Mastering Commercial Lines Automation Balancing Art and Science

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1 Mastering Commercial Lines Automation Balancing Art and Science This Research Brief looks at advances that are being made in the automation of commercial lines. Today there are new opportunities to capitalize on the best of both policy and underwriting solution disciplines. The powerful combination of a modern policy administration system and an advanced underwriting solution enables underwriters to make better and faster decisions in a much more collaborative working environment. Author: Deb Smallwood, Founder Strategy Meets Action Published Date: January, 2011 Page 1

2 Advances in Commercial Lines Automation About this SMA Insights Research Brief This research brief is based on the experience, insights, and research of Strategy Meets Action. This report discusses new possibilities that are available for the automation of commercial lines insurance processing. Just in case you aren t aware, there are significant advances taking place in the automation of commercial lines. A powerfully rich combination of enhanced technology capabilities in the key areas of underwriting and policy administration is helping insurers to lower cost, simplify business processes, make it easier to enter new markets, and dramatically improve underwriting outcomes. Modern policy administration systems for commercial lines have matured and expanded. Some offer automation assistance to a few aspects of the underwriting process, and a handful even address select parts of the quoting process. But the groundbreaking progress is being made with next-generation underwriting technologies and solutions that deliver automation directly to the desk of the underwriter and assist in the management of the entire underwriting process. So, why haven t more insurers capitalized on what is available? There are, of course, many answers to this question - answers that range all the way from a lack of awareness of the possible to the lack of an integrated business and technology strategy to a failure to gain consensus on priorities to misconceptions about where and how technology-enabled advanced approaches are best implemented. A closer look at how policy administration and underwriting systems have evolved over the years can bring clarity to how some insurers got to where they are today. That same historical view can make it easier to define the considerations that are important in taking serious steps to make progress in the automation of commercial lines. Evolution of Policy Administration Systems In the early years, policy administration systems were built to automate the manual and labor intensive process of policy production. Over the years they have matured to become the corner stone of the application suite at insurance companies. Today, modern policy administration systems support complete workflows for all business transaction processing from quotation to new business and on to endorsements, renewal, and the complete list of other transactions. These modern systems automate workflows and support full integration with other systems needed to process policies such as advanced rating and rules engines. These modern applications are foundational, the system-ofrecord, and supply data to most of the back end processing and reporting systems. Over the past few years, many insurers have expanded their business capabilities by automating the quote process for personal lines and small commercial lines. They have added basic underwriting capabilities by automating the rules for risk selection, and applying simple underwriting rules and workflow automation to enable basic straight through processing. Two front-end solutions are being used for data capture: a webenabled front end for the policy administration system, or an agent portal. Modern policy administration systems are comprehensive and much more sophisticated than they were only a few years ago. But, when it comes to providing full automation for the entire underwriting process, especially for the more complex risks that are not supported by STP (straight through processing), most fall short. With the rapid advances in both technologies and solutions, automation aimed at the specific needs of the Page 2

3 underwriter can improve decision-making and do so in a speedy, connected, collaborative environment. Evolution of Underwriting Solutions Using an advanced underwriting solution gives the underwriter the information and tools needed to make better and faster decisions in a much more collaborative working environment. In recent years, there has been important progress in applying technology to the underwriting process for personal lines and the simpler commercial risks. Successes are largely attributable to modern policy administration systems that are focused on automating the quotation process for straight through processing. But, for the larger and more complex commercial risks, the job of the underwriter involves a special blend of art and science the ability to understand, assess, apply, and manage the complexity of a combination of many variables and pieces of information concerning the business and the risk. An informed balance of risk and price, alignment with the insurer s risk appetite, consideration of the agent or broker relationship, accurate assessment of the type of business (SIC Code), insightful evaluation of loss history, and appropriate application of the pricing mechanisms are all responsibilities of the underwriter - things that belong in the set of capabilities that the underwriter s toolkit contains. This balancing act requires the ultimate ability to easily and quickly gather many data points about the business, to conduct the right level of risk analysis, and to determine the right price point. In the past, underwriting was frequently viewed as a process that involved judgment and relationships that could not really be automated and that were not appropriate for IT investment consideration. The fact is that automation can indeed pull all of the disparate information together and effectively manage the process for applying that information to the steps required to complete the transaction expeditiously. The automation can also contribute to the quality of the derived decisions. Today s advanced technologies and solutions enable automation beyond the workflow of the quoting process to encompass the workflow and the processes that are needed for the entire underwriting process. These technologies and solutions have more advanced rules, use highly sophisticated workflow automation capabilities, and provide robust collaboration tools enabling complete communications linkages to the agent and broker. They let underwriters and agents/brokers move and share application and policy data as well as unstructured data and information. With all the information at hand, the underwriter is able to make better, faster decisions in a much more collaborative working environment one that significantly enhances relationships with the agent/broker and the client. Automated Underwriting the Mainstreamers and the Leaders In the world of commercial lines underwriting automation, there are real differences in the solution approaches that are being taken by mainstreamers and the industry leaders. Obviously, there is a considerable journey involved in moving from a mainstreamer position to that of a leader. The good news is that it is not a herculean task to chart the path and get started. Page 3

4 The Mainstreamers The automated underwriting approach used by most mainstreamers is shown in figure 1. For selected lines of business and for some products such as small workers compensation and business owners, modern policy administration systems are able to process and manage most of the simple, uncomplicated risks. Using a transaction-oriented approach, straight through processing (STP) can be completed for the bulk of the less complicated business without significant additional IT investment. This is possible since these risks require the application of more science than art to complete the underwriting process and the functionality of a modern policy administration system will support this approach. Figure 1 Underwriting Automation with Modern Policy Administration System Applications are automatically submitted with full STP that leverages risk selection rules, determines a rate using an insurance credit score, and applies external data to validate data and bring in supplemental information. The challenge is the remainder, the exceptions and more complex business risks that the modern policy administration system cannot process automatically. These exceptions are taken off line to the underwriter and then either rejected, sent back to the agent for more information, or referred to another underwriter or underwriting manager for manual risk assessment and pricing. Once the quote process is completed, the final data and decision is entered into the policy administration system to complete the transaction. It is this exception processing that is completely manual. There is no automated tracking of the process, additional data gathering, the decisions, or the timeframe; technology is not being applied to facilitate the process much less the quality of the decisions. Page 4

5 Insurers that write complex lines, products, and risks, such as mid-size to large risks and specialty lines, know that these risks are not well suited for straight through processing. Processing these risks requires the active participation of the underwriter to apply judgment and experience. Today, most, if not all, of these manually-handled risks involve rekeying the data into several internal systems; multiple searches via the internet to get the information needed to evaluate and price the risk; and then numerous back-andforth communications with the agent or broker using , the telephone, and paper documents to assemble all the needed data and information and agree on the final price. The manual process is cumbersome, expensive, time-consuming, and fraught with opportunity for error. The Market Leaders The path to a more highly automated environment, one that is better suited to the use of tools, engines, and data to help underwriters manage their workload and make more effective decisions, is within the reach of most commercial lines insurers. Figure 2 depicts what the market leaders are doing. Figure 2 Underwriting Automation with the Powerful Combination of Modern Policy Administration and Advanced Underwriting Solutions Creating a forceful blend between the art and science of underwriting, a suite of advanced underwriting solutions is leveraged with the modern policy administration system. At the core is an underwriting workstation that is coupled with other advanced solutions that automate the underwriting process for all lines, products, and risks no matter how complicated or unique they are. The advanced underwriting solutions handle Page 5

6 automated submission and enable sharing of documents, content, and data between the broker/agent and the underwriter, tracking and managing every aspect of the entire process for any and all of the risks that cannot be automated with a modern policy administration system all the complex or specialty risks all the exceptions. These solutions do more than just speed the process and manage workflow. They apply knowledge management tools and use predictive analytic results to give the underwriters the insight to make better decisions. They bring external data and information sources as well as internal data directly to the underwriter s desktop and organize it in a fashion designed to meet the needs of the underwriter. They create a one-stop-shopping environment for the underwriter. The automation environment is built for underwriters in accordance with how they work and make decisions. A Powerful Combination Modern policy administration systems are helping insurers increase basic STP and make increasing use of tools and engines to augment the rating, quotation, and underwriting processes for simple policies. With modern policy systems, insurers are moving beyond old legacy constraints and effectively positioning themselves with capabilities of mainstreamers and movers. While a modern policy administration system does provide STP for some percentage of the business, to reap the full benefits available with a more sophisticated level of underwriting automation, collaboration, and decision support, additional solution and technology capabilities are required. The policy and underwriting solutions and technologies must work cohesively to create the leading-edge capabilities of the masters powerful linkage of content and services, the perfect balance of underwriting art and science, and an effective collaborative communication environment. SMA Commentary SMA has been doing research, tracking, and reporting on both underwriting and policy administration capabilities in commercial lines about 10 years. These are exciting times for the industry. Major opportunities for stepping up to the challenges of the increasingly complex world of commercial insurance are here. The smart insurers will capitalize and become intelligently nimble realizing their reward in profitability and market share. The rest will follow, struggling to catch up and stay in the game. The benefits of the powerful combination of a modern policy administration system and an advanced underwriting solution are impossible to ignore. Both insurance business and IT leaders should spend the time to investigate the benefits of state-of-the-art automation for the commercial lines underwriting area. Many insurers mistakenly believe that a modern policy administration system will deliver nextgeneration underwriting automation. There are also misperceptions about managing overlaps or duplications that may exist between policy systems and underwriting solutions. The reality is that advanced underwriting solutions and technologies coupled with a modern policy administration system create a powerful combination that delivers tangible competitive advantage. There is opportunity to take advantage of the best of the policy and underwriting disciplines. The advantages far outweigh the effort to reconcile any overlaps. The benefits reflected in the bottom line are impossible to ignore. Page 6

7 Research Methodology and Objectivity Research Methodology The findings and analyses in SMA s Insurance Ecosystem Research Series reflect our analysts consideration, opinions, and insights, which are based on their experience and research. SMA analysts use a basic research model: Data gathering. A combination of primary and secondary research data is collected through surveys, interviews, demos, publicly available materials, and onsite advisory work. SMA analysis. The market trends, data, and information gathered in the research are analyzed, vetted, and validated. The report. Findings and insights are documented. Source information for all data from third parties or opinions is attributed. When formal survey results are cited, as much information as possible about survey methodology and participants is provided, within the limits of confidentiality. All other material appearing in this report series is created by the analysts and is derived from the sources listed above and SMA s experience. Figures and charts based on this analysis are labeled either SMA Analysis or Source: SMA. About Strategy Meets Action SMA is an independent, privately owned, strategic advisory firm that provides business and technology insights, research, and actionable advice to the insurance industry. SMA blends unbiased research findings with expertise and experience to deliver gamechanging intelligence. Analysis of industry trends, best practices, technology investment patterns and levels, and solution availability and fit are segmented by key industry interest areas. SMA s research reports are written entirely by SMA Partners who have extensive experience at a variety of top global financial services firms, technology vendors, and consultancies. Clients of SMA include insurers, solution providers, brokers/agencies, and consulting firms. Exclusively serving the insurance industry, Strategy Meets Action (SMA) leverages best practices from both the management consulting and research advisory disciplines. SMA s services are actionable, business-driven, and research-based where strategy meets action enabling companies to achieve business success. The SMA suite of offerings includes packaged and tailored advisory services, consulting, and research. Additional information on SMA can be found at Page 7

8 Use of Our Reports The entire content of this research report is subject to copyright protection, with all rights reserved. Reproduction or distribution of the report, whole or in part, without written permission is not allowed. The material and observations contained in this publication have been developed from sources believed to be reliable. SMA shall have no liability for omissions or errors and no obligation to revise or update any data or conclusions should new information become available or future events occur. The opinions expressed in this report are subject to change without notice Smallwood Maike & Associates, Inc. USA. May not be reproduced by any means without express written permission. All rights reserved. Page 8

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