BIG's Stephen Billyard on how AI and automation is transforming personal lines underwriting

How these trends impact brokers …

BIG's Stephen Billyard on how AI and automation is transforming personal lines underwriting

Industry insights

By Bethan Moorcraft

This article was produced in partnership with Intact Insurance.

Bethan Moorcraft, of Insurance Business, sat down with Suchinder Singh, regional vice president, London, Intact Insurance, and Stephen Billyard, president of Billyard Insurance Group, to discuss how AI and automation is impacting personal lines underwriting and brokers.

Personal lines insurers have led the pack with innovations and technologies. They responded well to the challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, providing digital self-service capabilities that enabled consumers to obtain policies, pay bills, access information, and file claims online.

As technology transforms the customer experience, it is also changing the game of personal lines underwriting, which is being enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI) and other automation technologies.

“Customers are demanding faster quotes, faster service, and faster response times – and this is where AI systems come in,” said Suchinder Singh (pictured below), regional vice president, London, Intact Insurance. “AI and automated systems help us streamline data collection and the communications between customers, brokers, and insurers. With these tools, we’re able to dive deeper into data to assess and price risks more accurately, and we can get quotes and answers for brokers and customers at the speed they demand.”

As personal lines insurers gain efficiencies from the automation of routine data collection and processes, talent and expertise are freed up among brokers and underwriters for deeper analysis and understanding of risks, and better servicing of more nuanced, complex risks.

“Not only is this technology enabling us to automate certain aspects of the underwriting process – which means we can improve accuracy, speed, and take out the human error element – but it’s also allowing insurers to pull data from a broader set of sources,” said Stephen Billyard (pictured, top), president of Billyard Insurance Group (BIG). “Insurers are now able to underwrite the risk with much greater detail, which means better underwriting and better risk pricing.”

How does this benefit brokers?

As the primary point of contact for policyholders, brokers benefit when customers are getting accurate and timely quotes and the best possible digital experience. And, by working with insurers that leverage AI and automation in personal lines underwriting, brokers gain time to do what they do best – provide advice and support for customers.

Billyard explained: “As our carriers become more sophisticated with AI and their underwriting, they’re assisting us by pricing risks and underwriting risks appropriately, which helps us drive profitable, stable business. They’re helping us identify those good risks through their underwriting process. They’re also making us more efficient and less prone to errors, reducing E&O exposure.”

To see the mutual benefits of AI and automation, insurers and brokers need to collaborate in the data collection process, according to Singh. Billyard agreed, stating: “As business partners, we’re all in this together. It’s not us and them.”

Singh added: “From the AI perspective, data helps us make better decisions and deepen and strengthen our partnerships with one another. We are working from the same foundation, which then makes it easier to collaborate on the complexities of the file.”

This is the future

Technological advancements always trigger some concerns amongst insurance brokers. The main fear is that automation could potentially render certain parts of their role irrelevant.

“I don’t agree with that narrative,” Billyard told Insurance Business. “I think that technology has always been shown to improve the broker value proposition. Automation can’t replace what we do, which is provide advice and expertise. Automation just empowers us to know our clients better and underwrite risks better. We’re still going to be valuable to our clients, and we’re going to do our jobs better because of this.”

As automation continues to evolve in personal lines underwriting, Singh sees the broker role, as trusted advisor and customer advocate, becoming just more and more important.

“The more automation we have, the more critical relationships become,” he said. “So it’s key as a broker to know your underwriter – when you have complex quotes, emerging markets, or risks with unique considerations, that’s where the role of broker as customer advocate is essential. And, above all, know your customer—because your underwriter doesn’t and neither does the algorithm. So ask yourself, how can you best present your customer’s case to the underwriter?”

Billyard encouraged brokers to be proactive and try to get ahead of the curve. He said: “If you're not already exploring robotic process automation to streamline some of your processes, or AI in terms of how you’re dealing with your policy automation or your customers, you're not going to be ready when this becomes a competitive advantage.  

“Anything that makes us faster, better, and more connected is going to improve the broker value proposition, and the client experience, and the relationship with the carriers.”

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