Today, in most insurance organizations the underwriting function is fragmented into market segments or lines of business. These profit and loss centers drive demand for product and technology solutions for their areas. Although this model can encourage internal competition and tactical success, it has also resulted in fragmented underwriting processes, operations, data and systems. As a consequence, insurers are left with IT environments and operations that are costly to maintain and difficult to change. They also lack the resources needed to drive strategic investments.
The world of underwriting is poised for dramatic change
Both Property & Casualty and Life Insurers face similar issues with this fragmented approach to underwriting:
- Personal Lines: use different data vendors for similar information across lines of business.
- Life Insurance: apply multiline and multichannel strategies while still implementing basic forms of automation.
- Commercial Insurance: use different underwriting processes, tools, and systems across each line of business, even for similar functions.
- Group Benefits: struggle to ingest submission requests across multiple lines of business and to easily issue integrated quotes.
Insurers don’t have to accept this current approach as inevitable or inflexible. Technology, data, and advanced analytics provide the potential to lead insurance underwriting across both P&C and Life insurance sectors to create solutions that are faster, more accurate, and nimbler to customer and market needs.
What’s holding the industry back? The structure of most underwriting organizations is prohibiting strategic change. For underwriting to reach its new human and technological potential requires strategic underwriting leadership. The Chief Underwriting Officer is best positioned to lead strategic change.
The leadership gap
A lack of centralized, strategic underwriting leadership contributes to its lag in innovation and cost performance compared to other areas of the organization, such as claims and operations. In some organizations we have seen the COO or the CIO attempt to drive strategic change in underwriting, but these efforts tend to be limited to operational sourcing or technology alignment plays. It’s time for the Chief Underwriting Office (CUO) to take the lead.
The emerging role of the CUO
The CUO role in insurance companies has traditionally focused on maintaining underwriting standards, driving underwriting quality, and balancing capital utilization across the different lines of business. Performing a critical coordination and compliance function, the CUO has not usually been responsible for setting underwriting strategy or driving improvements in efficiency. Instead, P&L owners conduct these activities for their respective lines of business.
This creates a challenge in today’s business environment. Truly transforming underwriting with the intelligent tools available today requires a level of commitment and investment that is difficult for a single division to achieve on its own. The tools to improve underwriting tasks have been available for years, but to really achieve the ROI goals, investments need to occur across the divisions, which has been difficult to coordinate and sustain.
If insurers are to become future-ready organizations, the role of the CUO needs to be elevated to a strategic level within the organization. This change will mirror similar transformations seen with CIOs, CFOs and COOs as these roles have evolved from operators to strategic drivers. Underwriting is due for a similar transformation today.
The way forward
The need for a strategic enterprise approach to underwriting is clear. Insurers can achieve underwriting performance, expense and profitability goals, by shedding the current distributed approach and its costly inefficiencies.
Read the Point of View to discover:
- The 5 key strategic challenges in underwriting that require an Enterprise Underwriting approach.
- The 3 steps Accenture has identified that CUOs can take to transform underwriting at a strategic level.
- How third-generation underwriting platforms are facilitating the enterprise underwriting transformation.