Technology has modernized a number of industries – but insurance underwriting stands out as an area that has remained relatively underserved by technology, still largely taking place between the inbox and Excel. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Recent years have seen the rise of modern tools that incorporate AI and machine learning methodologies to expand opportunities for underwriting.
Yet the reaction from underwriters has been mixed. While the workflows are newly streamlined, these systems are forcing the industry to ask tough questions about the role of human versus machine decision-making. When technology accelerates a process, employees naturally start to worry that there will be less work – and thus, fewer jobs – to go around. Self-preservation quickly kicks in, creating a misguided reluctance to embrace modern tools.
While it might be true that underwriting technology is designed to automate some of the traditionally human tasks, it should be used to augment that human element – not to serve as a full replacement. The ideal outcome: freedom for underwriting talent to take on more strategic tasks.
Embracing the Transition
The first step in making effective use of technology is getting comfortable with the change that will occur. The industry has adopted the term “human-in-the-loop,” but at Insurance Quantified, we think of it as “machine-in-the-loop,” where the role of automation is to swarm around the needs of underwriting. This means saying goodbye to tasks like manually entering data, sifting through dense files and performing complex calculations. With this newfound freedom, underwriters can refocus on the humanity in their roles – building relationships, making complex decisions and growing their skillsets.
Next, as one of the first more strategic tasks, underwriting gets to shape where and how the new automation assistant will be used in the workflow. By providing their institutional and industry knowledge, testing the functionality and accuracy, and thinking critically about how the technology is driving business impact, underwriting team members can step fully into their new roles and ensure the new automation assistant is living up to its purpose.
Inside the New Day-to-Day
We’ve made the case for why underwriters should embrace this opportunity – but what exactly are these new jobs to be done? Let’s explore some ways employees can add value while leaving their most mundane tasks to the machines.
- Increased bandwidth for sales– Underwriters are at their most effective when they can actively influence the sales process, which isn’t possible when they’re spending up to 60% of their time on administrative tasks. With technology, underwriters can rate and price submissions in a far more rapid, precise and comprehensive manner, and thus operate across the entire portfolio of business. This higher level of business intelligence goes hand-in-hand with a greater capacity to process submissions, provide feedback to the broker and create the ability to continually optimize and innovate the book of business, supporting the development of sales and growth strategies. Decision-making that was once intensive and intuitive becomes efficient and data-driven.
- Greater focus on relationships – There will always be an important networking and personal connection component to building relationships, but being golf buddies with a broker won’t hold much weight if your prices aren’t favorable or there’s no tangible business benefit being offered. With the right tools, underwriters can offer brokers the most favorable rates possible while delivering more accurate feedback on the submissions they are sending, increasing trust at both the individual level and across the entire organization. While personal connections will remain important, actionable data and information is required to make these relationships valuable to the business and, by extension, to drive value and retention.
- Underwriting assistants as “quality control artists” – While underwriting assistants may not be as equipped to delve into strategy as more senior underwriters, they can still dramatically increase the number of submissions they are processing, fueling the higher-level work of their colleagues. These employees can uniquely ensure consistency and accuracy, fill in gaps and make suggestions for refinement. While their mandate to support the underwriting process won’t necessarily change, they will be able to do so more effectively by embracing, learning and ensuring optimal use of emerging technologies, which is in itself a new and important job.
Setting Up for Success
Reaching this more strategic level of underwriting can require significant upskilling. Becoming an expert on operational business practices, for example, can help underwriters understand the submission process as a whole and alleviate the bottlenecks that limit growth. Fostering data literacy among underwriters – enabling them to be more analytical in their current roles – is another logical priority, as these tools introduce a far more data-driven underwriting process.
To support talent and make the most of the investment in underwriting technology, organizations should consider investing in parallel to more robust training programs that encompass these areas and more. With increased strategic thinking and data literacy, underwriters can enhance their decision-making with data-derived intelligence to support more ambitious company goals and KPIs.
These are just a few examples of the new underwriting jobs to be done. By operating at a higher level of the business, underwriters can turn fears of replacement on their head and become even more valuable employees. The key is to embrace new technology and welcome the efficiencies it offers. There might be growing pains, but by embracing whatever advancement comes their way, employees can help define the future of underwriting while fueling growth for their companies.
Want to learn how Insurance Quantified is bringing this about? Drop us a line.