repaired and built the reinsurance relationships of their US ultra-high-net-worth operations with their reinsurance partners.


In 2019, after many years in the affluent segment of the life insurance industry, I could see the way the industry was going – to utilizing data.  I made the decision to go to IptiQ, a part of Swiss Re, as an external product developer to focus on learning and determining the role of data in life insurance underwriting and product development. 

Tammy Marlotte Working on a computer

Next, I was recruited by Columbian Financial Group to be their Chief Underwriter in 2020.  I started my journey there just before the pandemic hit.  My experience at IptiQ was invaluable in navigating a new world where we no longer had easy access to insurance exams, labs, EKG’s, medical records, etc. The primary focus was on finding ways to use data that was available to serve the middle market with simplified issue life insurance, without requiring an in-person exam, which was impossible to get during the pandemic. 


In late 2022, I accepted a position as the Global Chief Underwriter by Specialty Life, a Canadian firm, who was keen to grow into the US market by developing data driven, simplified issue life insurance products with established US carriers.  I also explored the use of data in the Canadian life insurance market.


More recently, when SCOR was looking for someone with data driven, simplified issue life insurance underwriting experience to round out their diverse underwriting team, I joined and took on this responsibility.   I was excited to accept the position of VP, Underwriting Innovation and be part of such a well-respected, global reinsurer.

 

JAY:  I think we have established your bona fides when it comes to applying data in life underwriting.  What is data-driven underwriting and what does that mean for the different participants in a life insurance transaction – clients, producers, and carriers?

 

TAMMY:  Data-driven underwriting is all about using data available to supplement the information given on the application to drive a faster, more efficient rules-based decision with less chance for bias.  During COVID, it was impossible to get your typical physical exam, blood draw, urinalysis, and vitals, that have been the hallmark of buying life insurance in the past.  Even before COVID, it could take weeks or even months to get the insurance physical exam results and then even longer to get copies of medical records.  Now, the life insurance underwriting team develops rules around the instant data or uses predictive models which allow for much faster decisions, sometimes even instant decisions.

 

JAY:   When we spoke a few weeks ago, you mentioned the growing role AI has in the underwriting process. What is AI doing to improve underwriting?

 

TAMMY:  We are just at the very tip of the iceberg of learning what AI can do to improve underwriting.  Companies are currently using AI to provide summaries of lengthy attending physician statements, lab, and test results, etc.  Rather than reading thousands of pages of medical records, the underwriter can now utilize a summary with the most critical information outlined in a quick read format.  The summary will have hyperlinks to the original document or documents so that the underwriter can go straight to the specific location of any ailment, rather than digging through pages and pages of information.  Again, it provides an opportunity for quicker and more efficient decisions.


The emergence of generative AI, powered by large language models, or LLM, is already driving transformation within the industry and SCOR. This technology is capable of instantly identifying patterns and trends from multiple data points and sources not easily recognizable by a human underwriter. This automation creates efficiencies by eliminating much of the redundancy and administrative tasks underwriters must currently perform allowing them to focus on their primary function of assessing risk. The use of these models is not intended to replace but, rather, enhance and boost the underwriter’s ability to focus on making quick, fair, and more accurate decisions. It is vital a human underwriter provides oversight and be the ultimate decision maker.     

 

JAY:  Many of us have seen futurists speak at any number of industry conferences. Can you put on your ‘futurist hat’ and share some educated guesses of what the underwriting process might look like in 10 or 20 years?

 

TAMMY: Things have changed so much in the last 3 to 5 years, and we are on the brink of a very exciting time with the use of AI and data analytics. I can only imagine how things will change in the next 10 to 20 years.  My hope is that underwriting in the future will be even easier for the client.  Owning life insurance is so important, but the application process can be long, invasive, and stressful.  I anticipate more competitively priced policies due to more individualized, less invasive underwriting with instant decisioning for nearly everyone.

 

JAY:   I know you are splitting your time between Missouri and the Sarasota area.  As a transplant from the Midwest, too, I don’t have to guess which part of the country you are enjoying most!  How are you spending your free time outside of leading underwriting advances?

 

TAMMY: I love going to the beach, playing cards, and spending time with friends and family.  Being able to be outdoors for most of the year, is good for my soul.



JAY:  Tammy, this has been one of those interviews where I thought I was familiar with the subject matter and ended up learning so much. Thank you!  We have come to our famous restaurant question.   Without naming a steak restaurant or a steak dish, tell me about a few of your places to eat and what I should order when I am there.

 

TAMMY: A big change in my life during COVID was learning to cook because so many restaurants were closed.  I rarely eat out unless I’m traveling.  One place I really enjoy and highly recommend in Sarasota is Morton’s Gourmet Market, which is not associated with Morton Steakhouse.  It has a great prime meat/chicken/seafood counter with semi-prepared foods and high-quality groceries.  Getting good quality ingredients makes all the difference.


 

Since its inception, Life Insurance Strategies Group has solely focused on the individual high net worth life insurance market. We do not sell products. This allows us to offer unbiased, pragmatic advice. Visit us at www.lifeinsurancestrategiesgroup.com.

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