In a world shaped by technology and innovation, no industry remains untouched, including life insurance. Dallas-based Bestow has secured a leading role in its digital transformation. Recently, the fast-growing company emerged as the top contender in the U.S. life insurance category, ranking No. 1 on Forbes’ inaugural list of World’s Best Insurance Companies
Bestow is the only Dallas-area company on the list, and along with USAA, is one of two Texas-headquartered companies ranked, based on an independent survey of over 30,000 consumers.
Dallas Innovates caught up with Melbourne O’Banion, Bestow’s Co-Founder and CEO, for insight into what has driven the startup’s rise to the top of the list.
Reflecting on the ranking, O’Banion says the company is “incredibly proud” of the accomplishment.
“This award acknowledges the hard work our team puts into creating a better experience for customers and recognizes the innovative steps we’ve taken in the last year to make this same technology available to carriers through enterprise partnerships,” O’Banion said.
O’Banion says that in the past year the company, founded in 2016, has focused on scaling its success in modernizing life insurance to the entire industry.
“We built the platform that powers digital life insurance, and we now offer our platform via enterprise SaaS solutions to leading carriers that can leverage and utilize our modern infrastructure,” O’Banion said.
He said the company’s recent milestones include:
- Launching Bestow Life Insurance Co. (BLIC), becoming the first full-stack digital carrier chartered in 48 states. BLIC is considered our innovation incubator, where it tests and learns and, in turn, empowers its enterprise partners with market-proven innovations.
- Becoming a multicarrier technology solution, supporting several leading insurers with the application, underwriting, and administration technology they need to manage their businesses.
- Establishing Bestow Data Services (BDS), a new marketing and customer data infrastructure that can be seamlessly integrated alongside our enterprise platform. This platform is specifically tuned to a highly regulated space and designed to drive marketing & conversion results.
- Innovating in the underwriting space, sourcing new data and building refer-to-underwriter technology to expand product features and eligibility, delivering on its mission to enhance financial stability for all.
O’Banion said that what differentiates Bestow is its expertise in both technology and in insurance.
“While we are first and foremost a technology company, we have a deep bench of insurance expertise,” he said. “We’re unique in the life technology space due to our modern technology, architecture, and platform that enable us to help carriers get to market and innovate faster than they could internally or with another tech provider.”
Bestow has built infrastructure for itself and its partners that scales coverage, increases profitability, and expands the market carriers served.
“We continuously iterate and experiment, even after launch with a partner, to optimize outcomes and meet goals. We strive to be a valuable partner rather than just viewed as a vendor,” O’Banion said.
“Finally, we’ve chosen to be a carrier because it gives us a seat at the table to innovate on product design and work directly with regulators to find ways to build unique products and expand access responsibly using new underwriting approaches and data,” O’Banion added. “This continual innovation extends our platform’s capabilities and drives learnings that Bestow and our carrier partners can leverage.”
Offering digital solutions to life insurance carriers
There’s more news to come about Bestow’s future, O’Banion said. Bestow is under contract and in conversations with multiple Top 30 carriers to enable the launch of new products in the coming months, he said.
“We have an incredibly driven and smart team, all dedicated to meeting our enterprise partners’ goals. We deliver and demo value to our partners on a weekly basis — the first iteration of a product is usually implemented in a matter of weeks,” O’Banion said. “Our teams are committed to quickly delivering the right solution to ensure our partners maximize business value.”
He said that Bestow’s founders realized the typical life insurance purchasing journey doesn’t meet modern consumer expectations, with the time-consuming and traditional process, so Bestow was founded on the idea of making it easy and fast to purchase life insurance online” he said. “Once built and launched, the team realized the platform could change the entire industry.”
O’Banion said that all legacy insurance carriers face challenges preventing rapid digitization: inflexible legacy infrastructure, labor-intensive products and sales experiences, and risks of disrupting decades-old systems and processes.
So, he said the company shifted from primarily focusing on consumers to also serving life insurance carriers.
“Today, Bestow meets carriers where they are to provide an end-to-end life insurance ecosystem that is configurable to partner needs, accelerating carrier growth and innovation at a fraction of the cost and time they’d spend in-house,” O’Banion said.
Launching new products later this year
Known for its technology, O’Banion said that the company has always taken a data-first approach to building products and serving its customers.
“Data-driven decisions formed our website, application, and product design,” he said. “Bestow has a deep data science and analytics team that strives for industry-leading data hygiene and analysis to maintain Bestow’s ability to lead in development and design.
O’Banion said that ChatGPT and other large language models “raise some interesting possibilities for the insurance industry, including the potential to assist with fraud detection, analyze documents and even shore up customer service – but given the highly regulated nature of the insurance industry, these possibilities aren’t yet commercialized.”
He said the company intends to stay ahead of the curve with the latest regulations, “so while we explore every new option, we’re very careful to ensure our data stays confidential and secure.”
O’Banion said that Bestow has more partners scheduled to launch by the end of this year and from a product perspective, it will launch enhancements to its term products and new whole life products, beginning with final expense and a simple non-participating permanent product.
Quincy Preston contributed to this report.
Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.
Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.