Cryptocurrency and Financial Underwriting: Friend and Foe?

“The following article references an opinion and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.”

Financial underwriting. These two words put together are sometimes the subject of heated debate and occasionally, more than mild disagreement between Advisors and underwriters. Even usually agreeable underwriters are known to argue strenuously amongst themselves and on differing sides of a financially challenging case. Unlike medical underwriting where guidelines cover a wide and deep array of conditions and risk scenarios, financial guidelines take up much less space in most underwriting manuals, highlighting the art rather the science of decision making in those cases.

But in every case, the higher the insurance amount applied for, the more thorough the financial underwriting – with extra attention paid to the financial information provided, including the nature of the applicant’s net worth – right down to the types of investments and currencies they hold. How does cryptocurrency, not brand new but still a relative newcomer in global finance, impact financial underwriting? In this Risk Bit, we’ll touch on the topic to get a sense of whether having a bit of Bitcoin is a friendly addition to the file information or whether an excess of Ethereum turns the underwriter into a file foe. Continue reading “Cryptocurrency and Financial Underwriting: Friend and Foe?”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
Speculating on Life and Death… and Cryptocurrency


The Evolving World of Mental Health Treatments

This is neither an endorsement or advice about the treatment of mental health.

It goes without saying that good mental health is foundational to overall health and well-being.

In underwriting, a report of confirmed or even suspected history of depression or related conditions gets a lot of attention and policy issue can range from standard rates to rated premium to sometimes no offer at all, where the risk is deemed too high to accept.

Treatments for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or other conditions in the mental health spectrum continue to evolve. The use of psychedelics is a newer facet of treatment. Natural substances that induce a hallucinatory state have been around for millennia. These include everything from cannabis, now legal in Canada, and include opium poppy to ayahuasca, the latter a product of brewing a particular vine or shrub commonly found in South America (1). Continue reading “The Evolving World of Mental Health Treatments”


Healthy Forgetting: Remember This

Underwriters see an unprecedented number of cases of suspected or confirmed cognitive decline, the inevitable result of our aging population. While cognitive decline can be demonstrated by a degradation or loss of a number of functions such as learning, language or complex attention skills, the apparent loss of memory is the most common presenting complaint. Even cases where the memory loss has not had a major impact on daily living, a suspicion of even mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is enough to have the insurance application turned down.

But what about the other side of the memory coin, specifically can we remember too much or remember in ways that are unhealthy? How does this work and is there a name for this condition? Let’s delve a little deeper. Continue reading “Healthy Forgetting: Remember This”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
Healthy Forgetting: Remember This


Work-Life Balance: Tipping the Mortality Scale

Last time in this space, we discussed how physical or emotional stress affects the human heart. This time, we will focus on why maintaining a favorable balance between a commitment to our jobs and the need to prioritize our lives outside of the workplace is both a life-affirming and possible life-saving necessity.

Let’s start by looking back to the early 1990’s, when researchers in Japan started to study and report on a phenomenon where it appeared ostensibly healthy, middle-aged, mostly men, started to die suddenly. The term coined for the cause of death in this group was “karoshi”, meaning death from overwork. The common thread running through these cases was a history of chronically long work weeks, logging in at 60 hours and often more. The cause of death was disturbing in its’ repetition, most often heart disease, stroke or suicide (1).

More recently, and perhaps due to the pandemic and a growing body of knowledge increasingly difficult to ignore, there is renewed interest in the burden and toll of an unhealthy work life. Continue reading “Work-Life Balance: Tipping the Mortality Scale”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
Work-Life Balance: Tipping the Mortality Scale


What becomes of the broken-hearted? Stress and the Human Heart

The Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde, observed that the heart was made to be broken. Indeed, the experience of being alive is almost certain to contain at least one heartbreak, perhaps even adding to the richness of our humanity or sowing the seed of a future happiness. The medical community has long questioned whether heartbreak or its’ frequent companion, severe or chronic physical or emotional stress, can damage the human heart, the muscle responsible for each life sustaining breath. Let’s take a look at possible answers to those questions. Continue reading “What becomes of the broken-hearted? Stress and the Human Heart”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
What becomes of the broken-hearted? Stress and the Human Heart


Looking Good: Prostate Cancer’s Sharper Image

Prostate cancer continues to be a scourge on the Canadian health landscape as the most commonly diagnosed and third leading cause of cancer-related death among men (1). It currently accounts for about 20% of all new cancers in men and approximately 4,500 deaths annually (2). Underwriters increasingly are presented with prostate cancer in the medical history and we will see even more cases as our population continues to age.

But the landscape also points to a good news horizon. Thanks to improved screening and treatment, prostate cancer mortality continues to fall, dropping from its’ high of 45.1 deaths per 100,000 men in 1995 to 22.7 per 100,000 in 2021 (1). One of the more remarkable advances in the screening and diagnosis of this malignancy is the use of imaging studies, such as the prostate MRI. From the earliest images 40 years ago using magnetic resonance imaging technology, the current prostate MRI uses state-of-the-art image modalities such as dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) and spectroscopic views to get a better look in order to detect clinically significant prostate cancer (3). The impact on detection, accuracy and diagnosis is a major contributor to improved prostate cancer mortality. Prostate MRIs are also increasingly utilized to monitor for prostate cancer recurrence after treatment, no doubt also contributing to improved mortality. Continue reading “Looking Good: Prostate Cancer’s Sharper Image”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
Looking Good: Prostate Cancer’s Sharper Image


Shining a Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Underwriting

Nearly 10 per cent of Canadians ages 12 and older have a mood disorder (1). One definition of mood disorder is a general emotional state or mood that interferes with one’s ability to function. Major depression disorder (MDD), anxiety and bipolar disorder (BP) are the commonly thought of mood disorders. However, are you aware that seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression, is also a mood disorder? Continue reading “Shining a Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Underwriting”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
Shining a Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)


Life vs. Living Benefits Underwriting: Consider the Differences

A look back in time helps demystify insurance underwriting

Life insurance underwriting has been around a long time. Since the first life insurance policy issued in 16th century England, the practices supporting fair and competitive life insurance risk selection have evolved often apace with emerging technologies, but the principles that undergird underwriting remain remarkably unchanged.

Living benefits, via disability and critical illness insurance, are considered relative newcomers to the marketplace. Still, the earliest forms of these coverages have been available for a long time. The second American president, John Adams, signed the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen in 1798 (1). The law required seafarers to put aside twenty cents per month from their wages in order to fund medical care for other sailors who fell sick or became disabled. This group of seamen were so vital to trade and commerce, that the law created a provision for the building of hospitals for sick seamen. This is perhaps one of the earliest examples of what we now consider accident and sickness and disability insurance.

Critical illness is the youngest member of the life and living benefits insurance family. It was the brainchild of South African Dr. Marius Barnard who launched the first version in 1983 under the ominously titled Dread Disease Insurance. The premise was groundbreakingly simple: get diagnosed with a covered illness, survive 30 days and collect the claim payment. Critical illness made its way to our shores a few years later and remains a powerful protection tool that continues to benefit Canadian insurance buyers, often in ways that have been described as life changing and life saving. Continue reading “Life vs. Living Benefits Underwriting: Consider the Differences”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
Life vs. Living Benefits: Consider the Differences


Children and COVID-19 – Are the Kids Alright?

When we first visited the topic of the novel coronavirus in March 2020, just over 100,000 cases had been reported worldwide. At this time, in late March 2021, the World Health Organization reports well over 120 million cases and regrettably, the loss of nearly 3 million lives. The global pandemic that is COVID-19 has affected 223 countries. In Canada, we are closing in on 1 million cases and almost 24,000 deaths (1). We have already discussed the economic and social devastation wrought by the virus. The good news has been both a new and renewed understanding of containment and mitigation to halt the spread of human-to-human viruses and the unprecedented speed of delivery of what appears to be highly effective vaccines. Mass vaccination should help usher in a new era of normalcy.

But what about our children? How have our kids fared during this time? Let’s look at COVID-19 and its’ impact on the youngest members of our society. First, the most obvious question: can children get COVID-19? Yes. One study out of Europe reports 14% of cases in those aged 0-19 years. Early in the pandemic, household transmission was likely predominant. With return to school, even on a limited basis, inconsistent safe distancing and mask wearing, along with poor ventilation in older school buildings, have contributed to child-to-child transmission rates. This is especially the case with the emergence of the more highly transmissible variants such as B117, now likely to become the dominant variant and increasing the need to accelerate mass vaccination programs (2). Continue reading “Children and COVID-19 – Are the Kids Alright?”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
Children and COVID-19 – Are the Kids Alright?


Loneliness – How Risky Can It Get?

“Loneliness is the ultimate poverty” (1). So said the everyday philosopher Pauline Philips, better known to millions as “Dear Abby”, the legendary advice columnist. The theme of loneliness runs deep in our past and present society, inspiring music, literature, film and a long list of commercial endeavours to alleviate what another great legend, Bob Dylan, described as “endless emptiness” (2). It’s all a little grim. In more clinical terms, it can be described as a subjective feeling related to the lack of social relations or simply a sense of disconnectedness or isolation (3).

So, why discuss loneliness in an underwriting setting and why now? Well, the simple answer is that when it comes to medical reporting, loneliness as a component of psychiatric disorders has long been a red flag for concern. That same report would typically also reveal a history of depression, insomnia, disturbed appetite and other markers of reduced well-being. In more extreme cases, there can be the misuse of alcohol, marked stress and drug use. Physicians have long recognized that loneliness can predispose the sufferer to a broad range of illness, including cardiovascular and immune system diseases (4). In older populations, isolation can accelerate cognitive decline, interfering with day-to-day functioning and the quality of life (5). In younger people, social stress and isolation are cited as precipitating factors for suicide, which accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year-olds living in Canada (6). In fact, every day we lose ten Canadians to suicide (7). Continue reading “Loneliness – How Risky Can It Get?”

SHARE the client article from The Link Between:
Loneliness – Hope on the Horizon