Zurich Financial Services Australia has completed the initial stage of its partnership with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to build artificial intelligence (AI) models that enhance the underwriting process for life insurance applications.  

This AI models project was undertaken by Zurich in collaboration with the university’s research and development hub UTS Rapido.  

The partnership between Zurich, UTS Rapido, and the Australian Artificial Intelligence Institute (AAII) at UTS was first announced last year, according to a LinkedIn post of UTS Rapido.  

This project focused on employing AI and machine learning (ML) to create sophisticated predictive modules that enhance customer understanding and service in the insurance industry.  

The collaboration aims to streamline the evaluation of applications that include mental health disclosures, significantly reducing the turnaround time for underwriting decisions. 

After over six months of collaborative work between UTS Rapido and Zurich, the new AI models can now help Zurich to make immediate underwriting decisions on applications related to mental health disclosures. 

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Previously, life insurance applications with mental health disclosures required up to 22 days for processing, as they depended on obtaining a doctor’s report.  

The new AI models utilise anonymised data from seven years of previous applications to identify factors that may lead to a mental health exclusion for applicant.  

These factors include a lack of engagement in sports or recreational activities, recent hospital stays or medical treatments in past five years, a family history of certain health conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, as well as ongoing health issues such as chronic pain, cancer, or heart disease.  

Zurich said that mental health conditions is disclosed in one-fourth of all life insurance applications received.  

Use of AI models will help in validating decisions made by Zurich’s underwriting team, supporting the company’s AI philosophy of maintaining human oversight. 

Zurich Australia & New Zealand Retail head Jacqui Lennon said: “Beyond underwriting, the models’ findings will also be key in guiding continued delivery and evolution of Zurich’s preventative health and wellness offerings.  

“In future, and data-prevailing, models like these could potentially also be used to analyse and improve underwriting of conditions beyond mental health, such as cancer, cardiovascular or musculoskeletal conditions.”