INSURANCE NEXT

Digital: The Future of Underwriting

 
November 12, 2020

The underwriting process is practically the defining aspect of an insurance business. The effectiveness of this process is crucial for stakeholder experience, including customers, agents, brokers, and channel partners. An efficient and robust underwriting process is therefore important to address the stability and growth concerns of insurers. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the on-ground scenario drastically and the resultant disruptions are expected to continue into the recovery and post-crisis phases as well – may well become the future way of working.

Challenges and nuances

Owing to the restrictions on mobility, underwriters are facing constraints such as at-home medical examination, difficulty in extracting previous medical and insurance history, and negligible on-site inspections – all of which have led to a drop in applications. This has compounded the issues for underwriters as they now have to spend a disproportionate amount of time in dealing with unclear workflows, pull data from multiple sources, re-key massive amounts of data, communicate and exchange information with multiple departments, negotiate with agents and brokers, and manually run analytics to know the quantum of risk for pricing determination or portfolio rebalancing. In most cases, underwriters have to maintain an optimal balance between the quality of risks undertaken and the speed to take related decisions - which is in no way an easy task. Insurers today realize the need to digitalize their operations end to end. For instance, cloud-based insurance solutions enable distribution management, allowing access to a quality submission flow, fostering a culture of collaboration, and facilitating a robust portfolio management strategy for quickly rebalancing risk portfolios to build a solid foundation for underwriting excellence.

Underwriting excellence is the most critical component of the new business acquisition process as it directly contributes to the overall turnaround time and the resultant customer experience. Insurers must consider an overarching, structured approach, one that analyzes explicit and implicit exposures bringing into consideration data ubiquity, real-time data availability, connected ecosystems,  cognitive automation, and digital collaboration tools. Reimagining the role of underwriters to stay close to customers and supplementing the underwriting workbench with intelligent technologies will help insurers improve the efficiency of the overall process. It will therefore be possible to leverage underwriters’ niche skills more effectively in improving the quality of business and managing risk portfolios.

Intelligent use of opportunities

Some key aspects that underwriting organizations need to consider as they look to monetize the opportunities that surround them are:

  • Innovative business processes such as fluid-less underwriting, wearable data and genomics for life insurance, digital auto, or property underwriting using video or aerial images, data from GIS, drones, sensors and satellites – all these can strengthen risk selection and aid pricing efforts, especially as the world strives to function amid social distancing norms.
  • Data analytics, data mining, and predictive modeling can supplement human judgment with comprehensive insights to evaluate risks more proactively, ensure optimal pricing, customize premium, deliver improved customer satisfaction, and drive profitability.
  • Collaboration technologies within business processes can additionally improve underwriters’ speed and effectiveness in pricing insurance policies and coordination among different functions to ensure the customer lifecycle is managed appropriately and effectively, lowering the time to provide quotes and help win more deals.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning powered automation techniques are beginning to gain a foothold in the insurance industry, improving underwriters' effectiveness and efficiency by eliminating non-core activities. This further enables skill-based routing, helps synthesize numerous risk scenarios, recalibrate risk models, and translate qualitative contract wording and endorsements into well-defined parametric variables that could have contractual or legal impact.

Future-thinking insurers need to act today by establishing closer ties with all stakeholders and holistically reimagine the underwriting function by bringing in rigor, leveraging advances in technology and harnessing available data to improve operational efficiencies and drive sustainable profitability in the wake of a volatile, dynamic business environment.

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Subha Veluchamy is a domain consultant with the Industry Advisory Group of TCS’ Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) business unit. She has over 15 years of experience in IT consulting and advisory, and has worked with several of TCS’ insurance clients the world over. Her areas of focus include new business and underwriting excellence, speed to market, product development, business process reengineering, and core system transformation.