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Insurance Insights: Intelligent Underwriting Workbench
Commercial underwriters today are under pressure – big pressure. Pressure to move fast, to perform accurate risk assessments, to make profitable portfolio decisions. Pressure to earn new business, to retain existing business. Pressure to define an enterprise underwriting approach that generates continued growth.
But commercial and specialty risks are complex – it takes time to analyse risk and determine pricing, to comply with underwriting guidelines, to track exposure, to communicate with brokers and customers expertly and efficiently. All while chair swiveling and trying to make an underwriting profit.
Rapid technological changes are driving the need for digitization in insurance. Businesses need to optimize their underwriting processes to support an aging workforce, and resolve complex manual processes, multiple systems of record, and siloed automation efforts. Additionally, the proliferation of third-party services is compelling insurers to explore newer business models and innovate at scale.
So, what is exactly is an Underwriting Workbench?
From woodworking to watchmaking, a traditional workbench has provided a comfortable place for artisans to design their creations, with all the tools in easy reach. An Underwriting Workbench is essentially the digital equivalent of a real workbench – one place where tools, data, and work align.
It is a digital control panel and collaboration tool that offers a one-stop-shop that streamlines processes, distributes work, accesses digitalized documents or emails, and brings in data streams and analysis. The best of them interacts with underlying systems to present an integrated “single pane of glass”, which gives the user an integrated experience across multiple devices. As well as allowing underwriters to better manage their own books of business and workload, the workbench can encourage greater collaboration across teams.
Why does the insurance sector need it?
To be hyper-relevant in today’s market, carriers must prioritize insight-driven underwriting. This means being able to harness the power of modern technology, data, and advanced analytics to underwrite smarter. But for underwriters to differentiate and act promptly they need to be on the front foot yet many still struggle with a number of challenges:
New and existing data sets are fragmented and reside in different places.
Tasks at the individual, team, and risk levels aren’t consolidated.
Underwriters continue to sink time into non-value-add inefficient tasks.
Submissions are made in a myriad of formats: structured and unstructured,
Slow, cumbersome, inflexible platforms that are restrictive and drag on speed and innovation.
The lack of a clear audit trail and reporting makes it hard to expand the portfolio safely.
Core Features of Underwriting Workbench
The core feature of an Underwriting Workbench is to provide a single place for managing new business, renewals, and endorsements: one system which supports and facilitates the underwriting process, from submission to binding.
Today stand-alone workbench solutions exist which integrate seamlessly with any third-party technology to extract and elevate data and create seamless workflows even with legacy systems. Whereas underwriters may have switched between several screens to analyze even basic information in the past, this information is now at their fingertips, in real-time.
Task management workflow with user-focused dashboards
Advanced artificial intelligence, automation, and data processing toolsets
Full API library
Integrated rating solution
Real-time MI and operational reporting
Highly secure, cloud-based SaaS technology
Full audit and compliance control
Low code microservice architecture
Not only this, but it does provide various benefits too:
Integration with existing systems. Built well, the workbench will integrate with legacy systems and offer future optionality. Whereas previously, an underwriter might have needed to switch between screens to retrieve and analyze even the most basic information, a workbench presents that in a user-friendly way. Within a few clicks or taps, an underwriter can bring up relevant information about a case, broker, or client, including active flags on missing information. They can navigate deeper into these views as their needs dictate. And they will be able to start this on an office laptop, continue on their mobile phone or tablet via an app on the train on the way home, and seamlessly pick it up on the laptop again.
Data and analytics. Leveraging internal and external data sources is par for the course for the more tech-enabled insurers. A good workbench will, of course, ingest internal data and present it in a digestible format. However, a great workbench will add external data sources, will incorporate AI-enabled analytics, and may allow tailored interrogation via business intelligence tools. The data used is not just restricted to quotes or existing business and claims experience. It can extend into compliance information such as KYC and, most excitingly, live sources which proactively inform the underwriter of potential risk factors or even upcoming claims events.
Automated workflow. An early workflow application is proactively flagging missing information, but this can be extended to the likes of preventing overshooting underwriting limits, i.e. the maximum liability apportioned to the underwriter or that an insurer is willing to assume from its underwriting activities in total. An underwriter approaching these limits will have options such as rationalising outstanding quotes or passing the business elsewhere in the team. Further possibilities include prompts for proactive contact about upcoming renewals, in turn reducing declines due to missing information or changes in limits or ratings. When connected to auto-renewal and auto-decline tools, which use automation and straight-through-processing after a quote request, the workbench can alert the underwriter to the status of these more straightforward cases.
Monitoring and team management. Offering different features and access rights has huge implications for real-time team workflow management. Head Underwriters can look across their whole team and book of business to assess performance versus appetite, understand how long it takes to quote-and-bind, including factors such as incomplete information, and interrogate information about brokers. By incorporating controls as set out by corporate policies, the workbench creates and stores risk, regulatory, and compliance data. Being digital, it can also provide timestamps for audit purposes; an unobtrusive device that provides further assurance in a regulated environment.
In our experience, prior to implementing a workbench, it is vital to be clear on the reasons for the adoption. A key consideration is whether the workbench is the fulcrum around which change revolves or the cover that wraps around end-users to cushion them against underlying change. Whilst there will be a multitude of priorities, we believe they can be allocated to three primary drivers which, in turn, dictate what and how the workbench delivers:
More profitable underwriting
These are not mutually exclusive, of course, but Head Underwriters and CIOs will need to work out the optimal combination of benefits, such as deploying enhanced analytics, leveraging scarce specialist skills, and improving service to brokers and customers.
In the coming days, we can expect Underwriting Workbenches to become increasingly central to the workflow within insurance companies. As the sophistication and reach of automation and digitalization increase, the workbench will provide a nexus for working on, monitoring, and controlling a greater proportion of an insurers’ book. With evolving technology, activities that sit outside the workbench today, such as pricing engines, could be performed within its parameters.
What do you think about the topic? Share your views in the comment section.
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