• There are five key components that underwriting organizations need to consider and redevelop as the industry moves toward a digital ecosystem.
  • More than 50 percent of insurance executives cite current technology processes as impeding business objectives.
  • By 2025, millennials will make up 76 percent of the workforce globally. Insurers need to deploy the right engagement strategy for these digital natives to push forward on their new initiatives.


Historically, the insurance industry has prided itself in being the king of data. But with today’s digital revolution, insurers are not the only ones with access to consumer insight. From Internet of Things (IoT) providers to social media outlets, powerful new rivals are emerging, with a potential to gain predictive data on an insured, and an insured risk.

In the face of this fast-paced transformation and digital disruption, commercial underwriting has slipped ‘behind the curve’ on assessing, analyzing and leveraging the vast – and rapidly growing – amount of available data.

It is also important, in order to sustain competitive advantage and thrive in the digital age, that insurers evaluate their underwriting holistically, and integrate and enable the technology solutions (i.e., analytics, robotics and machine learning) that allow them to enhance its accuracy and efficiency.

What does the new digital underwriting landscape look like?

The emerging digital world is already transforming the way commercial carriers sell their products (i.e., through online aggregators) and what they sell (i.e., value-added offerings).

The chart below outlines the new digital underwriting ecosystem:

Digital underwriting landscape

Here are the five key components that underwriting organizations need to consider and redevelop as the industry moves toward a digital ecosystem:

  1. Channels & Offerings. Agents and brokers remain the predominant channel, although new channels continue to emerge and gain traction (digital exchange players such as Insurian; peer-to-peer markets such as Friendsurance; POS offerings).
  1. Tools & Services. Underwriting tools (UW desktops, business intelligence tools and collaboration) and service providers (data providers, platform providers, reinsurers, loss engineers, etc.) are evolving with the digital age. Commercial carriers will have to rely on service providers as never before, as these new tools and providers offer things carriers can’t do without. They will need to partner with with data and various platform providers to support the analysis of external data, as they currently do for their core systems.
  1. Data & Underwriting Analysis. The digital age brings underwriters a significant surge in the amount and types of data to evaluate. Carriers need to be ready to consume internal data (both structured and unstructured) and an array of external data of multiple different types and sources. They also need to be able to organize this data for exploring new underwriting insights, as well as for ongoing risk analysis.
  1. Underwriting Management & Operations. Historically, underwriting management focused on two key tasks: managing the underwriters (for effective and efficient performance) and managing the book (to identify needs in pricing, form or guidelines). This traditional approach no longer applies.
  1. The Underwriting Process. Underwriters now gather large amounts of external data through various channel portals or, if it is sourced through traditional submissions, they can handle it offshore or through the use of automation. As for triage, or evaluating risk, carriers can now look to onshore/offshore underwriting operations centers, or to artificial intelligence or machine learning solutions.

What are the new technologies impacting underwriting?

In an effort to streamline back-office processes, enhance the services and products offered, and create new value, the insurance industry invests billions of dollars in new technologies. Brokers, in particular, need to evaluate their investment choices carefully. The S-curve below shows which technologies are in the ascendance and which are on their way out.

Commercial Insurance Brokers Technology S-Curve

  • Emerging technologies are IoT authentication; digital security; smart advisors; automated data classification; blockchain technologies.
  • Improving technologies include hyperscale computing; IoT sensors and connected devices; robotic process automation (RPA); hybrid cloud and cloud security; advanced analytics; application programming interfaces (APIs); new productivity platforms; big data; software as a service (Saas).
  • The mature technologies in insurance include enterprise business process management (BPM), and on-premise enterprise systems.
  • The aging technologies in insurance are mainframes or legacy infrastructure systems, the labyrinths of aging systems that almost everyone in the insurance industry has.

Read more about technologies impacting underwriters:

How can brokers find a place for themselves in this changing landscape?

Underwriting needs to adapt to the changes in product offerings and be able to evaluate, rate, price, and negotiate not just the core insurance policy, but also the full offering of services carriers provide for the insured.

Brokers must be able to constantly explore new data sources while bringing insights into the underwriting process at the point of need. By educating underwriters on these new insights and integrating the data into their work processes, the underwriting function can retain its advantage in and ever-expanding sea of information.

When making investments in new technologies, it’s crucial for commercial underwriters to keep the focus on enabling all of the involved people (customers, employees and partners) to do more with technology.

Leaders in insurance will need to get creative in the way they attract and retain a new workforce with a wide range of skills and experience. Some of the key workforce trends to consider are the automation of more routine manual tasks and reassigning front-line employees to more analytical roles.

But by far, the most crucial change to the workforce will come from the generational shift. Millennials will make up 76 percent of the global workforce by 2025. Engaging these digital natives in the right way can leverage the enthusiasm for technology, the teamwork and the digital acumen of millennials to push forward on new underwriting initiatives.


New technology is constantly emerging, and the pace of adoption is faster than ever. However, there will be no silver bullet that solves all of commercial brokers’ challenges in the digital age.

The winners, as always, will be the ones that can seamlessly deliver the full range of tools, options, advice and resources to the underwriter at the right time, in the right place and in the right format for them to use. In the new digital underwriting ecosystem, there are a lot more of these tools and resources to coordinate. Insurers that take a holistic approach and integrate solutions across their entire organization will be the ones that thrive in this new environment.

Where does your underwriting organization fit in this landscape? Are you still in the pilot stage or have you started full-scale implementation? Please send your comments, questions and feedback to me at michael.f.reilly@accenture.com.

In the meanwhile, I recommend exploring these papers on digital insurance:

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