Triage focus: Time is our most valuable commodity
Triage is used in many contexts, from emergency first aid to insurers’ risk selection. Whatever the application, the emphasis is on prioritising resources because our time is vitally important, writes Olly Venables, presales director at AdvantageGo.
There are, broadly speaking, two purposes to triage: one is for the person looking at it to understand their priorities; secondly, triage can provide information to somebody else, to allow them to prioritise.
Insurance underwriters engaging in risk selection, like most people, are triaging tasks daily. They might want to triage a bigger risk first, to prioritise premium value for a large corporate programme, accelerating the development of the portfolio, before returning later to working on a smaller policy.
So far, so good. The underwriter can manage that amount of triage for themselves, without the need for fancy technology. Risks were traditionally talked through at meetings and by hand, most famously by brokers approaching the boxes in the Lloyd’s Underwriting Room floor.
However, the situation today isn’t nearly so simple. Firstly, we face a hard market for most reinsurance as well as primary insurance lines. Rates have risen and capacity is tight – meaning time and resources need to be managed carefully, efficiently – and fast – to pounce on opportunities in a timely manner.
Not only this, but underwriters have never been presented with more risks than they are today. The rise of data-led underwriting is exponentially increasing the amount of information for an underwriter to digest when considering triage. This is a trend that brokers will further accelerate, by sending more detailed data to differentiate their clients to place risks at advantageous rates for their clients.
Technology is now an intimate part of the process, whether through basic tools such as emails, spreadsheets, virtual conversations, or some of the legacy policy administration systems are in widespread use. The move to digitisation is accelerating this, with electronic broker placement platforms becoming the norm. None of this has replaced emails or face-to-face, but it has added more distribution methods and allowed more data to be involved.
We’re now at the stage when we really need the technology to be more beneficial to us, by collating as much of that data as possible into one place. Some of the inputted data can still be done manually; other inputs can be automated, through feeds, portals or other market services. It’s also going to be valuable to ingest data directly from emails and attachments. This is what we’re doing, making it available through our platform.
What we’ve been getting towards is triage – automatically sift through all these data and prioritising what’s most valuable and time sensitive, and providing some extra time gains to the underwriter in the process.
Triage is about structuring the working day so that you are always looking at the priority. Of course, you want to get from one to 100, but if you get to number 80 on that list, if it’s triaged properly, then it’s likely the remainder isn’t so important.
Triage also needs to be flexible to the needs of the underwriter, through any given day or quarter. Things can change rapidly on any given day. We already know the underwriter’s needs will change throughout the year because of renewals cycles, changes in risk appetite, unpredictable natural catastrophe events or other macroeconomic events.
In practice this flexibility can be for a switch in focus between regional perils such as Florida hurricane, California wildfire or North Carolina flood risk, depending on emerging rate opportunities, driven by events on the ground and market shifts.
This requires a constant flow; triage can’t be a static view. It should have real-time or close to real-time awareness of the most important things to be looking at. The underwriter is still driving the process, updating the rules to telling the system which work is the priority, so that it can support and augment – helping focus faster on the crucial piece of information.
At AdvantageGo, Triage is a major focus, developing our Underwriting Workbench to meet the market’s evolving needs. I think of there being four steps from our perspective: ingest data from various sources; triage to focus attention; augment with other data; and load to the policy administration system (to avoid rekeying, manual and duplicated efforts).
We talk about our platform enabling underwriting through a single pane of glass. In this context, triage is like changing the lens we’re looking through. This is what we’re honing at the moment on our platform and we’re excited about the gains it can bring for our clients.