How Data Science and Digital Underwriting Propel Successful Aging: A Chat with Gilad Braunschvig

As Vice President of Research & Development at Assured Allies, Gilad Braunschvig thrives at the challenging intersection between clinical research, data science, actuarial science, and product development. On a two-week trip to the company headquarters in Boston from the Tel Aviv, Israel office, Gilad sat down to chat about what drives him as a leader, why he chose to work at Assured Allies, and why the predictive analytics and digital underwriting that his teams are developing have the potential to revolutionize both the insurance industry and the ability of people to age successfully.

What attracted you to Assured Allies?

The mission. It’s trendy today to say you want to do good, but I believe Assured Allies is sincere in its mission to help older adults age successfully and that its business model reflects this. This mission is so important. Most of us have parents and grandparents. Like many, I have a place in my heart for older people. They are so easily forgotten, invisible. Especially in the tech industries — it’s not so cool to take care of older people. That’s part of why there’s such a big void in that space, a void that we are helping to fill.

Gilan Braunschvig

You are at the crossroads of data science, clinical research, and product development at Assured Allies. How does the data science piece do good in the world?

Our proprietary predictive analytics allow us as a company to do several beneficial things. First of all, we can take a specific candidate or policyholder and, based on population-wide clinical data and their individual information, say something smart about them. If a person turns out to have a greater risk for decline or fall in the future, for example, we can suggest things that they can do now to try and prevent that.

Secondly, we use data science models to optimize the actuarial science of insurance companies, which frees up capital to do good things. For example, because we can more precisely quantify and predict risk, we assist insurance companies in creating new products and bringing them to market, allowing more people the opportunity to be covered by long-term care insurance. It’s a win-win. More people can get better coverage, and insurance companies can better manage capital because they can more accurately calculate risk. 

You are also leading the research and engineering behind Assured Allies’ new digital underwriting offering. Why are insurance carriers so excited about this?

Digital underwriting is revolutionary for the insurance industry in many ways. First of all, it reduces friction for new members.  Traditional underwriting involves elective medical processes like blood tests that take time and effort to complete, especially in COVID times. By contrast, digital underwriting involves a simple video-recorded series of physical and cognitive tests that can be done in the comfort of your home. It reduces the days and weeks-long timeframe of traditional underwriting to a mere 30 minutes.

Secondly, digital underwriting for long-term care insurance unlocks new possibilities for more accurate assessment of risk. Standard underwriting is based on a list of disease-related questions derived from old models. It does not really quantify the functional level, both cognitive and physical, of the individual. The diseases are considered to be proxies for that, but while they are reasonable proxies for mortality, they are not for disability. Some of it is because so much has changed in how people age with these diseases and how we treat them. By testing for cognitive and physical function with scientifically validated tools, we produce a more precise actuarial risk level for each candidate.

Last but not least, we’ll learn which parts of digital underwriting are more or less significant and adjust the weighting accordingly. Our models will only get better using this online feedback loop.

Can you compare and contrast your existing program, Age Assured™, which helps older adults who already have long-term care insurance age in place, with the new products in development?

In Age Assured, we are trying to mitigate risks that are right around the corner for older people. But in the newer programs we are developing, we are trying to incentivize intervention far upstream of risks that are 10, 20, 30 years away. There are a lot of things people can do to reduce the risks of aging early on to enjoy both a longer and a healthier lifespan. It’s very exciting. 

You were nominated as one of your company’s top leaders for #NationalBossDay. It can be a difficult leap for top engineers to have the people skills to lead a team successfully. How did you do it?

I was interested in learning how to be a good manager at my first job at XtremIO Dell-EMC, where I led small teams of a few people all the way up to a team of 30 engineers. I sought out leadership positions whenever possible after that both as a tech person and as a manager. It was partly for career considerations but also because my own best work happens when I have a strong team around me. 

There is an art and a craft to being a good leader. People are most efficient and productive when they feel relaxed and in a safe place, and getting them there can be a very subtle and personalized process. “Personalization” is a buzzword in tech but we also need to personalize the work experience for employees, which can be pretty hard. You need a quick and deep understanding of where that person is at each moment. You have to think strategically about how you are communicating as a manager and what you are asking them to do, exactly. 

Can you unpack that last idea a little bit?

Sure. In software engineering there are different ways to solve any problem; there’s no one right answer. My job is to communicate clearly what the problem is, make sure that everyone has the tools to make the right decisions, and then trust my team to come up with the solution. Then I need to get out of the way. Otherwise I’m a blocker for everything.

When you’re not working, what else do you like to do?

I love being a dad and have two amazing girls 8 and 9 years old. I am a fan of my home town soccer team, Hapoel Jerusalem. I also work out a lot. I run more than 75 KM (50 miles) a week and am currently training for a marathon.

Katharine de Baun
Katharine has managed online content since 1994, when she founded one of the first parenting communities online. She is passionate about continually learning and promoting Successful Aging in her job as content manager at Assured Allies.