Digital Transformation in Underwriting: Start with the Customer

As technological innovation continues to pick up pace in the insurance industry, focus on upgrading underwriting toolkits is growing.

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Eager to keep up with the changes disruptive technology is bringing to commercial and personal lines models, carriers are dismantling and overhauling their legacy stacks. Spending on cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) systems—especially machine learning and AI-powered chatbots—is expected to reach $77.6 billion by 2022, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). 

Yet far from helping carriers progress with digital transformation, this tech-centric view is making it harder to find the best way forward.

Moving from disparate to advanced centralized systems is a positive step with the potential to streamline policies, claims, and payments. But the tendency to prioritize technology updates focused around costly operational products and procedures means efficiency increases are uneven and often fail to meet the ultimate aim of digital investment t: boosting customer experience. 

To leverage the benefits of effective underwriting transformation, carriers must look beyond simply revamping processes and systems. By making the delivery of optimal experiences for customers the aim of every touchpoint, insurers will generate multiple rewards, not just reduced expenses and greater efficiency, but also accelerated growth and lasting customer loyalty. 

The answer to how insurers can achieve success lies in starting with a clear plan, creating roadmaps designed to optimize customer engagement and relationships, not just harness the latest technology.

Think like the customer 

Obvious as it sounds, customer-first journey mapping begins with identifying what matters to customers. All too often, the motivators behind digital evolution distract insurers from defining a truly effective roadmap for success, whether that means competing with emerging InsurTechs, meeting higher broker and agent expectations, or enhancing acquisition prospects. 

However, to improve customer experience, it is essential for carriers to plot their course around the key elements that will genuinely add value. This will mean assessing the full underwriting process from the customer perspective—right from the initial quote to ongoing support services and renewals. 

By gaining a deeper understanding of how well every interaction enables customers to meet their needs, carriers can define which specific aspects of the organization require adjustment to better serve customers and deliver intuitive experiences on a par with those offered by successful consumer brands. From there, insurers can build tailored roadmaps for every journey—be that internal and end customers, policy participants or brokers— complete with refined and measurable goals. 

 Create organization-wide unity 

While setting out the ideal path for individual journey enhancement is a good start, it’s only one element of the digital transformation picture. To minimise the risk of independent activities running out of step and resulting in siloed development, carriers must take care to keep cross-functional initiatives connected. 

At a higher level, this will involve establishing a shared customer-focused vision and approach. For example, in addition to pinpointing which metrics to apply across the organization, carriers will need to ensure they factor in journey-specific reconfiguration efforts—including their unique goals and the improvements they drive for other areas of the business—when considering overall desired outcomes so that all teams are working from the same page. 

When it comes to practical implementation, it is crucial to avoid complications and inefficiencies by breaking digital transformation projects down into manageable pieces. This is important not only because larger-scale efforts can cause time delays between action and impact, but also due to the increased simplicity this project-based approach offers. When insurers divide the overarching journey map into small yet synchronized initiatives, they can accurately track progress more easily. This means they can quickly obtain useful insights about what is working and what isn’t, and persistently fine-tune their wider evolution roadmap to maintain momentum.

Embracing digital technology is critical to the future success and relevance of the insurance industry, and for many carriers the mission to adopt smart capabilities is already underway. But as they strive to keep pace with new innovations, they must also keep customer needs at the heart of their decisions. By starting their journey maps with an eye fixed directly on the customer’s demands and evolving habits, insurers can ensure their final destination is better experience for their policyholders.

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John Cantwell // John Cantwell has over 30 years of leadership experience in P&C insurance, particularly underwriting and product development. He has focused on the customer experience using expertise in all aspects of underwriting, 3rd party data optimization, classification integrity, and workflows. Cantwell joined Genpact in October, 2017 as the leader of the global underwriting practice (Service Line Leader). Cantwell and the service line team are responsible for managing Genpact’s portfolio of underwriting products and services and developing new solutions, partnerships, and data assets. Prior to joining Genpact, Cantwell has held leadership positions at a number of insurance companies and solution providers. He was VP of Underwriting at AIG Direct/21st Century Insurance with responsibility for corporate underwriting strategies across auto, home, and umbrella personal lines of business. Cantwell was also VP of Product Management at Verisk Analytics, managing a team of product managers with profit and loss accountability for Verisk’s point-of-sale data and analytics underwriting products. He grew existing products, developed a pipeline of new products, led go-to-market and pricing strategies, and managed relationships with business partners. A graduate of Northwestern University, Cantwell and his wife live in Havertown, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia.

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