Zurich collaborates with UTS on AI solution for underwriting mental health

Zurich Australia has completed the first phase of its collaboration with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) models for streamlining life insurance underwriting.

After more than six months working with UTS Rapido, a research and development hub, the AI models now allow Zurich to make immediate underwriting decisions on applications with mental health disclosures without needing a doctor’s report, which previously took up to 22 days.

The models, which draw on anonymized data from seven years of past applications, identified several factors correlated with a mental health exclusion, including:

  • Lack of participation in sports, pastimes, or recreational activities
  • Ongoing health issues beyond mental health, such as chronic pain, cancer, or heart disease
  • Time spent in hospital or undergoing medical treatment in the past five years
  • Family history of health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease

Currently, about one quarter of Zurich’s life insurance applications include a mental health disclosure. In 2023, mental health was the third most common cause for claims at Zurich, accounting for 20 percent of all claims and resulting in $255 million in claims payments. For some of Zurich’s retail life insurance products, mental health is the first or second most common reason for claims, accounting for up to 35 percent of claims.

The AI models will be used to verify decisions made by Zurich’s underwriting team and the existing rules engines, in line with Zurich’s AI philosophy to ‘always keep a human in the loop’.