It’s summer—a time when most of our attention is focused on warm weather, long weekend travel plans, and keeping sand out of swimwear. Of course, summer has deeper meaning for large and specialty insurers: it’s also when you need to craft a plan for your commercial insurance business for next year.

You might be tempted to throw together a plan built from ready-to-go core elements. This is the planning equivalent of using CliffsNotes for your summer reading: it is the bare minimum that gets the job done. Wouldn’t it be better to consider some serious changes that will move your numbers in 2020?

Summer, I think, is a great time to dream. Here are seven ideas to help you plan for next year.

  1. An intelligent underwriting desktop

Your underwriters need tools to help them efficiently and consistently evaluate risks. You have tools. In fact, if you’re like many carriers, you have more tools than you know what to do with. One carrier we worked with recently has 126 different tools that the underwriters were supposed to use.

What we need isn’t more tools, but an intelligent way to help underwriters do their work. The best carriers are building out intelligent underwriting desktops. These solutions incorporate basic workflow and data capture to provide and collect information that provides underwriters with tools to assist them. But they also go a step further. We are now seeing, and helping to build, intelligent tools to assist underwriters with things like automated alerts, pre-processing of data, and new comparative analytic views of risk that help them put submissions or renewals into their peer groups for consideration.

  1. Intelligent automation

Intelligent automation covers a wide array of tools and techniques, from portals to robotics to natural language processing. All of them have a single goal: improving efficiency and reducing the expense of ongoing interactions with customers and agents. We have now seen enough practical results to prove that these solutions can significantly reduce service time and service costs for a wide array of activities. But these are not turnkey solutions. A successful intelligent automation journey starts with choosing the right destination and taking the first step.

  1. Onboarding customers

One of the worst experiences in commercial and specialty insurance today is onboarding customers. Usually the agent helps mask this from the customer, but carriers don’t always make that easy for the agent. What everyone wants is a nice seamless experience where the carrier provides the customer with all of the information, contacts, and connections they need to take full advantage of their policy. What the carrier needs is information, contacts, and decisions on a variety of elements about the policy. The few carriers that have invested in creating great seamless experiences here have seen it pay off in efficiency, customer satisfaction, and retention.

  1. MDM for property

With the increasing incidence of floods, wild fires, and severe weather, understanding the precise location of properties you cover (down to individual buildings or parts of buildings on a given campus) and being able to layer exposure information, building information, and your risk concentration around that site are increasingly important. At the same time, we are realizing that the existing location sources for many carriers, and how they store and collect location information, are not effectively meeting the needs of the underwriters, management, or risk control standards of the company. We are starting to see carriers rethink ‘property and location’ information and are treating it as a master data element similar to ‘customer’, but developed around the unique needs of hierarchical property data. Put simply, it is time to reconsider your geo-location approach using new geo-spatial data solutions and precise data mapping to improve risk selection, pricing, and risk concentration management.

  1. Underwriting analytics

Underwriting analytics isn’t a new topic for commercial insurance. We have built risk or quality scores for different lines and segments and have worked through many different ways to present that information. In fact, sometimes our underwriters have more scores then they know what to do with. And that’s the problem. We have given them analytics but have not taken the steps to build their trust in the solution or to integrate the solution into the ways the underwriters actually work. What we are seeing now is a step back and a reapplying of underwriting analytics to effectively help and support the speed and consistency of their risk evaluation. This is being driven by three key trends:

  1. Data in context: We are seeing an increased focus on not just providing information to the underwriter, but providing it with the context of how the information compares to the peer group. For example, telling you that on a scale of 1 to 100 the submission scored 75 is interesting. Telling you instead that it scored 75, but that the range for that peer group is 60 to 78 with a median of 68 tells the underwriter quite a bit more.
  2. Fit for purpose: The next trend is to change the design of the output to make it as easy as possible for the underwriter to use. This can include simple elements such as color coding or indicators for data that is outside the norm for the peer group and so should be given extra attention. This makes the information more intelligent and less overwhelming.
  3. Ease of use: The last change is to integrate these tools into a workflow or underwriting desktop so that they are presented to the underwriter at the appropriate time and need, and don’t languish on the shelf when the underwriter needs to collect them.
  1. Customer monitoring

Customer monitoring is an emerging concept. The idea is simple: you use advanced machine tools (bots, natural language processing, etc.) to monitor and evaluate information about your existing customers to detect situations where early intervention could help reduce loss or where key risk elements have begun to change and policy modification could be needed. The key here is to start a monitoring solution and devise a few initial cases with which to reach out to the customer. These can then be expanded as confidence and experience with these types of tools grow.

  1. New platform

A new platform is not a simple or inexpensive investment. And yet we have seen a steady stream of carriers looking to replace and consolidate their core policy platforms to get to solutions that are cheaper and easier to maintain. This includes functionality for easily making changes to rates, products, and forms, and ones that will enable emerging self-service and automation capabilities.

Regardless of which of these seven ideas you choose, make 2020 a year to significantly improve your business. To start the conversation on the best step forward for your organization, just reach out to me here.

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