Human-meets-machine: Streamlining the Submission Intake Process

Automation can be a huge boost to productivity, but striking the right balance between digital and human involvement is the key to making the most of this new technology.

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Processing a complicated mix of detailed data—including ACORD forms, Agency Management System forms and other miscellaneous PDFs—quickly and accurately is an ongoing challenge for P&C carriers. To help streamline the initial application data extraction and submission creation process, insurers are increasingly turning to technology. Automation can be a huge boost to productivity, but striking the right balance between digital and human involvement is the key to making the most of this new technology.

How automation can streamline the submission intake process

Using technology to automate the submission intake process has several clear advantages, including faster data entry, better data hygiene and the ability to free up the skills and expertise of highly paid employees for more specialized tasks. Manual data entry can involve having dozens of skilled workers reading and rekeying dense, hard-to-decipher information, including images or handwritten notes, into a policy administration system—a time-consuming and expensive process that can also introduce human error. What’s more, the tedious task can erode morale among underwriters or other experienced employees who routinely perform this unfulfilling but necessary administrative work.

Today, there are several options for automating parts of the intake process, helping insurers to quickly handle large amounts of data—a particular value to commercial lines underwriting teams, who routinely pull in large amounts of complex information. Technology has evolved to the point where today’s most sophisticated solutions can even read data, including PDFs, with nearly 100 percent accuracy. These advancements provide a clear opportunity to boost overall industry efficiency, as clean, reliable data is the building block of the insurance business and is integral to every step of the policy lifecycle for carriers, agents and customers.

Having an insufficient submission intake process might seem like a small annoyance at first glance and as such, may not be an IT priority. But, it’s a bit like having a paper cut on your finger and trying to type all day—it starts out as a nuisance but becomes a persistent problem that impedes your progress if you don’t deal with it. At the scale of an insurance company, the time lost and costs incurred (including lowered morale of the underwriting staff) from such a challenge are much more than an aggravation.

Streamlining the submission intake process through automation can improve operational efficiency and, ultimately, drive growth. Technology can be a cost-effective and scalable way to meet this goal, but, applying technology to this insurance industry challenge does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s important to leverage the best capabilities of both digital and human resources throughout the process.

Balancing digital and human resources

While technology can play a key role in the submission intake process, it’s important to balance automation with a smart allocation of human resources to optimize benefits. One simple example of a smart balance between human and machine is quality control: At the intake level, once data has been automatically pulled in, an underwriting team with the necessary expertise can review the information and assess it for risks, then validate the data before porting it over as a final step. This interface between “man and machine” allows technology and people to both do what they do best. Technology processes data, while humans validate and analyze.

When automation is used in the submission intake process, carrier staff are freed up to do more meaningful client work, such as more complex risk assessment and improving agent relationships—which results in happier clients and can lead to increased profits.

Short of fully automating the submission creation and data extraction process, carriers can choose to automate parts of the process, such as clearance, auto-declination and submission assignment based on their existing underwriting rules and the data that is submitted. There is significant value in doing this while retaining the ability for the underwriting team to manually review submissions and make these decisions when the data submitted does not fit neatly into the automation model or ruleset. That is frequently the case with more complex submissions, such as those processed in commercial lines environments.

Fast and accurate submission intake is critical for any P&C carrier that takes in new business submissions, as they regularly receive multiple forms that need to be addressed in a timely way. Marrying smart technology with a smart allocation of human resources can have a direct, positive result on revenue. After all, the faster a carrier can turn around submissions and return quotes, the happier its field of agents will be—and the more likely they are to bring that carrier future business.

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Nicole Mongillo // Nicole Mongillo is Product Marketing Manager in Underwriting Management at Guidewire, a provider of software products to the P&C insurance industry. She can be reached at

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