3 minute read 10 May 2019
Chart board with business data

How underwriting transformation can take place in a digital era


Gail McGiffin

EY Global Insurance Underwriting Leader

Sales executive. Decision scientist. Customer advocate. Innovator.

3 minute read 10 May 2019

The Digital Underwriting Survey reveals the important and rapid evolution that is proceeding within underwriting.

Digital underwriting is not defined solely by the latest technology, the greatest degree of automation or the largest data volumes – though those components are vitally important. A more promising vision involves greater value creation for the business based on expanding roles, new capabilities and a powerful human-machine combination at the heart of a new kind of underwriting organization. In this sense, “digital” is as much about shifting the mindset or culture as it is about adopting a set of software tools. Results from EY’s Digital Underwriting Survey demonstrate how insurers are moving forward in pursuit of such a vision. 

Technology investments

The Digital Underwriting Survey looked at 12 different technologies and revealed that many insurers remain in the early stages of their transformation journeys. While great strides have been made with mature technologies, most solutions involving emerging technologies are in the pilot or proof-of-concept phase.

Mature technologies

  1. Predictive analytics
  2. Big data capabilities
  3. Underwriting trading platforms
  4. RPA
  5. GIS
  6. Automated portfolio management

Emerging technologies

  1. Sensor-based
  2. Blockchain
  3. Artificial intelligence (AI)
  4. Machine learning
  5. Semantic web
  6. Image and video analysis

Key themes emerging from the survey

  1. Predictive analytics, big data, underwriting trading platforms and geographic information systems (GIS) are the most mature technologies currently being adopted.
  2. Blockchain, robotic process automation (RPA) and sensor-based technologies are all high priorities for the future, with organizations planning to commit significant resources.
  3. There is a strong need for longer and closer monitoring time of early stage investments and the potential need for more rigor in business case development.
  4. Insurers and brokers agree that underwriting and pricing capabilities are the most important and potentially valuable in terms of future technology investments.
  5. Actuarial has benefited the most from predictive analytics and machine learning, while policy processing has been the focus of RPA initiatives.

Underwriter of the future

As the insurance industry continues to experience rapid and profound change, the effects are being felt across every major function in the insurance enterprise. Increasingly, insurers are turning their attention to underwriting, where an important transformation is taking place. To further explore this transformation and the strategic investments being made, EY and CPCU Society® surveyed more than 1,000 underwriting professionals. The findings revealed that whereas risk selection and pricing were once the primary activities, today's underwriters must serve as sales executives, decision scientists, customer advocates and innovators.

  • Sales executives: growing the book of business, increasing retention rates, building relationships, lead generation and prospecting
  • Data scientists: data-driven decision-making at the account and portfolio levels, risk insight, profitability analysis, predictive modeling for pricing and risk evaluation
  • Customer advocates: improving the customer and agent experience, coordinating account services (loss control, claims, education) to strengthen customer loyalty and improve risk performance
  • Innovators: creative problem solving, new product and service development


    Successful digital underwriting starts with a well-defined road map to navigate critical milestones, including legacy system modernization, integration of digital data sets, deployment of both mature and emerging digital technologies and new thinking about talent. Our underwriting research confirms that many insurers are starting to take bold steps to “futurize” this essential function and are recognizing that choosing the path of inaction will be a decision of consequence.

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    Gail McGiffin

    EY Global Insurance Underwriting Leader

    Sales executive. Decision scientist. Customer advocate. Innovator.