Over the past decade the insurance has become a fast-paced sector, one that is increasingly melding human expertise with technological change. Underwriting has not been immune to this advance. Indeed, CUL have wholeheartedly embraced it as part of its efforts to offer brokers an ever more efficient, specialist underwriting service.
To gain some insight into these changes and to try and gauge what they mean for the industry as a whole, we spoke to CUL Director Myles Wainman to get the underwriter’s view on things.
The insurance industry has changed almost beyond recognition over the last decade as digital transformation has kicked in. Has underwriting changed too or does it remain a bastion of tradition?
Underwriting has changed – it has had to evolve with the rest of the industry. There is much more information available now, even on an individual risk level basis, than say 10- 20 years ago, and many more tools to provide access to it.
Automated or digital underwriting will continue to grow, but only to the extent that the programs and set parameters allow at any given time. Current system limitations still allow for major opportunities in the traditional, maybe ‘manual’, style of operating and this is particularly true outside of Personal Lines business.
From a wider insurance industry perspective, much of the above also applies. The data available on individual lines or to entire books of business can be extremely detailed. The monitoring of this information is paramount as trends must be identified and any necessary adjustments made as rapidly as possible.
We have a number of core facilities that we have held and continued to grow for a long time now. We have great relationships with the providers that are based on integrity and collaboration, not forgetting, of course, excellent results!
However, we have also expanded our facilities in certain areas where we have seen a need. Good recent examples would be additional property facilities (either increasing our acceptance criteria or providing follow markets for larger risks) and a terrorism market that provides wider cover than has been available in recent times.
CUL has enjoyed significant growth over the past few years. Which areas (products) are driving this growth and why do you think CUL has done so well? Is it simply a mix of great products and speedy, personalised service or is there something bigger at work?
We have seen exceptional growth in certain areas, for example Commercial Combined and Food & Hospitality, but growth across the board has been good. I believe this is driven by, in no particular order:
• A group of strong and experienced underwriters
• Using providers with extremely good ratings
• Greater integration and collaboration with the rest of the Jensten Group, particularly utilising the expertise of the marketing and BDM teams
The UK property market has been less active over the past 18 months – especially in London – have you seen a softening in demand from property owners? There has also been a sharp rise in the number of unoccupied properties with over £53bn of housing laying empty in the UK. Have you seen a rise in the number of unoccupied property insurance requests?
The property market may be less active, but that doesn’t mean there’s less property out there to be insured. It remains a very big part of the business and the volume of enquires has not diminished. If anything, the number of quotes continues to grow, especially, as you point out, with regard to unoccupied properties and those undergoing refurbishment.
It is an extremely competitive insurance market with a large number of players, but thanks to our level of service and our ability to take on even challenging risks we have continued to grow.
CUL are known for their specialist schemes – especially those servicing the food industry, property owners and complex commercial policies – is the business looking to expand its sphere of activity over the next few years?
You forgot Antique & Fine Art Dealers!
The simple answer is yes. We are always open to expanding what we can offer brokers. There are, of course, caveats to that. We would have to be sure that we could provide the product while maintaining our exceptionally high levels of service. Product and expertise levels that would be expected by the clients and stakeholders would also need to be in place. We are confident we can do this and we are confident we shall, so watch this space…
How do you see underwriting changing over the next few years? Automation and machine learning are encroaching into many areas of life, do you think that the role of the underwriter will be taken over by an algorithm or will there always be a role of people?
I firmly believe that we need experienced underwriters to add their expertise at the critical points in the process. While enquiries may be loaded via software platforms and improved by using data analysis, the experienced professional underwriter using other tools such as surveys will always have value to add. In my eyes, I see the future as being a continuation of this partnership between man and machine
You have enjoyed a long career as an underwriter. What is the best (and worst!) thing about the business?
That’s easy: Winning or losing business!
Thank you, Myles.
Like To Know More?
If you would like any help with your specialist underwriting needs then please get in touch. You can call the CUL team on 0800 3081 044 or email them here.