Underwriting in a New Frontier: Spurring Innovation
By email@example.com on May 12, 2010
Susan Keuer, product strategy manager for Oracle Insurance, shares her experiences and insight from the 2010 Association of Home Office Underwriters (AHOU) Annual Conference, April 11-14, in San Antonio, Texas.
How can I be more innovative in underwriting? It's a common question I hear from insurance carriers, producers and others, so it was no surprise that it was the key theme at the recent 2010 AHOU Annual Conference. This year's event drew more than 900 insurance professionals involved in the underwriting process across life and annuities, property and casualty and reinsurance from around the globe, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Bahamas, and more, to San Antonio - a Texas city where innovation transformed a series of downtown drainage canals into its premiere River Walk tourist destination.
CNN's Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta kicked off the conference with a phenomenal opening session that drove home the theme of the conference, "Underwriting in a New Frontier: Spurring Innovation." Drawing from his own experience as a neurosurgeon treating critically injured medical patients in the field in Iraq, Gupta inspired audience members to think outside the box during the underwriting process. He shared a compelling story of operating on a soldier who had suffered a head-related trauma in a field hospital. With minimal supplies available Gupta used a Black and Decker saw to operate on the soldier's head and reduce pressure on his swelling brain. Drawing from this example, Gupta encouraged underwriters to think creatively, be innovative, and consider new tools and sources of information, such as social networking sites, during the underwriting process. So as you are looking at risk take into consideration all resources you have available.
Gupta also stressed the concept of IKIGAI - noting that individuals who believe that their life is worth living are less likely to die than are their counterparts without this belief. How does one quantify this approach to life or thought process when evaluating risk? Could this be something to consider as a "category" in the near future? How can this same belief in your own work spur innovation?
The role of technology was a hot topic of discussion throughout the conference. Sessions delved into the latest in underwriting software to the rise of social media and how it is being increasingly integrated into underwriting process and solutions. In one session a trio of panelists representing the carrier, producer and vendor communities stressed the importance to underwriters of leveraging new technology and the plethora of online information sources, which all could be used to accurately, honestly and consistently evaluate the risk throughout the underwriting process.
Another focused on the explosion of social media noting:
- Social media is growing exponentially - About eight percent of Americans used social media five years ago. Today about 46 percent of Americans do so, with 85 percent of financial services professionals using social media in their work.
- It will impact your business - Underwriters reconfirmed over and over that they are increasingly using "free" tools that are available in cyberspace in lieu of more costly solutions, such as inspection reports conducted by individuals in the field.
- Information is instantly available on the Web, anytime, anywhere - LinkedIn was mentioned as a way to connect to peers in the underwriting community and producers alike. Many carriers and agents also are using Facebook to promote their company to customers - and as a point-of-entry to allow them to perform some functionality - such as accessing product marketing information versus directing users to go to the carrier's own proprietary website. Other carriers have released their tight brand marketing to allow their producers to drive more business to their personal Facebook site where they offer innovative tools such as Application Capture or asking medical information in a more relaxed fashion.
Other key topics at the conference included the economy, ongoing industry consolidation, real-estate valuations as an asset and input into the underwriting process, and producer trends. All stressed a "back to basics" approach for low cost, term products.
Finally, Connie Merritt, RN, PHN, entertained the large group of atttendees with audience-engaging insight on how to "Tame the Lions in Your Life - Dealing with Complainers, Bullies, Grump and Curmudgeon." Merritt noted "we are too busy for our own good." She shared how her overachieving personality had impacted her life. Audience members then were asked to pick red, yellow, blue, or green shapes, without knowing that each one represented a specific personality trait. For example, those who picked blue were the peacemakers. Those who choose yellow were social - the hint was to "Be Quiet Longer." She then offered these "lion taming" steps:
- Admit It
- Accept It
- Let Go
- Be Present (which paralleled Gupta's IKIGAI concept)
When thinking about underwriting I encourage you to be present in the moment and think creatively, but don't be afraid to look ahead to the future and be an innovator. I hope to see you at next year's AHOU Annual Conference, May 1-4, 2011 at The Mirage in Las Vegas.
Susan Keuer is the product strategy manager for new business underwriting. She brings more than 20 years of insurance industry experience working with leading insurance carriers and technology companies to her role on the product strategy team for life/annuities solutions within the Oracle Insurance Global Business Unit.