Ethos raises $200M to simplify access to life insurance

The US-based insurtech achieved a $2 billion valuation following the Series D round, with participation from showbiz royalty Jay-Z, Robert Downey Jr., and Will Smith, per PR Newswire. Founded in 2016, Ethos offers both term and whole life insurance underwritten by partner carriers. It will use the funding to invest in its tech and develop new products.

Ethos leverages machine learning (ML) to offer users a faster online application process and tailored coverage. It can take weeks for consumers to access life insurance coverage due to back and forth with incumbents, often including a doctor’s visit and blood tests. And booking such exams got harder last year as doctors were called to the pandemic fight, making life insurance applications all the more arduous. By contrast, Ethos’ process asks users to answer a series of health and lifestyle questions, such as level of income and debt. Its ML algorithm then analyzes this data to recommend the most appropriate policy in minutes. This drove record growth for the insurtech, which is now nearing $100 million in annualized gross profit.

Such insurtech disruption will force insurers to acquire better digital onboarding capabilities, and Ethos should add a B2B offering to profit from this shift rather than compete against it. US consumers cite the complexity of the application process as a main barrier to taking out life insurance. And with the pandemic exacerbating coverage access challenges, consumers newly in the market for insurance may be swayed by insurtechs’ simple and fast onboarding over incumbents’ cumbersome processes. The disruption is pushing insurers to digitize, presenting partnership opportunities for insurtechs. Ethos’ fellow life insurtech Bestow launched an API in November to enable insurers to integrate its fast underwriting solution, for example. Ethos should also make its tech capabilities available to insurers to earn revenues on their digital transformation efforts.

"Behind the Numbers" Podcast