Underwriters of the Future
Earlier this month, I participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Intelligent Insurer magazine and run in partnership with us, which looked at how technology will revolutionise the future of underwriting.
A full report on the roundtable will be published by the Intelligent Insurer, but in the meantime, below is a sneak preview of some of the key points raised and my takeaways.
Around the table were leaders from the insurance industry; global chief underwriters, global heads of analytics and chiefs of cyber and robotics. We covered a lot of ground ranging from the technology available to underwriters to help them do their job; the changing role of the underwriter; the importance of talent and if companies need to consider hiring a different type of talent; if re/insurers that adapt the fastest will win market share and if AI and robotics could be the next frontier for underwriters.
The discussion was lively and informative, and not all delegates shared the same point of view, which makes for a more interesting debate.
In regard to the transformation of the traditional underwriter’s role, we examined the move from how decisions were made historically and how access to intelligent data enables underwriters to better analyse information and ultimately reach better solutions. With the ubiquity of augmented intelligence, delegates agreed that we will start to see future underwriters act in ways that resemble other roles.
This discussion thread led us to talk about the hype around what robotics, AI, predictive analytics and other new technology can do for underwriters versus reality.
Moving on from this, we spoke about the challenge of ‘selling’ the benefits of technology to underwriters, the industry in general, and the natural apathy towards change. These points neatly segued into our next topic about whether the industry needs to attract a different type of persona to deal with the changing industry landscape. There was a lot of talk about the impending retirement of the baby-boomer generation and its impact on the industry. We looked at the entrance of millennials into the industry who are tech-savvy and seeking different ways to do business, which generally involves the heavy use of technology.
Ultimately, the wheels of the insurance industry largely operate in a relationship-type, face-to-face business environment where it’s not uncommon for deals to be discussed in a more informal setting. The underwriter’s role will still largely rely on the traditional way of doing business, but with the added enhancement of intelligent data. The general consensus around the table was that the industry should embrace technology, but it shouldn´t take away people’s ability to negotiate risk in person.
A large part of the conversation also focused on how organisations set their technology priorities. With so much new technology entering the market, which can potentially become obsolete in a few years, we discussed how best to evaluate and qualify the right technology that aligns with business plans. We argued the merits for working with insurtech start-ups and how easily it is for organisations, especially larger ones to implement new technology, especially when so many are still working off legacy systems.
My conclusions from the roundtable were:
- Organisations need a shared vision in order to be able to implement technology shifts. There is a human element involved when shifting current practices and ingrained habits and prejudices which cannot be ignored. Many of the larger organisations have taken to incubating insurtech start-ups as a solution to this.
- Implementing technology is often about saving cost, but that can itself also be an enabler, for example, business models which rely on a frictionless delivery mechanism to be profitable. However, in all examples discussed in the meeting the root innovation seemed to me to be the business model, not the technology.
- Google’s investment arm recently purchased a minority stake in a provider of insurance technology and cloud-based software for independent agencies. Should agents be worried? I can’t answer that, time will tell, but disrupting an industry by doing things quicker and at less cost doesn’t always lead to the evolution in the way business is done. The insurance industry needs to focus on better risk mitigation, advice, and service.
- Millennials being the driver for change. Is this based more on hope than hard science? What was clear was that millennials are not only attracted by monetary compensation but seek job satisfaction through other factors such digital practices and a flexible working environment.
Overall feedback from the participants validates our efforts around supporting the transformation of the underwriter’s role. We will soon announce news on how we plan to help underwriters maintain underwriting discipline as the insurance market enters the digital era.
I don’t want to give too much away. Keep an eye out for the full report, available soon on the Intelligent Insurer website.