Markel UK Doubles Underwriting Productivity Using Cytora Platform

Aimed at decoupling the link between growth and expense base, the engagement freed underwriters from low-value tasks by turning underwriting processes into automated digital flows.

(Fenchurch Building, London, home to Markel UK. Image credit: Max Whitehead/Unsplash.)

Markel’s London-based U.K. operation (a member of the Markel Group, Richmond, Va.) boasts a commitment to first-class expertise and service, sustainable pricing and multichannel delivery, and it has the results to back that up: It has enjoyed multiple plaudits for its service, including the Feefo Platinum Trusted Service award this year, and it is only one of four U.K. insurers with a positive NPS score, according to BIBA research. However, Markel is not a company to rest on its laurels. Through an engagement with Cytora (New York), the provider of a configurable platform that enables commercial insurers to process risks at greater efficiency and accuracy, the insurer has gained a 113 percent increase in productivity, setting the stage for premium growth.

Gary Walker, Head, Broker Connect, Markel UK.

Driven by a desire for continuous improvement, Markel identified an opportunity for increased growth and continuous customer service improvement through increased efficiency in underwriting processes. The insurer’s existing processes had been burdened by process hurdles that limited its ability to accelerate GWP growth without increasing costs.

A rigorous analysis of the underwriting processes revealed several specific limitations, including the use of skilled resources for routine administrative tasks. For example, the most senior underwriter in each team had to triage all incoming submissions, assessing their fit against Markel’s appetite and either declining them themselves or routing them to another underwriter.

“This presented a significant opportunity cost, preventing those skilled resources from working on the most complex risks or managing broker relationships, a Markel source told Insurance Innovation Reporter (IIR). “Declining submissions that all out of appetite, for example, was taking too long, adversely impacting customer experience.”

Underwriters were spending more than 30 percent of their time on such tasks, and once underwriters received a submission, they still needed to re-key the risk data into different systems (e.g., policy administration, CRM) and manually access third-party data, diverting focus from value-generating activities.

The insurer saw capacity spent on out-of-appetite risks that didn’t result in quotes. It also saw time spent on non-quotable risks that slowed down turnaround time for quotable risks and reduced underwriter productivity.

To address these impediments, Markel selected Cytora as a partner to transform its underwriting processes into digital risk flows. Cytora uses AI-supported workflows to automate pre-underwriting activities and perform the upfront evaluation of underwriting tasks.

Starting in July 2021, work with Cytora began on turning underwriting processes into digital flows, using AI to automate pre-underwriting activities, perform an upfront evaluation of risks and eliminate re-keying of data.

Markel set the following goals to represent a target state of their underwriting processes:

  • Underwriters do not spend time on low-value activities
  • Risks are digitized up-front and augmented with additional data sources, assembling all data required for risk evaluation
  • Risks are triages and routed to the right specialist underwriter
  • Expert underwriters receive decision-ready risks within minutes.

By achieving these goals, Markel planned to be able to provide faster responses to brokers, quote and bind more risks with the existing team of expert underwriters, and automatically populate downstream systems.

From a business strategy perspective, the work aimed to decouple the link between growth and expense base. On a practical level, it was a matter focusing specialist underwriting capacity on decision-ready risks with a high propensity to quote and bind. By both automating vital tasks and, as a result, liberating underwriters, Markel was able to deepen broker relationships by providing higher-quality service and rapid turnaround times.

After achieving a new rollout on the Cytora Platform across all new business teams by June 2022, Markel was able to measure a 113 percent uplift in productivity, measured as GWP/FTE, in its underwriting teams. The insurer also enjoyed a reduction in SLA quote turnaround time for strategic partners from 24 hours to two hours.

“Historically, the team, including myself, would have spent a large amount of time managing workflow,” comments Gary Walker, Head, Broker Connect, Markel UK. “Since we began working with Cytora, workflow is now in one user-friendly platform in a business prioritized order, giving underwriters more time to underwrite the right risks, and allowing me to focus on growth opportunities.”

Neil Galjaard, Managing Director, Markel UK.

Expanded Relationship with Cytora as of Sept. 2023

Neil Galjaard, Managing Director, Markel UK, stresses the insurer’s commitment to giving brokers and clients enhanced service levels. “Cytora has been a foundational partner helping us to effectively grow our scale and enable our underwriters to provide enhanced service to customer and brokers,” Galjaard says.

“We are now deepening our partnership with Cytora to build on the success we have achieved to date,” Galjaard comments in relations to Markel expanding its engagement with Cytora in Sept. 2023. “We are excited about creating further value for our brokers and clients in this next phase.

Cytora Partners with ZestyAI to Bolster Commercial Property Underwriting

EMC and Markel Join Insurers Supporting the Global Insurance Accelerator

Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

Leave a Comment